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Accumulation of Organic Matter in the Rome Trough 
of the Appalachian Basin and Its Subsequent Thermal History

John B. Curtis2 and Gunter Faure3


We used geochemical data to examine the origin and preservation of organic matter contained in the lower part of the Huron Member of the Ohio Shale formation and the Rhinestreet Shale Member of the West Falls Formation (Devonian) in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. The thermal history of the organic matter was determined by relating relative temperatures experienced by the organic matter to the geologic setting.

The organic matter in these formations is predominantly marine in origin and was most probably derived largely from algal organisms. Although the rate of production of marine organic matter may have been uniform within the basin, its preservation apparently was controlled by the existence of a set of fault-bounded anoxic subbasins associated with the Rome trough, a Cambrian structural complex. These subbasins apparently were anoxic because they limited oxygen recharge by circulating waters. Preservation of organic matter was also enhanced by periodic blooms of the alga Tasmanites and similar organisms in the waters above the subbasins during both early Huron and Rhinestreet deposition.

A significant negative correlation was identified between the vitrinite reflectance peak temperature, an integrated measure of the thermal history of a rock, and the hydrogen index, a measure of the remaining hydrocarbon-generation potential of kerogen. Although peak temperatures were controlled by burial depth, excess heating occurred 

©Copyright 1997. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.
     1Manuscript received October 25, 1995; revised manuscript received June 7, 1996; final acceptance October 28, 1996.
     2Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado 80401.
     3Department of Geological Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210.
Financial support for sample collection and analysis was provided by the Gas Research Institute, whose contribution is gratefully acknowledged. We thank M. D. Lewan and C. E. Barker for their guidance and reviews of earlier drafts of this manuscript. We also appreciate the critical reviews of G. Demaison, R. Kepferle, and C. Laughrey. Contribution No. 019 of the Colorado School of Mines Geochemistry Program.


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