Core of the Month: May 2022

 

Oil from Shale: The KGS-IMMR Mississippian-Devonian Black Shales Cores

Dave Harris, Energy and Minerals Section

 

 

Warren K. Leffler, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsThis month we highlight an important collection of research cores gathered in response to global political crises resulting in oil price spikes, the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, and the 1979 oil crisis.

 

The recent increase in gasoline prices in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine brings back memories of rationing, long gas lines, price controls, and reduced federal speed limits to improve gas mileage. The 1970s oil shortages spawned new interest in energy efficiency, energy security, and decreasing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.

 

In Kentucky, this led to new research on the extensive outcrops of Mississippian and Devonian black shales. Organic-rich black shales had been studied as potential sources of synthetic crude oil since the early 1920s (McFarlan, 1943; Barron and others, 1984; Pollock and others, 1981). Kentucky has extensive outcrops of Mississippian and Devonian black shales with organic content of up to 15 percent. These shales have generated hydrocarbons where buried more deeply in the Appalachian and Illinois Basins. Research on the potential to generate commercial oil from the shallow and less thermally mature shales began in 1979 at the Kentucky Center for Energy Research Laboratory (KCERL), managed by the Institute for Mining and Minerals Research (IMMR) at the University of Kentucky (UK).

 

The IMMR oil shale research included topics such as shale oil processing, mine design, resource assessments, and environmental impacts. As part of the resource assessment, 75 shallow core holes were drilled along the horseshoe-shaped black shale outcrop belt from eastern Kentucky across the Cincinnati Arch into west-central Kentucky. In addition, the outcrop belt extending south along the Cumberland Saddle in south-central Kentucky was cored (Fig. 1). Much of this research was presented at the Eastern Oil Shale Symposium held in Lexington annually. These findings and other related papers are published in 13 proceedings volumes from 1981 to 1993, available as PDF files on the KGS website.  

 

The 75 cores from the IMMR research program are housed in the KGS collection at the Earth Analysis Research Library. As part of an ongoing archival project, and thanks to the continued stewardship of the EARL staff, high-resolution box photographs, location information, and related documentation are available online. Links to the archive, funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), are included in the table below.

 

Research on oil shale continued into the early 1990s with funding from the Kentucky Energy Cabinet, U.S. Department of Energy, and various industry partners (Pollock and others, 1981; Barron and others, 1984). In 1988 KCERL was renamed the Center for Applied Energy Research, which conducts a broad range of energy-related research.

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Figure 1. Locations of IMMR shallow black shale cores along Devonian outcrop belt in Kentucky.

 

The shale cores collected span the stratigraphic complexities and nomenclature changes from the Mississippian Sunbury Shale and Devonian Ohio Shale in northeastern Kentucky, the Chattanooga Shale in south-central Kentucky, to the New Albany Shale in central and west-central Kentucky. They have provided unweathered continuous stratigraphic sections and rock material for a wide variety of geologic studies over the years. The cores also include partial sections of formations above and below the black shales, including the Borden Group, Fort Payne Formation, Berea Sandstone, Bedford Shale, Boyle Dolomite, Bisher Dolomite, Sellersburg Limestone, Jeffersonville Limestone, and Laurel Dolomite.

 

Downhole gamma-ray and electric logs are available for some of the core holes, and a few cores have core gamma logs made from scintillometer readings. These help to correlate the cores with deeper oil and gas wells.

 

These cores have been used extensively over the years, first in the original oil shale research, and later for a broad range of studies, including:

 

·         Shale oil and shale byproducts

·         Regional stratigraphy

·         Sedimentology and paleoredox studies

·         Thermal maturity and organic geochemistry

·         Trace and rare earth element content

·         University education and industry training, workshops

 

Their significance continues today in ongoing research at KGS to determine the critical mineral content of black shales, especially rare earth elements. Funded by U.S. Geological Survey under their Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), this 3-year study will focus on mineral resources in central Kentucky, including possible economic levels of trace metals and REE in black shales. Principal investigator for the overall Earth MRI project is Dr. Gina Lukoczki, with Dr. Drew Andrews leading the black shale research. Of particular interest are Devonian phosphate-rich intervals and nodules that are known to have high concentrations of REE in other areas.

 

References

Barron, L.S., Robl, T.L., Kung, J, and Obley, J, 1984, Devonian-Mississippian Oil Shale Resources of Kentucky: A Summary: Proceedings, 1984 Eastern Oil Shale Symposium, University of Kentucky Institute for Mining and Minerals Research, p. 347-363.

 

McFarlan, A.C., 1943, Geology of Kentucky, University of Kentucky, Waverly Press.

 

Pollack, D., Barron, L., and Beard, J, 1981, Stratigraphy and Resource Assessment of the Oil Shales of East Central Kentucky: Proceedings, 1981 Eastern Oil Shale Symposium, University of Kentucky Institute for Mining and Minerals Research, p. 195-212.

 

 

 

Selected core photos from the KGS-IMMR collection:

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KGS-IMMR L-17, Marion County, Contact of Miss. Fort Payne

Formation (right) with Dev. Chattanooga Shale (left)

 

 

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KGS-IMMR D-3, 134 ft., Bath County. Large pyrite framboid in Ohio Shale. This cropped KGS box core photo illustrates the high resolution of images now available for many KGS cores. Width of core is 2 inches.

