Illite is a clay mineral common in many sedimentary rocks
Argon dating meets exploration challenges
CSIRO applies advanced K-Ar and Ar-Ar laser dating technology to improve understanding of exploration targets for the petroleum industry.
14 September 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
Reducing exploration risk
The development of new technology to maximise successful exploration and reduce risk is a key focus for the oil and gas industry. Successful exploration relies on knowledge of basin formation and thermal history of sedimentary rock and hydrocarbon migration.
Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) and Argon-Argon (Ar-Ar) dating is used to determine the ages of rocks, minerals and the timing of fluid flow, providing clues on the rate of charge in a reservoir and oil and gas migration.
Based on this data, assessments of the reservoir quality can be made.
Uses of K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating
K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating of illite (a clay mineral common in many sedimentary rocks) can be used to determine:
Argon dating can help petroleum companies better determine potential locations for drilling petroleum wells.
timing, duration and nature of hydrocarbon charge
timing of hydrocarbon migration and entrapment
timing of diagenetic events
correlation of formations
timing of deformation events
timing of tectono-thermal events
age provenance of detrital minerals.
Knowing the age of illite formation facilitates the construction of reliable geological models of basin histories.
This will enable oil and gas companies to better determine potential locations for drilling petroleum wells.
Advantages/benefits of K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating
| K-Ar || 40Ar-39Ar |
|Fast screening tool beneficial for commercial purposes. Delivery of results in 48 hours ||Screening for longer-term exploration. Slower turn around time due to irradiation process |
|Screening of large samples ~30-100 mg ||Screening of small samples <~50 mg |
|Size separation – potential contamination ||Identification of different generations - contamination |
|Size fraction age information ||Laser ablation permitting in situ sampling |
|Indirect T information ||Coupled direct t/T information |
| ||Encapsulation to address 39Ar recoil |
Analytical services and facilities
CSIRO has a range of state-of-the-art equipment for K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating.
Facilities are located at the John de Laeter Centre for Mass Spectrometry at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, and include:
high-resolution noble gas mass spectrometers, with online extraction and purification lines
a double vacuum resistance furnace
a 110 W infra-red 1064 nm Nd-YAG continuous laser, capable of spot analysis (100-200 µm spot size)
a 6 mJ ultra-violet 213 nm pulsed laser, capable of high-resolution ablation (15-300 µm spot size)
a clay mineral separation laboratory with high speed centrifuges and equipment for freeze-thaw disaggregation of rocks.
Services available for research and commercial purposes include:
X-ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Transmission Electron Microscopy - particle size analysis for clay characterisation
general diagenesis investigations including petrography and diagenetic sequences
vacuum encapsulation for 40Ar-39Ar dating of clays and fine-grained samples
stable and radiogenic isotope analysis, including SHRIMP U-Pb micro-analytical dating equipment.
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