Determining the source and genetic fingerprint of natural gases using noble gas geochemistry: a northern Appalachian Basin case study

AAPG Bulletin
By: , and 



Silurian and Devonian natural gas reservoirs present within New York state represent an example of unconventional gas accumulations within the northern Appalachian Basin. These unconventional energy resources, previously thought to be noneconomically viable, have come into play following advances in drilling (i.e., horizontal drilling) and extraction (i.e., hydraulic fracturing) capabilities. Therefore, efforts to understand these and other domestic and global natural gas reserves have recently increased. The suspicion of fugitive mass migration issues within current Appalachian production fields has catalyzed the need to develop a greater understanding of the genetic grouping (source) and migrational history of natural gases in this area. We introduce new noble gas data in the context of published hydrocarbon carbon (C1,C2+) (delta13C) data to explore the genesis of thermogenic gases in the Appalachian Basin. This study includes natural gases from two distinct genetic groups: group 1, Upper Devonian (Marcellus shale and Canadaway Group) gases generated in situ, characterized by early mature (Delta13C[C1 minus C2][delta13C1minusdelta13C2]: lt–9permil), isotopically light methane, with low (4He) (average, 1 times 10minus3 cc/cc) elevated 4He/40Arast and 21Neast/40Arast (where the asterisk denotes excess radiogenic or nucleogenic production beyond the atmospheric ratio), and a variable, atmospherically (air-saturated–water) derived noble gas component; and group 2, a migratory natural gas that emanated from Lower Ordovician source rocks (i.e., most likely, Middle Ordovician Trenton or Black River group) that is currently hosted primarily in Lower Silurian sands (i.e., Medina or Clinton group) characterized by isotopically heavy, mature methane (Delta13C[C1 – C2] [delta13C1minusdelta13C2]: gt3permil), with high (4He) (average, 1.85 times 10minus3 cc/cc) 4He/40Arast and 21Neast/40Arast near crustal production levels and elevated crustal noble gas content (enriched 4He,21Neast40Arast). Because the release of each crustal noble gas (i.e., He, Ne, Ar) from mineral grains in the shale matrix is regulated by temperature, natural gases obtain and retain a record of the thermal conditions of the source rock. Therefore, noble gases constitute a valuable technique for distinguishing the genetic source and post-genetic processes of natural gases.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Determining the source and genetic fingerprint of natural gases using noble gas geochemistry: a northern Appalachian Basin case study
Series title AAPG Bulletin
DOI 10.1306/03161211093
Volume 96
Issue 10
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 27 p.
First page 1785
Last page 1811
Country United States
State New York
Other Geospatial Appalachian Basin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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