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Geochemical characterization of Cenomanian/Turonian black shales from the Tarfaya Basin (SW Morocco): relationships between paleoenvironmental conditions and early sulfurization of sedimentary organic matter

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Britta Beckmann, Professor Thomas Wagner


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Organic geochemical and petrological investigations were carried out on Cenomanian/Turonian black shales from three sample sites in the Tarfaya Basin (SW Morocco) to characterize the sedimentary organic matter. These black shales have a variable bulk and molecular geochemical composition reflecting changes in the quantity and quality of the organic matter. High TOC contents (up to 18wt%) and hydrogen indices between 400 and 800 (mgHC/gTOC) indicate hydrogen-rich organic matter (Type I-II kerogen) which qualifies these laminated black shale sequences as excellent oil-prone source rocks. Low Tmax values obtained from Rock-Eval pyrolysis (404-425°C) confirm an immature to early mature level of thermal maturation. Organic petrological studies indicate that the kerogen is almost entirely composed of bituminite particles. These unstructured organic aggregates were most probably formed by intensive restructuring of labile biopolymers (lipids and/or carbohydrates), with the incorporation of sulphur into the kerogen during early diagenesis. Total lipid analyses performed after desulphurization of the total extract shows that the biomarkers mostly comprise short-chain n-alkanes (C16-C22) and long-chain (C25-C35) n-alkanes with no obvious odd-over-even predominance, together with steranes, hopanoids and acyclic isoprenoids. The presence of isorenieratane derivatives originating from green sulphur bacteria indicates that dissolved sulphide had reached the photic zone at shallow water depths (~100m) during times of deposition. These conditions probably favoured intensive sulphurization of the organic matter. Flash pyrolysis GC-MS analysis of the kerogen indicates the aliphatic nature of the bulk organic carbon. The vast majority of pyrolysis products are sulphur-containing components such as alkylthiophenes, alkenylthiophenes and alkybenzothiophenes. Abundant sulphurization of the Tarfaya Basin kerogen resulted from excess sulphide and metabolizable organic matter combined with a limited availability of iron during early diagenesis. The observed variability in the intensity of OM sulphurization may be attributed to sea level-driven fluctuations in the palaeoenvironment during sedimentation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kolonic S, Sinninghe Damsté JS, Böttcher ME, Kuypers MMM, Kuhnt W, Beckmann B, Scheeder G, Wagner T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Petroleum Geology

Year: 2002

Volume: 25

Issue: 3

Pages: 325-350

ISSN (print): 0141-6421

ISSN (electronic): 1747-5457

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-5457.2002.tb00012.x


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