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Pyrolysis experiments were performed on Green River and Monterey Formation kerogens (Types I and II, respectively) with and without calcite, illite, or montmorillonite at 300°C for 2 to 1,000 hours under dry and hydrous conditions. Pyrolysis products were identified and quantified, and a material balance of product and reactants resulted.
Significant differences were found in the products generated by pyrolysis of kerogens with and without minerals. Both illite and montmorillonite adsorb a considerable portion (up to 80%) of the generated bitumen. The adsorbed bitumen is almost exclusively composed of polar compounds and asphaltenes that crack to yield low molecular weight compounds and insoluble pyrobitumen during prolonged heating. Montmorillonite shows the most pronounced adsorptive and catalytic effects. With calcite however, the pyrolysis products are similar to those from kerogen heated alone, and bitumen adsorption is negligible.
Applying these results to maturation of organic matter in natural environments, we suggest that a given type of organic matter associated with different minerals in source rocks will yield different products. Furthermore, the different adsorption capacities of minerals exert a significant influence on the migration of polar and high molecular weight compounds generated from the breakdown of kerogen. Therefore, the overall accumulated products from carbonate source rocks are mainly heavy oils with some gas, whereas light oils and gases are the main products from source rocks that contain expandable clays with catalytic and adsorptive properties.
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