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AAPG Pacific Section and Rocky Mountain Section Joint Meeting

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Hydrogen Index as a maturity proxy — some pitfalls and how to overcome them

Abstract

Rock-Eval hydrogen index (HI) is often used to compare relative maturities of a source horizon across a basin. Usually, there are several measurements from the source horizon at a single well, and the mean hydrogen index is calculated, or the S2 is plotted against TOC. The slope of the best fit line through that data is used as the representative HI for that well (sometimes referred to as the ‘slope HI’ methodology). There is a potential flaw in both these methodologies; however, that renders the calculated HI as misleading if the source horizon being examined is not relatively uniform in source quality, vertically in the stratigraphic column. From a geologic perspective, it would be unusual for the source rock quality not to vary vertically in the stratigraphic column. Organic matter input, preservation, dilution, and sediment accumulation rate typically vary in many depositional environments over the millions of years required to create a thick source rock package. Nevertheless, there are source rocks which do display remarkable source-quality uniformity from top to bottom of the stratigraphic package. We have examined source rocks from several basins where the source quality is relatively uniform over the stratigraphic column, and source rocks where the source quality varies greatly over the stratigraphic column. Methodologies to assess hydrogen index at specific wells for these two scenarios differ. Most geoscientists may not be familiar with why a single technique is not suitable for both these scenarios, or how to correctly use hydrogen index as a relative maturation proxy in the case where source rock quality is not uniform. We will demonstrate how to determine if your source rock quality is uniform or varied relative to HI over the stratigraphic column, and how to assign a hydrogen index to the different source facies when that source rock quality is not uniform. Further we will illustrate how to estimate the original hydrogen index of the different source facies and assign each a transformation ratio. The transformation ratio is a better proxy for relative maturity, since different source facies may have different present-day hydrogen indices, but their present-day transformation ratio should be quite similar.