Origin of Shale Gases from Around the World: Implications for Exploration

Milkov, Alexei (Colorado School of Mines) | Etiope, Giuseppe (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia)



Gas production from shale formations is growing, especially in the USA. However, the origin of shale gases remains poorly understood. The objective of this study is to interpret the origin of shale gases from around the world using recently revised gas genetic diagrams. We collected a large dataset of gas samples recovered from shale formations around the world and interpreted the origin of shale gases using recently revised gas genetic diagrams. The dataset includes >2000 gas samples from the USA, China, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Sweden, Poland, Argentina, United Kingdom and France. Both free gases collected at wellheads and desorbed gases from cores are included in the dataset. Shale gas samples come from >34 sedimentary basins and >65 different shale formations (plays) ranging in age from Proterozoic (Kyalla and Velkerri Formations, Australia) to Miocene (Monterey Formation, USA). The original data were presented in >80 publications and reports. We plotted molecular and isotopic properties of shale gases on the revised genetic diagrams and determined the origin of shale gases. Based on the distribution of shale gases within the genetic diagram of δ13C of methane (C1) versus C1/(C2+C3), most shale gases appear to have thermogenic origin. The majority of these thermogenic gases are late-mature (e.g., Marcellus Formation, USA and Wufeng-Longmaxi Formation, China) and mid-mature (associated with oil generation, e.g., Eagle Ford Formation, USA). Importantly, shales may contain early-mature thermogenic gases rarely found in conventional accumulations (e.g., T⊘yen Formation, Sweden and Colorado Formation, Canada). Some shale gases have secondary microbial origin, i.e., they originated from anaerobic biodegradation of oils. For example, gases from New Albany Formation and Antrim Formation (USA) have secondary microbial origin. Relatively few shale gases have primary microbial origin, and they often have some minor admixture of thermogenic gas (e.g., Nicolet Formation, Canada and Alum Formation, Sweden). Two other revised gas genetic plots based on δ2H and δ13C of methane and δ13C of CO2 support and enhance the above interpretation. Although shales that contain secondary microbial gas can be productive (e.g., New Albany Formation, USA), the resource-rich, highly productive and commercially successful shale plays contain thermogenic gas. Plays with late-mature thermogenic gas (e.g., Marcellus Formation, USA and Wufeng-Longmaxi Formation, China) appear to be most productive.

  Country: North America > United States (1.00)
  Geologic Time: Phanerozoic > Paleozoic (0.94)
  Industry: Energy > Oil & Gas > Upstream (1.00)
  Oilfield Places: