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Organic petrography of Leonardian (Wolfcamp A) mudrocks and carbonates, Midland Basin, Texas: The fate of oil-prone sedimentary organic matter in the oil window

October 14, 2019

To better understand evolution of oil-prone sedimentary organic matter to petroleum and expulsion from source rock, we evaluated organic petrographic features of Leonardian Wolfcamp A repetitive siliceous and calcareous mudrock and fine-grained carbonate lithofacies cycles occurring in the R. Ricker #1 core from Reagan County, Midland Basin, Texas. The objectives of the petrographic investigation were to estimate thermal maturity, identify organic matter types and abundances, and identify the presence or absence of migrated hydrocarbons in organic-lean carbonate layers. An integrated analytical program included geochemical screening [total organic carbon (TOC) content by LECO, programmed pyrolysis by hydrocarbon analyzer with kinetics (HAWK) including analysis of solvent-extracted samples], X-ray diffraction mineralogy, organic petrography, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) including correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), and micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (μ-FTIR) analyses of solid bitumen. The data indicate all samples are early to middle oil window thermal maturity with solid bitumen reflectance (BRo) values of 0.55–0.86% and Tmax of 440–455 °C. Organic matter is predominantly solid bitumen (as identified by optical microscopy) in all lithofacies with minor contributions from inertinite. Solid bitumen abundance decreases from siliceous mudrock (TOC >3.0 wt%) to calcareous mudrock (TOC 1.0 to 3.0 wt%) to fine-grained carbonate (TOC <1.0 wt%) lithofacies. Interpretations of petrographic data suggest siliceous and calcareous mudrocks are source rock lithofacies and contain solid bitumen (with petroleum generation potential) that is residual (what remains) from conversion of an original Type II sedimentary organic matter. In turn, fine-grained carbonates are interpreted as reservoir lithofacies which contained little or no original oil-prone sedimentary organic matter and at present-day contain only a minor component of migrated solid petroleum sourced from adjacent siliceous and calcareous mudrock lithofacies. This work helps to document petroleum generation and migration processes, improve unconventional reservoir characterization and better define areas of oil window thermal maturity in an area critical to United States hydrocarbon production.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Organic petrography of Leonardian (Wolfcamp A) mudrocks and carbonates, Midland Basin, Texas: The fate of oil-prone sedimentary organic matter in the oil window
DOI 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2019.104086
Authors Paul C. Hackley, Tongwei Zhang, Aaron M. Jubb, Brett J. Valentine, Frank T. Dulong, Javin J. Hatcherian
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine and Petroleum Geology
Series Number
Index ID 70219053
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center