A complex case of thermal maturity assessment in a terrigenous sedimentary system: The Northwestern Black Sea basin

Hamed Sanei, Oskar Hagelskjær, Henrik Ingermann Petersen, Arka Rudra, Søren B. Nielsen, Francois Lorant, Francois Gelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


An integrated approach combining fluorescence spectrometry, pyrolysis geochemistry, and dispersed organic matter (DOM) maceral analysis has been used to determine the thermal maturity of Oligocene source rocks in two neighboring offshore wells within the complex deep-sea system of the Northwestern Black Sea. The samples contain predominantly immature Type II kerogen, including a mixture of marine liptinite (alginite, liptodetrinite), degraded liptinite, primary vitrinite, and reworked vitrinitic macerals. The occurrence of several vitrinite reflectance (VRo) populations in the samples is attributed to a high influx of reworked vitrinite transported to the marine basin from multiple terrestrial sources with diverse degrees of degradation. The presence of multiple VRo populations complicates the application of VRo for determining the thermal maturity of the organic matter. Further, the VRo measurements on the primary vitrinite population show only a subtle increasing trend with depth. A significantly improved thermal maturity resolution was obtained using the red to green quotient (R/G). R/G was measured on the autochthonous unicellular Tasmanites-type alginite under UV-excitation. In contrast to VRo the results show a significant correlation between increasing R/G values with increasing depth. This indicates that the R/G quotient is a better maturity proxy for the studied low maturity marine system with a large influx of sediments. The beginning of the downward declining trend in the temporal variation of liptinite is regarded as the onset of catagenesis. This occurs at a burial depth of 2.5 km and a R/G value of 0.50, corresponding to a VRo equivalent (VRo Eq) of 0.44%. At a burial depth of 3.2 km and a R/G value of 0.57 (VRo Eq = 0.57%), the onset of the oil window is marked by an increase in the amount of solid bitumen (initial oil solid bitumen). The observed alterations in maceral composition with burial depth align with the thermal maturity of the wells. However, the data suggest that the thermal evolution of the organic matter is out of sync with the surrounding formation temperature, possibly due to rapid burial induced by a high sedimentation rate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104496
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2024


  • Black sea
  • Fluorescent spectrometry
  • Organic petrology
  • Thermal maturity
  • Vitrinite reflectance

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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