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The thermal maturation history of the Paleocene-Eocene Wilcox Group has been reconstructed based on burial history models of 53 wells in the Texas coastal plain. This modeling study has been conducted in conjunction with a geologically based assessment of the oil and gas resources in Cenozoic strata of the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain and state waters. In the onshore Texas coastal plain, coals and organic-rich shales, predominantly of terrestrial origin, within the Wilcox Group are the primary source of oil (Wenger et al., 1994) as well as a source of gas. The Wilcox, however, is modeled as a single unit, without subdivision into source rock and non-source rock intervals.

Generation of oil from Type III kerogen within the Wilcox Group is modeled using hydrous pyrolysis reaction kinetic parameters (Lewan, M.D., written communication, 2006). Gas generation from Type III kerogen is represented using calculated Ro values. The models are calibrated with bottom hole temperature (BHT), and vitrinite reflectance (Ro %) data for the Wilcox Group. Ro data from near-coastal sites have been selected to minimize the possible effects of uplift and erosion and then composited to give a regional Rodepth trend.

Model calculations for the study area, the onshore Texas coastal plain, indicate that downdip portions of the basal Wilcox had reached sufficient thermal maturity to generate hydrocarbons by early Eocene (~50 Ma). This relatively early maturation is explained by rapid sediment accumulation in the early Tertiary combined with the reaction kinetic parameters used in the models. Thermal maturation increases through time with increasing burial depth and temperature, gradually moving the maturation front updip. At present day, hydrocarbon generation is complete in the downdip Wilcox within the study area but is currently ongoing in the updip portions of the formation.

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