Black shale source rocks and oil generation in the Cambrian and Ordovician of the central Appalachian Basin, USA

American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin
By: , and 



Nearly 600 million bbl of oil (MMBO) and 1 to 1.5 trillion ft3 (tcf) of gas have been produced from Cambrian and Ordovician reservoirs (carbonate and sandstone) in the Ohio part of the Appalachian basin and on adjoining arches in Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario, Canada. Most of the oil and gas is concentrated in the giant Lima-Indiana field on the Findlay and Kankakee arches and in small fields distributed along the Knox unconformity. Based on new geochemical analyses of oils, potential source rocks, bitumen extracts, and previously published geochemical data, we conclude that the oils in both groups of fields originated from Middle and Upper Ordovician black shale (Utica and Antes shales) in the Appalachian basin. Moreover, we suggest that approximately 300 MMBO and many trillions of cubic feet of gas in the Lower Silurian Clinton sands of eastern Ohio originated in these same source rocks.

Oils from the Cambrian and Ordovician reservoirs have similar saturated hydrocarbon compositions, biomarker distributions, and carbon isotope signatures. Regional variations in the oils are attributed to differences in thermal maturation rather than to differences in source. Total organic carbon content, genetic potential, regional extent, and bitumen extract geochemistry identify the black shale of the Utica and Antes shales as the most plausible source of the oils. Other Cambrian and Ordovician shale and carbonate units, such as the Wells Creek formation, which rests on the Knox unconformity, and the Rome Formation and Conasauga Group in the Rome trough, are considered to be only local petroleum sources. Tmax, CAI, and pyrolysis yields from drill-hole cuttings and core indicate that the Utica Shale in eastern and central Ohio is mature with respect to oil generation. Burial, thermal, and hydrocarbon-generation history models suggest that much of the oil was generated from the Utica-Antes source in the late Paleozoic during the Alleghanian orogeny. A pervasive fracture network controlled by basement tectonics aided in the distribution of oil from the source to the trap. This fracture network permitted oil to move laterally and stratigraphically downsection through eastward-dipping, impermeable carbonate sequences to carrier zones such as the Middle Ordovician Knox unconformity, and to reservoirs such as porous dolomite in the Middle Ordovician Trenton Limestone in the Lima-Indiana field. Some of the oil and gas from the Utica-Antes source escaped vertically through a partially fractured, leaky Upper Ordovician shale seal into widespread Lower Silurian sandstone reservoirs. 

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Black shale source rocks and oil generation in the Cambrian and Ordovician of the central Appalachian Basin, USA
Series title American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin
DOI 10.1306/1D9BC42B-172D-11D7-8645000102C1865D
Volume 82
Issue 3
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Publisher location Tulsa, OK, United States
Contributing office(s) Central Energy Resources Science Center
Description 30 p.
First page 412
Last page 441
Country Canada, United States
State Ohio, Ontario
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