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KGS-IMMR KEP-2, Lewis County, Contact of Sunbury Shale (right)

and Berea Sandstone (left)

 

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KGS-IMMR A-13, Hardin County: Contact of New Albany Shale (right) with Devonian Sellersburg Limestone and Silurian Louisville Limestone.

 

KGS-IMMR black shale core list with links to high resolution core photos

 

County

Latitude

Longitude

Call No. &

link to photos

Hole No.

Cored_Interval (ft)

Adair

-85.183378

37.233469

2029

L-7

10-70

Adair

-85.093417

37.188964

2030

L-8

14-80

Adair

-84.859701

36.95584

2003

L-9

8.8-70

Allen

-86.073481

36.810692

2007

L-13

15-110

Allen

-86.209194

36.670487

2008

L-14

15-72

Allen

-86.042354

36.69849

2009

L-15

17-68

Bath

-83.638634

38.120866

1544

D-2

15-237

Bath

-83.620746

38.056397

1545

D-3

15-247

Bath

-83.728038

38.027114

1546

D-4

15-222

Boyle

-84.829388

37.595767

2015

T-3

9-111

Boyle

-84.929907

37.57951

2016

T-4

15-85

Bullitt

-85.691429

37.835045

1533

A-12

61-127

Bullitt

-85.719404

38.038343

1542

B-8

10-122

Casey

-84.951334

37.507489

1524

A-3

152-202

Casey

-84.858603

37.514081

1525

A-4

64-114

Casey

-84.904073

37.23061

2025

L-2

10-80

Casey

-84.855286

37.397551

2013

T-1

14-75

Casey

-84.872202

37.486177

2014

T-2

15-94

Casey

-85.062008

37.400854

2033

T-5

9-80

Cumberland

-85.31791

36.837516

2004

L-10

1.5-88.9

Cumberland

-85.413105

36.761323

2005

L-11

13-60

Cumberland

-85.465418

36.870297

2006

L-12

14-75

Estill

-83.980685

37.75578

1535

B-1

10-165

Estill

-83.788435

37.715188

1536

B-2

14-160

Estill

-83.932728

37.612579

1552

D-10

15-167

Estill

-83.910291

37.707497

1551

D-9

15-166

Estill

-84.110288

37.62908

2028

T-15

9-149

Fleming

-83.576149

38.214359

5673

D-11

15-287

Fleming

-83.538829

38.408041

5665

KEP-4

10-322

Fleming

-83.502176

38.324983

811

KEP-5

3-292

Fleming

-83.584031

38.34824

5671

KEP-6

7-279

Fleming

-83.519189

38.27471

812

KEP-7

10-278

Garrard

-84.452953

37.521624

2020

T-13

8-119

Hardin

-85.754718

37.785484

1534

A-13

64-144

Jackson

-84.180047

37.544265

2023

T-14

14-165

Lewis

-83.395545

38.52435

6386

KEP-2

17-142

Lewis

-83.437255

38.409002

6387

KEP-3

5-356

Lewis

-83.288835

38.582669

813

KEP-8

15-471

Lewis

-83.452448

38.610029

814

KEP-9

25-382

Lincoln

-84.532875

37.419425

1522

A-1

33-97

Lincoln

-84.706004

37.405186

2036

T-11

15-60

Lincoln

-84.705109

37.405296

2037

T-11A

10-28

Lincoln

-84.502865

37.431029

2032

T-12

14-110

Madison

-85.146915

37.537246

2019

T-16

4-120

Marion

-85.203149

37.522336

1526

A-5

7-57

Marion

-85.295525

37.464593

1527

A-6

10-52

Marion

-85.359393

37.53053

1528

A-7

11-65

Marion

-85.236171

37.511875

1537

B-3

15-75

Marion

-85.285605

37.536968

1538

B-4

5-75

Marion

-85.477674

37.590536

1539

B-5

15-87

Marion

-85.485281

37.534768

1540

B-6

16-80

Marion

-85.229996

37.572498

1541

B-7

14-25

Marion

-85.061333

37.515175

2034

T-7

15-84

Marion

-85.406084

37.519134

2031

T-8

5-75

Metcalf

-85.582352

36.823179

2012

L-18

5-60

Monroe

-85.877043

36.654979

2010

L-16

14-60

Monroe

-85.568256

36.726888

2011

L-17

11.5-86

Montgomery

-83.797123

37.955847

1547

D-5

15-212

Montgomery

-83.917107

37.938082

1548

D-6

15-182

Nelson

-85.550653

37.617277

1531

A-10

9-66.5

Nelson

-85.616452

37.72255

1532

A-11

14-84

Nelson

-85.592871

37.722138

1529

A-8

21-73

Nelson

-85.48865

37.668925

1530

A-9

11-21

Nelson

-85.579012

37.904044

2035

T-10

7-94.7

Nelson

-85.564993

37.689025

2022

T-9

7-90

Powell

-83.848664

37.864636

1549

D-7

15-177

Powell

-83.901305

37.807702

1550

D-8

5-182

Pulaski

-84.703723

37.241773

1523

A-2

21-79

Pulaski

-84.694412

37.065581

2024

L-1

15-78

Pulaski

-84.74246

37.175807

2026

L-3

21-81

Pulaski

-84.870684

37.073969

2027

L-4

9.3-71

Rowan

-83.568404

38.175398

1543

D-1

15-297

Russell

-85.004236

37.033953

2001

L-5

15-79

Russell

-85.13953

36.885391

2002

L-6

14-70

Taylor

-85.180532

37.397654

2021

T-6

14-85

 

Last Modified on 2022-05-02
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