Abstract

This paper describes the geology of organic-rich shales in China, their resource potentials, and properties of emerging and potential China shale gas and shale oil plays. Marine, lacustrine, and coastal swamp transitional shales were estimated to have the largest technically recoverable shale gas resource (25.08 trillion cubic meters or 886 trillion cubic feet) and 25 to 50 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil resource. The Precambrian Sinian Doushantuo Formation to Silurian Longmaxi black marine shales mainly accumulated in the intrashelf low to slope environments in the Yangtze Platform in South China and in the Tarim Platform in northwest China. The marine shales in the Yangtze Platform have high maturity (Ro of 1.3%–5%), high total organic carbon (mainly >2%), high brittle-mineral content, and have been identified as emerging shale gas plays. The Lower Paleozoic marine shales in the Upper Yangtze area have the largest shale gas potential and currently top the list as exploration targets. The Carboniferous to Permian shales associated with coal and sandstones were mainly formed in transitional depositional settings in north China, northwest China, and the Yangtze Platform in south China. These transitional shales are generally rich in clay with a medium level of shale gas potential. The Middle Permian to Cenozoic organic-rich lacustrine shales interbedded with thin sandstone and carbonate beds are sporadically distributed in rifted basins across China. Their main potentials are as hybrid plays (tight and shale oil). China shales are heterogeneous across time and space, and high-quality shale reservoirs are usually positioned within transgressive systems tract to early highstand systems tract intervals that were deposited in an anoxic depositional setting. For China’s shale plays, tectonic movements have affected and disrupted the early oil and gas accumulation, making tectonically stable areas more favorable prospects for the exploration and development of shale plays.

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