Understanding and distinguishing reflectance measurements of solid bitumen and vitrinite using hydrous pyrolysis: Implications to petroleum assessment

AAPG Bulletin
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Abstract

Solid bitumen is a common organic component of thermally mature shales and typically is identified by embayment against euhedral mineral terminations and by groundmass textures. However, because these textures are not always present, solid bitumen can be easily misidentified as vitrinite. Hydrous-pyrolysis experiments (72 hr, 300°C–360°C) on shale and coal samples show that solid-bitumen reflectance (BRo) in shales is less responsive to thermal stress than vitrinite reflectance (Ro) in coal. This effect is most pronounced at lower experimental temperatures (300°C–320°C), whereas reflectance changes are more similar at higher temperatures (340°C–360°C). Neither a “vitrinite-like” maceral nor “suppressed vitrinite” was identified or measured in our sample set; instead, the experiments show that solid bitumen matures slower than vitrinite. The data may explain some reports of “Ro suppression,” particularly at lower thermal maturity (Ro ≤ 1.0%), as a simple case of solid bitumen being mistaken for vitrinite. Further, the experimental results confirm previous empirical observations that Ro and BRo are more similar at higher maturities (Ro > 1.0%). It is suggested that Ro suppression, commonly reported from upper Paleozoic marine shales of early to midoil window maturity, is a misnomer. This observation has important implications to petroleum exploration models and resource assessment, because it may change interpretations for the timing and spatial locations of kerogen maturation and petroleum generation.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Understanding and distinguishing reflectance measurements of solid bitumen and vitrinite using hydrous pyrolysis: Implications to petroleum assessment
Series title AAPG Bulletin
DOI 10.1306/08291717097
Volume 102
Issue 6
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Contributing office(s) Energy Resources Program, Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center
Description 22 p.
First page 1119
Last page 1140
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