Geology: Current and Future Developments

Geology: Current and Future Developments

The Role of Organic Petrology in the Exploration of Conventional and Unconventional Hydrocarbon Systems

Organic petrology is a discipline of geology which integrates multidisciplinary approaches for the exploration and evaluation of fossil fuel resources by conventional and unconventional procedures. ...
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Application of Organic Petrology in High Maturity Shale Gas Systems

Pp. 1-36 (36)

Paul C. Hackley


Application of incident light microscopy techniques for organic petrology in high temperature thermogenic shale gas systems demonstrates that solid bitumen is the dominant organic matter. Solid bitumen is retained as a residual conversion product as oil-prone kerogen cracks to hydrocarbons or occurs from the cracking of once liquid oil. Oil-prone Type I/II kerogens are not present in shale gas reservoirs, already having converted to hydrocarbons. Type III/IV kerogens (vitrinite and inertinite) are refractory and persist in shale gas reservoirs to high maturity with little morphological change apart from condensation and aromatization causing higher reflectance. Organic petrology applications are most useful for thermal maturity determination and delineation of hydrocarbon windows through measurement of vitrinite reflectance and vitrinite reflectance equivalents from other organic matter (zooclasts and/or solid bitumen). Depositional organo-facies determination generally is not possible in the gas window of thermal maturity; fluorescence microscopy is not useful as organic matter is no longer autofluorescent. Application of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) allows observation of an interconnected nano-scale organic porosity in shale gas systems but suffers from inability to identify organic matter types. SEM approaches to shale gas reservoir characterization therefore should not attempt differentiation of kerogen types or kerogen vs. solid bitumen identification unless correlative organic microscopy is performed. Herein are reviewed organic petrology results as used in the shale gas systems of North America, Europe and China, including SEM applications, citing recent examples from the literature.


Gas window, Organic petrology, Shale gas, Solid bitumen, Thermal maturity, Vitrinite reflectance


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), MS 956 National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston VA 20192, USA.