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An evaluation of an integrated data set collected over the past 12 years designed to identify the parameters controlling reservoir quality and production properties in organic, siliceous mudrocks reveals the key diagenetic processes affecting the development of brittleness in siliceous mudrocks. This work was motivated by the failure of early efforts to correlate brittleness to x-ray diffraction (XRD) mineralogy. The outcome of this analysis has been the recognition of two, often overlapping, pathways to brittleness that are determined at the time of deposition by the relative proportions of clay, detrital quartz, and biogenic silica present in the original sediment and are later affected by burial history.

One pathway begins with a phyllosilicate–mud-dominated sediment, and the other begins with a sediment containing common or abundant biogenic silica (opal-A). Both pathways are characterized by compactional porosity loss and both eventually include the generation of authigenic quartz cement; however, the source of that authigenic quartz is different between the two pathways. The authigenic quartz that characterizes the first pathway is developed from the illitization of smectite and is precipitated as a cement within the argillaceous matrix. This authigenic quartz is detectable along with the detrital quartz by XRD analysis. All other factors being equal, the volume of brittle, authigenic quartz cement derived from the alteration of smectite is proportional to the volume of original clay. As a result, the effectiveness of this cement to increase the brittleness of the rock may be impacted by the presence of the ductile clays. In the alternate pathway, authigenic quartz is derived from the transformation of biogenic opal-A and is independent of the amount of clay. Much of the XRD quartz volume in rocks derived from biogenic–silica-rich sediment that contained little or no detrital quartz will comprise a brittle, authigenic cement.

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