Quantitative assessment of pore types and pore size distribution across thermal maturity, Eagle Ford Formation, South Texas
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Scanning electron microscopy of Ar-ion milled samples from the Eagle Ford Formation, South Texas shows that the character and abundance of porosity changes significantly across burial conditions as a result of compaction, cementation, bitumen generation, and generation of secondary porosity within organic matter (OM). Samples displaying a range of compositions and maturities are imaged and quantified to provide insight into the effects of these processes. Porosity in low-maturity samples (Ro~0.5%) is volumetrically dominated (0.1% -12.5% bulk volume, average 6.2%) by relatively large, mostly interparticle, primary mineral-associated pores (median sizes range 35.9-52.7 nm). Larger pores are generally associated with coccolith debris that is commonly aggregated into pellets. Porosity and pore size correlate directly with calcite abundance and inversely with OM volumes. OM is dominantly detrital kerogen "stringers" that range in size and have spatial distributions and character suggestive of detrital origin. Destruction of primary porosity in low-maturity samples has occurred due to compaction of ductile kerogen and clays and, to a minor degree, as a result of cementation and infill of early bitumen. Smaller, secondary OM-hosted pores (median size range 11.1-14.9 nm) volumetrically dominate porosity (0.02%-3.6% bulk volume, average of 1.36%), in most high-maturity samples (Ro~1.2%-1.3%). Mineral-associated pores are present, but are typically smaller (median size range from 20.3-40.6 nm) and less abundant (0.0%-10.0% bulk volume, average of 2.5%) than at low maturity. Abundant mineral-associated porosity is present locally in samples where incursion of primary pore space by bitumen has not occurred. OM within high-maturity samples is distributed more evenly throughout the rock fabric, occupying spaces similar in size and morphology to primary interparticle pores, coating euhedral crystals (probable cements), and filling intraparticle porosity. These observations, and positive correlation between calcite and OM volumes (OM-hosted pore volume included) in samples with dominantly OM-hosted pore networks, suggests that a large portion of OM within high-maturity samples is diagenetic in origin and has filled primary pore space. Destruction of primary porosity in high-maturity samples has occurred through cementation, bitumen infill, and, possibly greater compaction. Additional porosity, however, has been generated through maturation of OM.