Standard Rock-Eval pyrolysis is commonly used to estimate the thermal maturity of source rocks. However, measuring the maturity of overmature samples with high Tmax values (> 470°C) is very challenging due to the weak development of S2 peaks. Moreover, measuring the vitrinite reflectance of dispersed organic matter high thermal maturity samples is commonly used when the Tmax (°C) of the sample is unreliable. Nevertheless, vitrinite assemblages are very rare/absent in marine samples particularly in marlstones or pre-Carboniferous source rocks. The current study addresses a new thermal maturity parameter that used the carbon monoxide CO released during Rock Eval-6 oxidations.
A total of 14 marine source rock samples were analyzed by Rock Eval-6 to assess their generative potential. The samples range in Tmax from 420° to 475°C indicating wide thermal maturity range from immature to overmature. During Rock-Eval analyses, CO released from the kerogens and their peak temperature (Tco) was recorded. A strong positive correlation was observed between the Tmax and the Tco (r=0.94). Note that the CO is released from the organic oxygen compounds that are none/or less liable compared to pure hydrocarbon compounds. Thus, Tco is more reliable than Tmax in assessing high thermal maturity levels.
The new method provides a robust and quick interpretation of high thermal maturity source rocks especially for pre-Carboniferous samples that lack a well-devolved S2 peak. Carbon monoxide generation is not affected by carbonate decay to CO2 and is also not affected by contamination used in drilling fluids. Testing of different source rocks is needed to establish this further and to improve the trend observed.