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By Douglas Waples

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8 Ratio of hydrocarbons to nonhydrocarbons in Bakken Shale extracts from a number of wells in the Williston Basin. Maturity generally increases with depth. Reprinted by permission of the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists from Webster, 1984. 39 as maturity increases. 8 shows an unusually nice trend for samples of Bakken Shale from a number of wells in the Williston Basin. ) The homogeneity of the Bakken Shale helps minimize data scatter. It has become apparent in recent years that not all kerogens generate hydrocarbons at the same catagenetic levels, as measured by parameters such as vitrinite reflectance.

Skeletal rearrangements occur easily, giving a tremendous variety of isomers having no obvious relation to their biological precursors. Medium-sized alkanes having one or more methyl branches are almost ubiquitous, although they are never major components of oils or bitumens. They may be biogenic hydrocarbons derived from plant or algal lipids (and thus represent poorly understood biomarkers), or they could be formed from n-alkanes by isomerization processes. With the exception of the porphyrins, fatty acids, and alcohols, most NSO compounds are not biomarkers.

If neither expulsion from the source rock nor cracking of bitumen occurred, there would be a large and continuous build-up of bitumen in the rock as a result of catagenetic decomposition of kerogen (fig. 7, dashed curve). What actually occurs, however, is that some of the bitumen is expelled from the source rock or cracked to gas, resulting in lower bitumen contents in the source rock (fig. 7, solid curve). Both curves are highly idealized, however, because natural variations among samples cause much scatter in experimental data.

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