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Thermal evolution of graptolite and solid bitumen properties at high maturity under natural and artificial conditions

June 1, 2023

To refine the use of graptolite and solid bitumen as thermal proxies at overmature conditions, we evaluated their evolution via Raman and infrared (IR) spectroscopies, reflectance, and geochemical screening using high-temperature pyrolysis experiments in comparison to naturally matured samples. Naturally matured samples included marine shales from the overmature Upper Ordovician Wufeng-Lower Silurian Longmaxi Formations (herein referred to as Wufeng-Longmaxi) of the Sichuan Basin, China. Immature samples for pyrolysis experiments included Mesoproterozoic (Ectasian) Xiamaling marine shale from Hebei, China (graptolite absent) and graptolite-bearing Ordovician (Tremadocian) Alum marine shale from Grönhögen, Sweden. Pyrolysis experiments at 360 °C for 10 days and 27 days (hydrous conditions), and 450 °C 3 days, 550 °C 3 days, and 550 °C 10 days (all anhydrous) created Xiamaling and Alum residues with solid bitumen and graptolite, respectively, of similar and higher maturity compared to the naturally matured Wufeng-Longmaxi samples. Compositional proxies from IR spectroscopy were inconclusive. Raman spectral properties including Raman band separation (RBS) and the full-width at half-maximum of the G-band (G-FWHM) exhibited robust positive and inverse relationships with increasing reflectance in pyrolysis residues, respectively. RBS values were systematically lower in artificially matured samples versus naturally matured samples with equivalent reflectance values, whereas G-FWHM values were systematically higher. This observation indicates that the limited duration or low internal reactor pressure of pyrolysis experiments is insufficient to allow alignment or ordering of aromatic carbon arrays in both organic matter types, relative to natural maturation occurring at geologic time scales. Reflectance of graptolite was typically higher than co-occurring solid bitumen in Wufeng-Longmaxi samples and the untreated Alum sample, suggesting inherently higher aromaticity. However, aromaticity in pyrolysis residues was systematically higher in solid bitumen compared to graptolite with equivalent reflectance values, indicating a higher kinetic barrier to molecular rearrangement in graptolite versus solid bitumen. These data further clarify differences in the molecular evolution of sedimentary organic matter in natural versus analogue laboratory environments and distinguish the properties of individual organic matter types in response to thermal stress.

Publication Year 2023
Title Thermal evolution of graptolite and solid bitumen properties at high maturity under natural and artificial conditions
DOI 10.1016/j.coal.2023.104269
Authors Jianyang Song, Paul C. Hackley, Margaret M. Sanders, Aaron M. Jubb, Qingyong Luo
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Coal Geology
Index ID 70245382
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center