Shale oil and gas have been discovered in the lacustrine organic-rich Zhangjiatan Shale of the Upper Triassic Yanchang Formation, Ordos Basin, China. Core observations indicate abundant silty laminae in the producing shales. This study documents the stratigraphic distribution of silty laminae and their relationship with interlaminated clay laminae. The type, structure, and characteristics of pores and mineral composition of silty laminae were observed and analyzed through thin section and scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, low-pressure CO2 and N2 adsorption, mercury porosimetry, and helium pycnometry. Results from silty laminae are compared with those of clayey laminae. The frequency and thickness of silty laminae vary over a wide range. The thickness ranges from 0.2 to 4 mm and is 1.5 mm on average; the frequency ranges from 4 to 32 laminae/m and is 23 laminae/m on average. The thickness percentage of silty laminae in the measured segments ranges from 6% to 17%. Silty laminae consist of quartz, feldspar, mixed-layer montmorillonite, and chlorite. In comparison to clayey laminae, non-clay detrital grains are larger, quartz and feldspar are more common, and clay minerals are less abundant. Pores in silty laminae are primary interparticle, dissolutional, intercrystalline, and microfracture types. Mesopores (2–50 nm in diameter) and macropores (50 nm–1 μm) are common, whereas, micropores (<2  nm) are rare; the distribution of pore diameters is multimodal. However, microscopic pores with a diameter commonly smaller than 100 nm are common in clayey laminae. Thus, pore volume and surface area of micropores in silty laminae are less than those in the adjacent clayey laminae, and vice versa for meso- and macropores. The porosity of shales increases with the proportion of silty laminae in the shales. The silty laminae provide the storage space and flow conduit for oil and gas, and they play a significant role in the migration, accumulation, occurrence, and amount of gas in the shales.

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