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Proposed ASTM Standard to aid in hydrocarbon exploration.

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July 30, 2009 - Developed by ASTM International Committee D05 on Coal and Coke, Proposed Standard WK24192 covers Test Method for Microscopical Determination of the Reflectance of Vitrinite Dispersed in Sedimentary Rocks. According to Paul Hackley, chair of Subcommittee D05.28, petrographers can measure similar values of dispersed vitrinite reflectance in interlaboratory exercises, but disparities exist and consensus standard will improve agreement by providing common methodology and set of guidelines.

Proposed New ASTM Vitrinite Standard to Aid in Hydrocarbon Exploration

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ASTM International
100 Barr Harbor Dr., Box C700
West Conshohocken, PA, 19428-2959

Press release date: July 28, 2009

W. CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa., July 28, 2009-Measuring the reflectance of vitrinite dispersed in sedimentary rocks is one of the most commonly used tools for determining thermal maturity in hydrocarbon exploration, basin modeling and other geological applications. Despite this, there currently is not a consensus standard for making these measurements.

ASTM International Committee D05 on Coal and Coke is developing a proposed standard to cover this issue, WK24192, Test Method for Microscopical Determination of the Reflectance of Vitrinite Dispersed in Sedimentary Rocks. The proposed standard is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee D05.28 on Petrographic Analysis of Coal and Coke.

The proposed new standard is being developed by a task group that includes experts from both the International Committee for Coal and Organic Petrology and the Society for Organic Petrology.

Paul Hackley, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and chair of Subcommittee D05.28, notes that vitrinite is the coalified remains of woody plant material, which is found in nearly all sedimentary rocks formed since the evolution of vascular land plants about 400 million years ago. The vitrinite reflectance changes systematically with the amount of burial and heating that the rock experiences.

"Therefore, vitrinite reflectance can be used as a thermometer by which to infer the thermal maturity of the rocks it is contained in," says Hackley. "This has very important practical implications in hydrocarbon exploration as economic accumulations usually are found only within certain ranges of thermal maturity, often called oil and gas windows."

According to Hackley, petrographers can generally measure similar values of dispersed vitrinite reflectance in interlaboratory exercises, but disparities exist and a consensus standard will improve agreement by providing a common methodology and a set of guidelines for analysts to follow.

All interested parties who have expertise in the measurement of reflectance of dispersed vitrinite are encouraged to participate in the ongoing development of WK24192. For technical information, contact: Paul Hackley, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va. (phone: 703-648-6458; ASTM Committee D05 meets Oct. 18-21 during October committee week in Atlanta, Ga.

ASTM International welcomes and encourages participation in the development of its standards. ASTM's open consensus process, using advanced Internet-based standards development tools, ensures worldwide access for all interested individuals. For more information on becoming an ASTM member, please contact Scott Orthey, ASTM International (phone: 610-832-9730;

Established in 1898, ASTM International is one of the largest international standards development and delivery systems in the world. ASTM International meets the World Trade Organization (WTO) principles for the development of international standards: coherence, consensus, development dimension, effectiveness, impartiality, openness, relevance and transparency. ASTM standards are accepted and used in research and development, product testing, quality systems and commercial transactions around the globe.

Barbara Schindler, ASTM International
100 Barr Harbor Drive, W. Conshohocken, PA 19428

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