The influence of shale depositional fabric on the kinetics of hydrocarbon generation through control of mineral surface contact area on clay catalysis

Habibur M. Rahman*, Martin Kennedy, Stefan Löhr, David N. Dewhurst, Neil Sherwood, Shengyu Yang, Brian Horsfield

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    17 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Accurately assessing the temperature and hence the depth and timing of hydrocarbon generation is a critical step in the characterization of a petroleum system. Clay catalysis is a potentially significant modifier of hydrocarbon generation temperature, but experimental studies of clay catalysis show inconsistent or contradictory results. This study tests the hypothesis that source rock fabric itself is an influence on clay mineral catalysis as it controls the extent to which organic matter and clay minerals are physically associated. Two endmember clay-organic fabrics distinguish the source rocks studied: (1) a particulate fabric where organic matter is present as discrete, >5 μm particles and (2) a nanocomposite fabric in which amorphous organic matter is associated with clay mineral surfaces at sub-micron scale. High-resolution electron imaging and bulk geochemical characterisation confirm that samples of the Miocene Monterey Formation (California) are representative of the nanocomposite source rock endmember, whereas samples from the Permian Stuart Range Formation (South Australia) represent the particulate source rock endmember. Kinetic experiments are performed on paired whole rock and kerogen isolate samples from these two formations using open system, non-isothermal pyrolysis at three different heating rates (0.7, 2 and 5 K/min) to determine the effects of the different shale fabrics on hydrocarbon generation kinetics. Extrapolation to a modelled geological heating rate shows a 20 °C reduction in the onset temperature of hydrocarbon generation in Monterey Formation whole rock samples relative to paired kerogen isolates. This result is consistent with the Monterey Formations's nanocomposite fabric where clay catalysis can proceed because reactive clay minerals are intimately associated with organic matter. By contrast, there is no significant difference in the modelled hydrocarbon generation temperature of paired whole rock and kerogen isolates from the Stuart Range Formation. This is consistent with its particulate fabric, where relatively large, discrete organic particles have limited contact with the mineral matrix and the clay minerals are mainly diagenetic and physically segregated within pores. While heating rate may have a control on mineral matrix effects, this result shows that the extent to which organic matter and clay minerals are physically associated could have a significant effect on the timing of hydrocarbon generation, and is a function of the depositional environment and detrital vs diagenetic origin of clay minerals in source rocks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)429-448
    Number of pages20
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Volume220
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

    Keywords

    • Clay catalysis
    • Hydrocarbon generation kinetics
    • Monterey Formation
    • Organoclay nanocomposite
    • Shale fabric
    • Stuart Range Formation

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