Lithium (Li) is a trace element in kerogen, but the content and isotopic distribution (δ7Li) in kerogen has not previously been quantified. Furthermore, kerogen has been overlooked as a potential source of Li to sedimentary porefluids and buried sediments. Thus, knowing the content and isotopic composition of Li derived from kerogen may have implications for research focused on the Li-isotopes of buried sediments (e.g., evaluating paleoclimate variations using marine carbonates).The objective of this work is to better understand the role of kerogen in the Li geochemical cycle. The research approach consisted of 1) developing reference materials and methodologies to measure the Li-contents and δ7Li of kerogen in-situ by Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, 2) surveying the Li-contents and δ7Li of kerogen bearing rocks from different depositional and diagenetic environments and 3) quantifying the Li-content and δ7Li variations in kerogen empirically in a field study and 4) experimentally through hydrous pyrolysis. A survey of δ7Li of coals from depositional basins across the USA showed that thermally immature coals have light δ7Li values (–20 to – 10‰) compared to typical terrestrial materials (> –10‰) and the δ7Li of coal increases with burial temperature suggesting that 6Li is preferentially released from kerogen to porefluids during hydrocarbon generation. A field study was conducted on two Cretaceous coal seams in Colorado (USA) intruded by dikes (mafic and felsic) creating a temperature gradient from the intrusives into the country rock. Results showed that δ7Li values of the unmetamorphosed vitrinite macerals were up to 37‰ lighter than vitrinite macerals and coke within the contact metamorphosed coal. To understand the significance of Li derived from kerogen during burial diagenesis, hydrous pyrolysis experiments of three coals were conducted. Results showed that Li is released from kerogen during hydrocarbon generation and could increase sedimentary porefluid Li-contents up to ~100 mg/L. The δ7Li of coals becomes heavier with increased temperature except where authigenic silicates may compete for the released Li. These results indicate that kerogen is a significant source of isotopically light Li to diagenetic fluids and is an important contributor to the global geochemical cycle.
- Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Lithium-Content and Isotopic Compositions in Kerogen
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