Dike intrusions into bituminous coal, Illinois Basin: H, C, N, O isotopic responses to rapid and brief heating

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 



Unlike long-term heating in subsiding sedimentary basins, the near-instantaneous thermal maturation of sedimentary organic matter near magmatic intrusions is comparable to artificial thermal maturation in the laboratory in terms of short duration and limited extent. This study investigates chemical and H, C, N, O isotopic changes in high volatile bituminous coal near two Illinois dike contacts and compares observed patterns and trends with data from other published studies and from artificial maturation experiments. Our study pioneers in quantifying isotopically exchangeable hydrogen and measuring the D/H (i.e., 2H/1H) ratio of isotopically non-exchangeable organic hydrogen in kerogen near magmatic contacts. Thermal stress in coal caused a reduction of isotopically exchangeable hydrogen in kerogen from 5% to 6% in unaltered coal to 2-3% at contacts, mostly due to elimination of functional groups (e.g., {single bond}OH, {single bond}COOH, {single bond}NH2). In contrast to all previously published data on D/H in thermally matured organic matter, the more mature kerogen near the two dike contacts is D-depleted, which is attributed to (i) thermal elimination of D-enriched functional groups, and (ii) thermal drying of hydrologically isolated coal prior to the onset of cracking reactions, thereby precluding D-transfer from relatively D-enriched water into kerogen. Maxima in organic nitrogen concentration and in the atomic N/C ratio of kerogen at a distance of ???2.5 to ???3.5 m from the thicker dike indicate that reactive N-compounds had been pyrolytically liberated at high temperature closer to the contact, migrated through the coal seam, and recombined with coal kerogen in a zone of lower temperature. The same principle extends to organic carbon, because a strong ??13Ckerogen vs. ??15Nkerogen correlation across 5.5 m of coal adjacent to the thicker dike indicates that coal was functioning as a flow-through reactor along a dynamic thermal gradient facilitating back-reactions between mobile pyrolysis products from the hot zone as they encounter less hot kerogen. Vein and cell filling carbonate is most abundant in highest rank coals where carbonate ??13CVPDB and ??18OVSMOW values are consistent with thermal generation of 13C-depleted and 18O-enriched CO2 from decarboxylation and pyrolysis of organic matter. Lower background concentrations of 13C-enriched carbonate in thermally unaffected coal may be linked to 13C-enrichment in residual CO2 in the process of CO2 reduction via microbial methanogenesis. Our compilation and comparison of available organic H, C, N isotopic findings on magmatic intrusions result in re-assessments of majors factors influencing isotopic shifts in kerogen during magmatic heating. (i) Thermally induced shifts in organic ??D values of kerogen are primarily driven by the availability of water or steam. Hydrologic isolation (e.g., near Illinois dikes) results in organic D-depletion in kerogen, whereas more common hydrologic connectivity results in organic D-enrichment. (ii) Shifts in kerogen (or coal) ??13C and ??15N values are typically small and may follow sinusoidal patterns over short distances from magmatic contacts. Laterally limited sampling strategies may thus result in misleading and non-representative data. (iii) Fluid transport of chemically active, mobile carbon and nitrogen species and recombination reactions with kerogen result in isotopic changes in kerogen that are unrelated to the original, autochthonous part of kerogen. ?? 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Dike intrusions into bituminous coal, Illinois Basin: H, C, N, O isotopic responses to rapid and brief heating
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2009.07.027
Volume 73
Issue 20
Year Published 2009
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
First page 6264
Last page 6281