The Marcellus Formation of Pennsylvania represents an outstanding example of an organic matter (OM)–hosted pore system; most pores detectable by field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) are associated with OM instead of mineral matrix. In the two wells studied here, total organic carbon (TOC) content is a stronger control on OM-hosted porosity than is thermal maturity. The two study wells span a maturity from late wet gas (vitrinite reflectance [Ro], ∼1.0%) to dry gas (Ro, ∼2.1%). Samples with a TOC less than 5.5 wt. % display a positive correlation between TOC and porosity, but samples with a TOC greater than 5.5 wt. % display little or no increase in porosity with a further increasing TOC. In a subset of samples (14) across a range of TOC (2.3–13.6 wt. %), the pore volume detectable by FE-SEM is a small fraction of total porosity, ranging from 2 to 32% of the helium porosity. Importantly, the FE-SEM–visible porosity in OM decreases significantly with increasing TOC, diminishing from 30% of OM volume to less than 1% of OM volume across the range of TOC. The morphology and size of OM-hosted pores also vary systematically with TOC.
The interpretation of this anticorrelation between OM content and SEM-visible pores remains uncertain. Samples with the lowest OM porosity (higher TOC) may represent gas expulsion (pore collapse) that was more complete as a consequence of greater OM connectivity and framework compaction, whereas samples with higher OM porosity (lower TOC) correspond to rigid mineral frameworks that inhibited compactional expulsion of methane-filled bubbles. Alternatively, higher TOC samples may contain OM (low initial hydrogen index, relatively unreactive) that is less prone to development of FE-SEM–detectable pores. In this interpretation, OM type, controlled by sequence-stratigraphic position, is a factor in determining pore-size distribution.