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Compositional evolution of organic matter in Boquillas Shale across a thermal gradient at the single particle level

September 29, 2021

The molecular composition of petroliferous organic matter and its compositional evolution throughout thermal maturation provides insight for understanding petroleum generation. This information is critical for understanding hydrocarbon resources in unconventional reservoirs, as source rock organic matter is highly dispersed, in contact with the surrounding mineral matrix, and may occur as multiple organic matter maceral types. Here, Raman spectroscopy and optical microscopy approaches were applied to a marginally mature (vitrinite reflectance ~0.5%) sample of the Late Cretaceous Boquillas Shale before and after hydrous pyrolysis (HP) at 300 °C and 330 °C for 72 h. This analytical approach allowed for correlative examination of micro-scale changes in organic matter compositional properties (e.g., aromaticity) for a variety of organic matter macerals across a thermal gradient (from marginally mature into the late oil/wet gas window) at the single particle level. Results indicate that while the examined amorphous organic matter, solid bitumen, and vitrinite particles exhibit different aromatic signatures in the unheated shale, they effectively progress along a similar trend through composition space with thermal maturation. Examined inertinite fragments were generally insensitive to the applied thermal stress, reinforcing the idea that reservoir temperature may be secondary for dictating the molecular composition of inertinite. Additional analysis of Raman spectra for individual organic matter macerals was performed using multivariate curve resolution (MCR) and correlation of standard Raman and reflectance-derived thermal maturity proxies against MCR parameters shows consistent trends. This trend suggests that MCR may be a fast and statistically robust method for extracting compositional information from Raman spectra of sedimentary organic matter, and can be used to construct thermal maturity relationships. These findings inform our understanding of how different petroliferous organic matter maceral types evolve throughout thermal reactions and further demonstrate that Raman spectroscopy combined with petrographic analysis can provide complementary estimates of organic matter composition and thermal maturity.

Publication Year 2021
Title Compositional evolution of organic matter in Boquillas Shale across a thermal gradient at the single particle level
DOI 10.1016/j.coal.2021.103859
Authors Justin E. Birdwell, Aaron M. Jubb, Paul C. Hackley, Javin J. Hatcherian
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Coal Geology
Index ID 70224919
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Energy Resources Science Center; Eastern Energy Resources Science Center; Energy Resources Program