Illite crystallinity measurement by XRD can determine shale geothermometry and be used to map anchimetamorphic or diagenetic zones. A problem occurs in accuracy of XRD peak measurement because detrital muscovite from higher temperature source rocks constitutes a small percentage in many shales. The (001) XRD peaks coincide for diagenetic illite and detrital muscovite. The muscovite peak is very sharp, whereas the illite peak becomes sharper with increasing diagenetic grade. Thermal history, detrital muscovite, and sample preparation techniques will affect illite crystallinity measurements.
Natural and artificially mixed samples can be used to show this effect quantitatively. Pegmatitic muscovite ground to clay size simulates this detrital component. When mixed with clay fractions from illitic shales, the induced error becomes insignificant for shales with a high-temperature history. Small detrital muscovite fractions adversely affect determination of lower diagenetic grades.
Separation techniques that presume the coarser detrital fraction can be removed are not effective for siliceous shales, which must be ground. Calcareous and organic-rich shales may require disaggregation by chemical treatment, which may alter illite peak sharpness.
Shales with 1 to 7% detrital muscovite showed higher illite crystallinity on x-ray diffractograms if the coarser fraction was not removed. At trace amounts of muscovite, the difference was negligible. By accurately estimating detrital percentages, a decision may be made to abandon tedious separation procedures. A correction factor may also be applied to crystallinity measurements to allow for the amount of detrital muscovite.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91040©1987 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Boise, Idaho, September 13-16, 1987.