Vitrinite reflectance measurements on Pennsylvanian coals in the Illinois basin indicate significantly higher thermal maturity than can be explained by present-day burial depths. An interval of additional sedimentary section, now removed by erosion, has been suggested to account for the discrepancy. Although burial could indeed account for the observed maturity levels of organic matter, fluid-inclusion temperatures provide a stringent additional constraint. In this article, we combine measurements of coal maturity with fluid-inclusion temperatures from three sites to constrain the basin's thermal and burial history: the Fluorspar district at the Illinois basin's southern margin, the Upper Mississippi Valley zinc district at the basin's northern margin, and a north-central location.
Two-dimensional numerical modeling of a north-south cross section through the basin tests scenarios both with and without regional fluid flow. Vitrinite reflectance values can be matched assuming burial by 1.8-2.8 km of southward-thickening additional, post-Pennsylvanian sedimentary section. In the central and northern Illinois basin, however, these burial depths and temperatures are not sufficient to account for the fluid-inclusion data. To account for both parameters with burial alone does not appear feasible. In contrast, our best hypothesis assumes a wedge of post-Pennsylvanian sediment-thickening southward to about 1.2 km and a brief period of magmatism in the Fluorspar district. Significant advective heat redistribution by northward regional fluid flow accounts for fluid-inclusion temperatures and coal maturities throughout the basin. The modeling results demonstrate the potential contribution of advective heat transport to the thermal history of the Illinois basin.