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Mineral oxidants are examined as possible agents for the production of water soluble organic solvents from kerogen in the course of progressive burial of sedimentary rocks. In particular, the diagenetic conversion of smectite to illite is quantitatively evaluated as an oxidation agent using data from the Texas Gulf Coast as well as experimental results.

The reduction of mineral oxidants and consequent oxidation of organic matter may be as effective a mechanism in releasing peripheral difunctional carboxylic acid groups from the kerogen as thermal degradation in the natural system. Porosity enhancement in the subsurface is often limited by the ability of the diagenetic fluids to transport aluminum. Difunctional carboxylic acids (as well as other organic solvents such as phenols) complex aluminum, effectively increasing the solubility of aluminosilicate minerals. The solubility of carbonate minerals is also increased by these organic solvents. The coincidence in time, temperature, and space of mixed-layer smectite/illite transformations with peak concentrations of organic acids in oil field brines suggests a possible mechanism for the generation of difunctional carboxylic acids. This mechanism would allow highly soluble difunctional organic acids to pass through adjacent sandstones just prior to hydrocarbon generation. These acids are ideal solvents for dissolving carbonates and/or aluminosilicates out of pores and pore throats, thereby enhancing porosity and permeability in hydrocarbon reservoirs.

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