Evolution of coal-bed methane in Southeast Qinshui Basin, China: insights from stable and noble gas isotopes

Chen, B., Stuart, F. M. , Xu, S., Gyore, D. and Liu, C. (2019) Evolution of coal-bed methane in Southeast Qinshui Basin, China: insights from stable and noble gas isotopes. Chemical Geology, 529, 119298. (doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.119298)

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The late Carboniferous-early Permian coal seams of the Qinshui Basin in Shanxi Province are the most prolific producer of coalbed methane (CBM) in China. Methane formed in the late Triassic during deep burial and reheating in late Jurassic-early Cretaceous driven by magmatic underplating. Basin inversion brought the coal seams to 400-700 m from the surface in the mid-late Cenozoic. Here we present results of a study aimed at understanding the origin of the methane, and how it was affected by Cenozoic exhumation of the basin. Methane from a 12 km traverse perpendicular to the basin margin in the southeast part of the basin have stable isotope compositions (δ13C = -30.2 to -35.2‰, and δD = -155 to -194‰) indicating a thermogenic origin with limited biogenic input. They are, however, lighter than expected based on coal maturity, and C1/(C2+C3) (>1000) are significantly higher than typical thermogenic methane (<50). This is due to diffusive fractionation during commercial gas extraction. He-Ne-Ar isotopes are a mixture of crustal-radiogenic gas with air-derived noble gases. 4He concentrations (0.52 to 33.25 ppmv) and 4He/40Ar* ratios (0.06-1.74) are unusually low. He-Ne-Ar concentrations are consistent with the open system Rayleigh fractionation of noble gases derived from air-saturated water with 4He/40Ar* = 1 during gas extraction. The low 4He/40Ar*, compared with average crust (5) or local production (13) values, implies that more than 90% of the radiogenic 4He produced in the coals has been lost prior to equilibrium between gas and water phase in the reservoir. This likely occurred in response to gas loss process during rapid exhumation in Cenozoic, showing that the He and Ar content of natural gases is a sensitive indicator of gas loss event caused by recent basin inversion. The event may have led to the loss of up to 44% of the methane from the coal seams. This study demonstrates the importance of basin inversion on gas preservation in shallow CBM, and shows that, in contrast to δ13CCH4, the light noble gases are essential for tracing such a process.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:CHEN, BIYING and Gyore, Dr Domokos and Stuart, Professor Fin
Authors: Chen, B., Stuart, F. M., Xu, S., Gyore, D., and Liu, C.
Subjects:Q Science > QE Geology
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Chemical Geology
ISSN (Online):1872-6836
Published Online:07 September 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V.
First Published:First published in Chemical Geology 529: 119298
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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