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AAPG Bulletin, Preliminary version published online Ahead of Print 1 October 2022.

Copyright © 2022. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

DOI:10.1306/09282221129

Recovering original type and abundance of organic matter in spent source rocks: A review and advances in elemental proxies

Wenyao Xiao1 , Jian Cao1 , Bing Luo2 , Yuce Wang1 , Di Xiao3 , Chunhua Shi1 , and Kai Hu1

1 State Key Laboratory for Mineral Deposits Research, School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
2 Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and Development, PetroChina Southwest Oil and Gas Field Company, Chengdu, Sichuan 610051, China
3 State Key Laboratory of Oil and Gas Reservoir Geology and Exploitation, School of Earth Science and Technology, Southwest Petroleum University, Chengdu, 610500, China

Ahead of Print Abstract

Recovering the original organic matter properties (e.g., organic matter type and richness) of source rocks during high maturation to over maturation (spent source rocks) is the foundation for accurately understanding their original hydrocarbon generation potential, but it is extremely challenging due to the lack of effective proxies. In this paper, the research status of this field is systematically reviewed, and it is found that a series of evaluation methods proposed meet critical challenges, due to the harsh conditions, complicated calculation, uncertainty of parameter setting, high test cost and limited application, etc. In contrast, inorganic elemental geochemical methods show unique advantages. Base on a case study in the over-mature source rocks of the lower Cambrian Qiongzhusi Formation in the intracratonic rift of the Sichuan Basin, South China, the recovery model was established by element geochemistry method. These data, combined with organic geochemical data, such as Rock–Eval pyrolysis parameters and measured total organic carbon contents, were used to determine the original total organic carbon content based on an improved mass balance model. Further comparing with existing examples, the general recognition is summarized. The inorganic geochemical method is able to reliably determine the original hydrocarbon generation potential, but the applicability of the elemental proxies needs to be carefully considered, and the corresponding indexes should be selected according to the depositional setting of the source rocks. This would allow accurate evaluation of conventional hydrocarbon resources and prediction of unconventional shale oil or gas sweet spot reserves.

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Please cite this AAPG Bulletin Ahead of Print article as:

Wenyao Xiao , Jian Cao , Bing Luo , Yuce Wang , Di Xiao , Chunhua Shi , Kai Hu: Recovering original type and abundance of organic matter in spent source rocks: A review and advances in elemental proxies, (in press; preliminary version published online Ahead of Print 01 October 2022: AAPG Bulletin, DOI:10.1306/09282221129.

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