Mudstone is the most abundant sedimentary rock and variously acts as sources, seals, and shale gas reservoirs in petroleum systems. Many important physicochemical properties of mudstones are strongly influenced by the mineralogy and size of deposited grains, and by diagenetic changes (precompaction and postcompaction); these are commonly predictable. The diverse composition of mudstones reflects input and hydrodynamic segregation of detrital materials to basins, primary production within basins, and diagenetic processes (both precipitation and dissolution) in the sediment. High-magnification observations both in modern and ancient sediments demonstrate that mudstones are texturally and mineralogically heterogeneous; this variability is not always readily apparent. Although some mud is indeed deposited by suspension settling out of low-energy buoyant plumes, textural analyses reveal that it is commonly dispersed by a combination of waves, gravity-driven processes, and unidirectional currents driven variously by storms and tides. Such dispersal mechanisms mean that muddy successions are typically organized into packages that can be interpreted using sequence stratigraphy. Early bioturbation homogenizes mud, whereas early chemical diagenesis can result in highly cemented zones developing, especially at stratal surfaces. The nature of deeper burial diagenesis, which involves compaction, mineral dissolution, recrystallization, mineral reorientation and lithification, and petroleum generation, is preconditioned by depositional and early diagenetic characteristics of the mud.
Although the petrophysical properties of homogeneous mudstones are reasonably well known, the quantitative implications of heterogeneity for petroleum expulsion, retention, petroleum migration, seal capacity, acoustic anisotropy, and identification of shale gas reservoir sweet spots are essentially unexplored. Future work should seek to redress this position.