Characterization of potential source rocks of the Prince Albert, Whitehill and Collingham formations in the Laingsburg sub-basin, South Africa
The present research deals with the characterization of the Lower Ecca Group in terms of sedimentology, mineralogy and organic geochemistry. A field study was conducted in order to characterize the sedimentology and thereby determine the environments of deposition of the Prince Albert, Whitehill and Collingham Formations. In addition, shale samples were subjected to geochemical and mineralogical analyses so as to ascertain its source rock properties. The study utilized X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy with an energy dispersive spectrometer (SEM-EDS), total organic carbon (TOC) and Rock-Eval pyrolysis to determine the mineralogy and organic geochemistry of shale from the formations under investigation. The sedimentological investigation revealed that the upper Prince Albert Formation is dominated by shale with thin beds of carbonate. These shales are interpreted to have been deposited by suspension settling in a marine environment which was occasionally interrupted by deposition of carbonates that form in a shallow marine environment. The overlying Whitehill Formation consists predominantly of carbonaceous shale with relatively more resistant shale beds also present. The fine sediments are interpreted to have been deposited from suspension settling under anoxic bottom conditions which would favor the preservation of organic rich material. Deposition of the Whitehill Formation was followed by the Collingham Formation which is dominated by rhythmic deposits of shale and sandstone that are occasionally interrupted by tuff layers. The clay size sediments are interpreted to have been deposited from suspension settling which are interbedded with low density turbidite current deposits in a marine environment. Based on the findings of the field study, it is apparent that the Prince Albert and Collingham Formations were deposited in marine environments, with the Whitehill Formation being deposited in an anoxic environment. These environments are known to be dominated by phytoplanktonic organisms and algal debris, and as such shales deposited in these environments contain predominantly Type I (derived from algae) and II kerogen (derived from plankton). It can therefore be postulated that Type I and II kerogens are the dominant constituents of organic matter in the Lower Ecca Group shales. Mineralogically, the shales consist chiefly of kaolinite, smectite and illite clay minerals, which are derived from a combination of weathering of feldspars, and the alteration of other clay minerals. The latter being inferred from the existence of albite in all the studied shale samples, pyroclastic material observed in the field, as well as the occurrence of alteration along clay mineral edges.