Marine shales exhibit unusual behavior at low temperatures under anoxic gas flow. They generate catalytic gas 300? below thermal cracking temperatures, discontinuously in aperiodic episodes, and lose these properties on exposure to trace amounts of oxygen. Here we report a surprising reversal in hydrocarbon generation. Heavy hydrocarbons are formed before light hydrocarbons resulting in wet gas at the onset of generation grading to dryer gas over time. The effect is moderate under gas flow and substantial in closed reactions. In sequential closed reactions at 100?C, gas from a Cretaceous Mowry shale progresses from predominately heavy hydrocarbons (66% C5, 2% C1) to predominantly light hydrocarbons (56% C1, 8% C5), the opposite of that expected from desorption of preexisting hydrocarbons. Differences in catalyst substrate composition explain these dynamics. Gas flow should carry heavier hydrocarbons to catalytic sites, in contrast to static conditions where catalytic sites are limited to in-place hydrocarbons. In-place hydrocarbons and their products should become lighter with conversion thus generating lighter hydrocarbon over time, consistent with our experimental results. We recognize the similarities between low-temperature gas generation reported here and the natural progression of wet gas to dry gas over geologic time. There is now substantial evidence for natural catalytic activity in source rocks. Natural gas at thermodynamic equilibrium and the results reported here add to that evidence. Natural catalysis provides a plausible and unique explanation for the origin and evolution of gas in sedimentary basins. ? 2009 Mango and Jarvie; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Mango, F. D., & Jarvie, D. M. (2009). Low-temperature gas from marine shales: Wet gas to dry gas over experimental time. Geochemical Transactions, 10, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/1467-4866-10-10