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Determination of paleoheat-flux using multiple thermal indicator tomography

Abstract

Multiple thermal indicator tomography is a non-linear inversion procedure which permits simultaneous determination of geological, chemical kinetic, and thermal parameters in the burial and thermal histories of sediments. The procedure is based on inverting measurements with depth in a well of multiple thermal indicators, each of which must have experienced the same thermal history. For two wells from diverse geological settings, tomography is used to assess the paleoheat-flux variations with time most consistent with all the thermal indicator data. Resolution and sensitivity of the results are also addressed. For the case history of well X in the North Sea, with both vitrinite reflectance and sterane isomer thermal indicators, a generally decreasing heat flux from past to present is obtained roughly halving every 50 Ma. The activation energy for the sterane isomer is also determined simultaneously to be 42±20 kJ/mole. For the second case history of the Irma Mclean well in the onshore Gulf of Mexico, data from four thermal indicators are available: vitrinite reflectance, sterane and hopane isomers, and sterane aromaticity. A general decrease in paleoheat-flux from amount 2.8 heat flux units (HFU) at 100 MaBP to 1.25 HFU at the present day is obtained, the activation energy for the sterane isomer is simultaneously determined to be around 50±20 kJ/mole, while the corresponding values are around 80±20 kJ/mole for the hopane isomer, and around 65±20 kJ/mole for sterane aromatization.

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He, Z., Lerche, I. Determination of paleoheat-flux using multiple thermal indicator tomography. Math Geol 24, 825–846 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00890704

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Key words

  • heat flux
  • thermal models
  • thermal tomography
  • paleoheat flux