A possible shale gas prospect? First results of the organic composition and thermal maturity of the Carboniferous Namoi Formation, northern NSW, Australia

S. Aharonovich*, S. C. George

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Namoi Formation in the Werrie Syncline, north and west of Tamworth, is part of the well-preserved Devonian–Carboniferous fore arc in the New England Fold Belt. The formation is between 640–914 m thick and consists of dominant olive-green mudstones with lenses of sandstone and oolitic limestone. To assess shale gas prospectivity, we analysed five outcrop samples from the Namoi Formation in the Keepit area. Well-preserved aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon fractions do not show evidence of weathering or biodegradation. n-Alkanes in all samples have a unimodal distribution maximising at C26 to C28. Little odd-to-even n-alkane carbon number predominance and relatively low Pr/n-C17 and Ph/n-C18 ratios are consistent with a high thermal maturity. Based on the distribution of alkylnaphthalenes and alkylphenanthrenes, the Namoi Formation is in the gas window. Calibration of the methylphenanthrene index and ratio with vitrinite reflectance suggests a calculated reflectance around 2.1%, which given a normal geothermal gradient is equivalent to a maximum temperature of 205°C for the deepest burial of the formation. There is a dominance of parent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) over alkylated PAHs, supporting a high thermal maturity. Some samples contain biomarkers suggestive of a marine depositional environment, including the C30 sterane index and the C31/C30 hopane ratio. The Namoi Formation is a prospective shale-gas source, as it has been buried sufficiently to be well within the gas window. Where it is exposed at the surface gas will have been lost, but elsewhere it will be buried beneath other sediments and may still retain gas. Key exploration uncertainties include information on organic richness, lateral variation in thermal maturity, mineralogy, and porosity–permeability relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-780
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Volume63
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2016

Keywords

  • Australia
  • biomarkers, Namoi Formation
  • NSW
  • shale gas
  • thermal maturity

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