The use of field emission electron microscopy for the study of clay mineral petrography in mudrocks and sandstones is discussed. The methodology including sample preparation is outlined and three examples of the application of the technique are described: the formation of authigenic illite in mudrocks, the multiple generation of authigenic illites in sandstones and the effects of KCl drilling muds on shale fabrics. In the study of authigenic illite formation in Palaeocene mudrocks from the North Sea, the FESEM analyses have demonstrated the formation of illites with increasing burial depth that conventional SEM and XRD analyses had failed to show. The FESEM analyses of the authigenic illites in Carboniferous sandstones from the southern North Sea revealed at least three different habits representing different generation episodes rather than one illite formation event. This has important repercussions with regard to the interpretation of stable isotope and dating data for the illites. Significant petrographic changes in shales after treatment with KCl drilling muds have been observed from FESEM analyses, suggesting reactivity between the shales and the KCl muds.

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