Magnetic evaluation of the palaeothermal variation across the Karoo Basin, South Africa

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The Karoo Basin of South Africa is of economic importance for its large coal reserves but has in recent years also been in the spotlight due to the possibility of extensive shale gas reserves. Reconstruction of the thermal history of the Karoo Basin is essential for evaluating the potential hydrocarbon generation within this Late Carboniferous - Middle Jurassic sedimentary basin. Magnetic techniques provide an alternative approach in comparison to more traditional methods to study the geothermal history of sedimentary basins (such as illite crystallinity and vitrinite reflectance), which are often associated with significant uncertainty. In this paper variations in the thermal history across the Karoo Basin as a result of heating by the Karoo LIP are evaluated using different magnetic "geothermometers". These include palaeomagnetism (baked contact test), thermomagnetic analysis (alteration index method) and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS). Although these techniques were successful in identifying a variation in metamorphic effects adjacent to contact aureoles, only the alternating index (Am) provides a means of estimating peak temperatures. Our results indicate a regional elevation of palaeotemperatures of the organic-rich sedimentary rocks of the Ecca Group to temperatures where hydrocarbons are normally converted into gas. This study shows that the greatest thermal effects of the sill intrusions on the sedimentary strata are limited to the contact aureoles, suggesting that there is an, as yet unquantified, potential for hydrocarbon resources remaining in strata between these intrusions. An increase in the paleotemperatures from 200°C in the southwest to 400°C in the northeast of the basin is observed. We hypothesize that this trend is mainly due to differences in thermal conductivity of the different sedimentary rock types across the basin as the Karoo Basin transgresses from tight low porosity marine shales in the south and southwest towards more lacustrine mudstone and porous sandstone towards the northeast.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-452
Number of pages18
JournalSouth African Journal of Geology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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