Constraints on the origins of hydrocarbon gas from compositions of gases at their site of origin

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IT is widely accepted that natural gas is formed from thermal decomposition of both oil in reservoirs and, to a lesser extent, the organic matter in shales from which the oil was derived1-6. But laboratory pyrolysis experiments on shales do not reproduce the methane-rich composition typical of most gas reservoirs7, leading to suggestions7 that other mechanisms, such as transition-metal catalysis, may be important. The discrepancy might, however, instead arise because gas (and oil) deposits have migrated from their source rocks, so that the reservoir composition might not be representative of the composition in the source rocks where the hydrocarbons were generated. To address this question, we have analysed gas samples coproduced with oils directly from a source rock (the Bakken shales, North Dakota, USA) where the local geology has prevented significant hydrocarbon migration. The methane contents of these Bakken-shale gases are much lower than that of conventional gas reservoirs, but are consistent with that from pyrolysis experiments8,9 on these shales. Thus, because these Bakken gases form with (rather than from) oils, we argue that compositional differences between gases from source rocks and conventional gas deposits result from fractionation processes occurring after hydrocarbon expulsion from the source rock.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Constraints on the origins of hydrocarbon gas from compositions of gases at their site of origin
Series title Nature
Volume 378
Issue 6555
Year Published 1995
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Nature
First page 368
Last page 371
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