Factors controlling Li concentration and isotopic composition in formation waters and host rocks of Marcellus Shale, Appalachian Basin

Chemical Geology
By: , and 



In this study, water and whole rock samples from hydraulically fractured wells in the Marcellus Shale (Middle Devonian), and water from conventional wells producing from Upper Devonian sandstones were analyzed for lithium concentrations and isotope ratios (δ7Li). The distribution of lithium concentrations in different mineral groups was determined using sequential extraction. Structurally bound Li, predominantly in clays, accounted for 75-91 wt. % of total Li, whereas exchangeable sites and carbonate cement contain negligible Li (< 3%). Up to 20% of the Li is present in the oxidizable fraction (organic matter and sulfides). The δ7Li values for whole rock shale in Greene Co., Pennsylvania, and Tioga Co., New York, ranged from -2.3 to + 4.3‰, similar to values reported for other shales in the literature. The δ7Li values in shale rocks with stratigraphic depth record progressive weathering of the source region; the most weathered and clay-rich strata with isotopically light Li are found closest to the top of the stratigraphic section. Diagenetic illite-smectite transition could also have partially affected the bulk Li content and isotope ratios of the Marcellus Shale.

In Greene Co., southwest Pennsylvania, the Upper Devonian sandstone formation waters have δ7Li values of + 14.6 ± 1.2 (2SD, n = 25), and are distinct from Marcellus Shale formation waters which have δ7Li of + 10.0 ± 0.8 (2SD, n = 12). These two formation waters also maintain distinctive 87Sr/86Sr ratios suggesting hydrologic separation between these units. Applying temperature-dependent illitilization model to Marcellus Shale, we found that Li concentration in clay minerals increased with Li concentration in pore fluid during diagenetic illite-smectite transition. Samples from north central PA show a much smaller range in both δ7Li and 87Sr/86Sr than in southwest Pennsylvania. Spatial variations in Li and δ7Li values show that Marcellus formation waters are not homogeneous across the Appalachian Basin. Marcellus formation waters in the northeastern Pennsylvania portion of the basin show a much smaller range in both δ7Li and 87Sr/86Sr, suggesting long term, cross-formational fluid migration in this region. Assessing the impact of potential mixing of fresh water with deep formation water requires establishment of a geochemical and isotopic baseline in the shallow, fresh water aquifers, and site specific characterization of formation water, followed by long-term monitoring, particularly in regions of future shale gas development.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Factors controlling Li concentration and isotopic composition in formation waters and host rocks of Marcellus Shale, Appalachian Basin
Series title Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.11.003
Volume 420
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Description 18 p.
First page 162
Last page 179
Country United States
State New York, Pennsylvania
County Greene County, Tioga County
Other Geospatial Marcellus Shale, Appalachian Basin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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