Vitrinite Reflectance Service

Science Center Objects

Vitrinite reflectance is regarded as the gold standard thermal maturity parameter and vitrinite reflectance data is needed for energy resource assessment and other types of basin analysis studies. This effort provides vitrinite reflectance and qualitative organic petrography of shale, mudrock, coal and other unconventional reservoir samples as a routine in-house service, from the Organic Petrology Laboratory in Reston. This work primarily supports internal projects: National and Global Oil and Gas Assessment project, the Gulf Coast and Alaska framework projects, and the Geochemistry and Geomicrobiology of Energy Resources projects, and also collaborates with many external organizations, including State geological surveys, universities and industrial groups. In addition to vitrinite reflectance analyses, the Organic Petrology Laboratory also includes facility for sample preparation, spectral fluorescence and micro-FTIR analyses of organic matter in geological matrices.


Provide routine vitrinite reflectance service to the USGS community and external partners. Provide laboratory support functions for sample preparation and micro-FTIR spectroscopy implementation.


Using a vitrinite reflectance microscope dedicated for service, laboratory staff provide quantitative vitrinite reflectance and qualitative organic petrographic data to internal and external customers using a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and per the requirements of the USGS Quality Management System. In addition to vitrinite reflectance measurement, current laboratory processes also include sample preparation (mounting, grinding, polishing, wafering), transmitted light petrography, fluorescence spectroscopy, and micro-FTIR spectroscopy.