Cretaceous Qingshankou (K2qn) mudstone of lacustrine origin is the major source rock for conventional hydrocarbon currently being produced in the Daqing and Jilin oilfields of the Songliao Basin, which is one of the largest continental basins in the world. Therefore, elucidating the geochemical and petrological characteristics of the K2qn mudstone is important to help determine its quality as an economically viable source for shale oil production. In our study, eight dark mudstone core samples from the K2qn formation were subjected to total organic carbon (TOC), Rock-Eval pyrolysis, X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), field emission SEM (FE-SEM), and low-pressure N2 gas adsorption (LPGA-N2) experiments. Geochemical and petrological analysis results indicated the presence of a high TOC content, which originated mainly from alginate and some plant-derived organic matter, whereas bitumen was frequently present in mudstones with thermal maturity in the oil-generation stage. The K2qn mudstones were comprised mainly of clay minerals, followed by quartz, feldspar, and carbonates. The LPGA-N2 experiments revealed the presence of nanoscale slit-shaped pores, and the contribution from mesopores to the total pore volume was the highest in most of the samples. The average pore diameters (APDs) of the mudstone samples were all smaller than 20 nm (4.36–17.79 nm). We determined that there was a clear positive correlation between the APD and the free oil content; however, there were no clear correlations between the APDs and the quartz, carbonate, and TOC contents. FEM studies revealed the presence of intergranular pores with widths of approximately 10 μm, micron-level autogenetic organic matter pores within spores, organic matter pores caused by the hydrocarbon generation effect within organic matter or clay-organic complexes, and intraparticle pores within clays or pyrite framboids. The microlevel intergranular pores might play an important role in shale oil accumulation from source rock of lacustrine origin.

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