Suppression of vitrinite reflectance by bitumen generated from liptinite during hydrous pyrolysis of artificial source rock

Organic Geochemistry
By: , and 



Mean random vitrinite reflectance (Ro) is the most widely accepted method to determine thermal maturity of coal and other sedimentary rocks. However, oil-immersion Ro of polished rock or kerogen samples is commonly lower than Ro values measured in samples from adjacent vitrinite-rich coals that have undergone the same level of thermal stress. So-called suppressed Ro values have also been observed in hydrous pyrolysis experiments designed to simulate petroleum formation. Various hypotheses to explain Ro suppression, such as sorption of products generated from liptinite during maturation, diagenetic formation of perhydrous vitrinite or overpressure, remain controversial. To experimentally test for suppression of vitrinite reflectance, artificial rock was prepared using silica and a calcined blend of limestone and clay with various proportions of thermally immature vitrinite-rich Wyodak-Anderson coal and liptinite-rich kerogen isolated from the oil-prone Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation. The samples were subjected to hydrous pyrolysis for 72 h. at isothermal temperatures of 300 °C, 330 °C, and 350 °C to simulate burial maturation. Compared to artificial rock that contains only coal, samples with different proportions of oil-prone kerogen show distinct suppression of calibrated Ro at 300 °C and 330 °C. The reflectance of solid bitumen generated during heating of the samples is lower than that of the associated vitrinite and does not interfere with the Ro measurements. These results provide the first experimental evidence that Ro suppression occurs in vitrinite mixed with liptinite-rich kerogen in a rock matrix. Although the precise chemical mechanism for Ro suppression by liptinite remains unclear, free radicals generated from solid bitumen and associated volatile products during maturation of liptinite may contribute to termination reactions that slow the aromatization and rearrangement of polyaromatic sheets in vitrinite, thus suppressing Ro. This mechanism does not preclude Ro suppression that might result from overpressure or differences in redox conditions during diagenesis.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Suppression of vitrinite reflectance by bitumen generated from liptinite during hydrous pyrolysis of artificial source rock
Series title Organic Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2018.09.010
Volume 125
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 220
Last page 228
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