Marine influence helps preserve the oil potential of coaly source rocks: Eocene Mangahewa Formation, Taranaki Basin, New Zealand

R. Sykes*, H. Volk, S. C. George, M. Ahmed, K. E. Higgs, P. E. Johansen, L. R. Snowdon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    Many Cretaceous-Cenozoic coaly source rocks in Australasian and southeast Asian basins were deposited in coastal plain environments, yet the effect of early diagenetic marine influence on their oil potential is not well understood. An integrated organic geochemical and petrographic study of humic coals from the Eocene Mangahewa Formation (Taranaki Basin, New Zealand) was undertaken with coals predominantly from raised mire petrofacies, with subordinate proportions from planar mires. The total S content of 0.63-4.4% (dry, ash-free) indicated very slight to strong degrees of marine influence. Other than minor addition of inferred mangrove derived suberinite and associated liptodetrinite, the degree of marine influence had no obvious effect on maceral or plant tissue abundance. However, hydrogen index (HI) values were up to ca. 150% (109mgHC/gTOC) higher, and total (C6+) oil potential up to ca. 140% (43mg/gTOC) higher among the more strongly marine influenced coals. Correlation of organic S with solvent extract parameters pristane/phytane, C27-C29 diasteranes/steranes, C29 steranes/hopanes, C35/(C35+C34) homohopanes and oleanane index suggested that inundation of brackish water into the early diagenetic peat forming environment enhanced the bio-resistance of higher plant and other lipids through sulfurization, thereby helping to preserve more of the inherent H content and total oil potential of the original peat biomass. Conversely, marine influence had only a minor effect on the capacity of Mangahewa coals to generate paraffinic oil. Total (n-C6+) and non-volatile (n-C15+) paraffinic oil potentials were instead controlled primarily by the abundance of leaf derived cutinite and associated liptodetrinite. This, in turn, was dependent on the type of peat mire facies, with planar mire facies having better potential for preservation of leaf litter than raised mire facies because of their generally higher groundwater level. Marine influence is nonetheless beneficial for paraffinic oil charge from coaly source rock sequences in that the associated higher HIs enhance the efficiency and quantum of paraffinic oil expulsion through increased saturation of the coal pore system.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)140-163
    Number of pages24
    JournalOrganic Geochemistry
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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