Mapping the elastic structure of Kerogen at the nano-scale

S. Emmanuel*, M. Eliyahu, R. J. Day-Stirrat, R. Hofmann, C. Macaulay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The properties of organic matter change during diagenesis and catagenesis, potentially altering the way shales deform and fracture. Although kerogen in mudrocks is thought to become stiffer during thermal maturation, few studies have been able to confirm this by direct measurement, as standard mechanical testing techniques cannot easily be used to measure the micrometer sized organic components in shales. Here, we use a new non-destructive atomic force microscopy technique to map the elastic modulus of organic and inorganic components at the nanometer scale in shales containing Type II kerogen from three different levels of thermal maturation. We found that when vitrinite reflectance increases from 0.40 to 0.82, the average Young modulus of kerogen increases from 6.1 GPa to 16.0 GPa. However, as %Ro increases further from 0.82 to 1.25, the modulus values for kerogen do not change significantly. In the samples that experienced catagenesis, the modulus maps reveal that individual kerogen macerals possess soft regions - interpreted as exuded bitumen - which act to soften the overall structure of the kerogen. As well as providing high resolution mechanical data, this technique could be used to track the way bitumen and other compounds are generated from kerogen during catagenesis.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publication5th EAGE Shale Workshop
Subtitle of host publicationQuantifying Risks and Potential
PublisherEuropean Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, EAGE
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9781510822887
StatePublished - 2016
Event5th EAGE Shale Workshop: Quantifying Risks and Potential - Catania, Italy
Duration: 2 May 20164 May 2016

Publication series

Name5th EAGE Shale Workshop: Quantifying Risks and Potential


Conference5th EAGE Shale Workshop: Quantifying Risks and Potential

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers. All rights reserved.


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