Burial and thermal history of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (Poland) constrained by maturity modelling – implications for coalification and natural gas generation

Dariusz Botor


Maturity modelling was carried out using basin and petroleum system modelling (BPSM) software in the lithologic sections of 17 wells of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (Poland). The best fit between calculated and measured vitrinite reflectance (VR), porosity and density data was obtained by applying a thickness of eroded sedimentary overburden from 1700 m in the east to 4500 m in the west and relatively low to moderate heat flow values during the maximum late Carboniferous burial. These heat flow values were in the range 50–71 mW/m2, most likely owing to rapid deposition of molasse sediment that led to a downward deflection of the isotherms. The upper Carboniferous strata were heated to temperatures in the range c. 90–170 °C, which is in accordance with the moderate to high levels of thermal maturity of these rocks (c. 0.6–1.7%VR). The coal rank pattern was reached before the Variscan tectonic inversion at the transition between the Carboniferous and the Permian (c. 300 Ma). This coalification level was not overprinted by any later thermal processes. The coalification resulted in the generation of natural gases. The upper Carboniferous strata are characterized by early to late phases of hydrocarbon generation. The kerogen transformation ratio (c. 5–75%TR) values vary across the basin. Most coals generated significant amounts of hydrocarbons, which reached over 80 mg of methane per gram of total organic carbon. Although most hydrocarbons generated most likely were lost during the intense post-Variscan exhumation, the hydrocarbon potential of the basin is still substantial.

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