The nature of porosity in organic-rich mudstones of the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation, North Sea, offshore United Kingdom

International Journal of Coal Geology

, , , , , , and
DOI: 10.1016/j.coal.2012.07.012



Analyses of organic-rich mudstones from wells that penetrated the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation, offshore United Kingdom, were performed to evaluate the nature of both organic and inorganic rock constituents and their relation to porosity in this world-class source rock. The formation is at varying levels of thermal maturity, ranging from immature in the shallowest core samples to mature in the deepest core samples. The intent of this study was to evaluate porosity as a function of both organic macerals and thermal maturity. At least four distinct types of organic macerals were observed in petrographic and SEM analyses and they all were present across the study area. The macerals include, in decreasing abundance: 1) bituminite admixed with clays; 2) elongate lamellar masses (alginite or bituminite) with small quartz, feldspar, and clay entrained within it; 3) terrestrial (vitrinite, fusinite, semifusinite) grains; and 4) Tasmanites microfossils. Although pores in all maceral types were observed on ion-milled surfaces of all samples, the pores (largely nanopores with some micropores) vary as a function of maceral type. Importantly, pores in the macerals do not vary systematically as a function of thermal maturity, insofar as organic pores are of similar size and shape in both the immature and mature Kimmeridge rocks. If any organic pores developed during the generation of hydrocarbons, they were apparently not preserved, possibly because of the highly ductile nature of much of the rock constituents of Kimmeridge mudstones (clays and organic material). Inorganic pores (largely micropores with some nanopores) have been observed in all Kimmeridge mudstones. These pores, particularly interparticle (i.e., between clay platelets), and intraparticle (i.e., in framboidal pyrite, in partially dissolved detrital K-feldspar, and in both detrital and authigenic dolomite) are noteworthy because they compose much of the observable porosity in the shales in both immature and mature samples. The absence of a systematic increase in organic porosity as a function of either maceral type or thermal maturity indicates that such porosity was probably unrelated to hydrocarbon generation. Instead, much of the porosity within mudstones of the Kimmeridge appears to be largely intraparticle and interparticle (adjacent to inorganic constituents), so the petroleum storage potential in these organic-rich mudstones largely resides in inorganic pores.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
The nature of porosity in organic-rich mudstones of the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation, North Sea, offshore United Kingdom
Series title:
International Journal of Coal Geology
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Central Energy Resources Science Center
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
International Journal of Coal Geology
United Kingdom