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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Mar 30;96(7):3440-6.

Illite and hydrocarbon exploration.

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Exxon Production Research Co., P.O. Box 2189, Houston, TX 77252-2189, USA.


Illite is a general term for the dioctahedral mica-like clay mineral common in sedimentary rocks, especially shales. Illite is of interest to the petroleum industry because it can provide a K-Ar isotope date that constrains the timing of basin heating events. It is critical to establish that hydrocarbon formation and migration occurred after the formation of the trap (anticline, etc.) that is to hold the oil. Illite also may precipitate in the pores of sandstone reservoirs, impeding fluid flow. Illite in shales is a mixture of detrital mica and its weathering products with diagenetic illite formed by reaction with pore fluids during burial. K-Ar ages are apparent ages of mixtures of detrital and diagenetic end members, and what we need are the ages of the end members themselves. This paper describes a methodology, based on mineralogy and crystallography, for interpreting the K-Ar ages from illites in sedimentary rocks and for estimating the ages of the end members.

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