Abstract

Recent investigations of the shale gas potential in the main Karoo Basin have concentrated on the Whitehill Formation within the Ecca Group. This study focuses on the shale gas potential of the underlying Prince Albert Formation using the parameters of volume porosity, permeability, total organic carbon (TOC), vitrinite reflectance and Rock-Eval data. Shale samples were retrieved from three surface localities in the southern part of the main Karoo Basin and from core of three boreholes drilled through the Prince Albert Formation near Ceres, Mervewille and Willowvale. The sampling localities occur near the borders of the prospective shale gas areas (“sweet spots”) identified for the Whitehill Formation. Kerogen was found to be Type IV with hydrogen indices less than 65 mg/g.

Shale porosities are between 0.08 and 5.6% and permeabilities between 0 and 2.79 micro-Darcy, as determined by mercury porosimetry. TOC varies between 0.2 and 4.9 weight % and vitrinite reflectance values range from 3.8 to 4.9%. Although the porosity and TOC values of the Prince Albert Formation shales are comparable with, but at the lower limits of, those of the gas-producing Marcellus shale in the United States (porosities between 1 and 6% and TOC between 1 and 10 weight %), the high vitrinite reflectance values indicate that the shales are overmature with questionable potential for generating dry gas. This overmaturity is probably a result of an excess depth of burial, tectonic effects of the Cape Orogeny and dolerite intrusions. However, viable conditions for shale gas might exist within the “sweet spot” areas, which were defined for the Whitehill Formation.

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