As part of a study to determine the origin of oil and gas in the Berea Sandstone in northeastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio, 158 samples of organic-rich shale from the Upper Devonian Olentangy and Ohio Shales and the Lower Mississippian Sunbury Shale, collectively referred to as the “black shale,” were collected and analyzed from 12 cores. The samples were analyzed for total organic carbon (TOC) content, organic petrography, and programmed pyrolysis. Previously acquired analytical data for 11 samples from 2 additional wells in eastern Kentucky were also used.

Most of the samples were organic rich (>5 wt. % TOC), high in sulfur (>2.0 wt. %), and dominated by liptinite macerals. The vitrinite reflectance (VRo) and equivalent vitrinite reflectance (VReq) values, calculated from bitumen reflectance (BRo) measurements, were found to be in close agreement. The calculated reflectance values from programmed pyrolysis temperature at which the maximum release of hydrocarbons occurs (Tmax) showed better agreement with measured VRo after Tmax was corrected for excessive hydrogen index values for several samples. Thermal maturation parameters were found to increase in a northwest–southeast direction, paralleling an increase in black shale thickness and depth of burial. The thermal maturity proxies indicate the northwestern part of the study area to be more thermally mature than previously indicated. Geochemical and biomarker data from Berea oils indicate migration of oil from more thermally mature to less thermally mature areas. As such, the occurrence of petroleum liquids in the Berea Sandstone cannot be predicted directly from conventional thermal maturity proxies (Tmax, VRo, and BRo) because these methods do not account for migrated petroleum.

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