Shale

Shale

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Shale'
Start a new discussion about 'Shale'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

 composed of mud
Mud
Mud is a mixture of water and some combination of soil, silt, and clay. Ancient mud deposits harden over geological time to form sedimentary rock such as shale or mudstone . When geological deposits of mud are formed in estuaries the resultant layers are termed bay muds...

 that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments (silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

-sized particles) of other minerals, especially quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 and calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering or bedding less than one centimeter in thickness, called fissility
Fissility (geology)
Fissility refers to the property of rocks to split along planes of weakness into thin sheets. This is commonly observed in shales, which are sedimentary rocks, and in slates and phyllites, which are foliated metamorphic rocks. The fissility in these rocks is caused by the preferred alignment of...

. Mudstone
Mudstone
Mudstone is a fine grained sedimentary rock whose original constituents were clays or muds. Grain size is up to 0.0625 mm with individual grains too small to be distinguished without a microscope. With increased pressure over time the platey clay minerals may become aligned, with the...

s, on the other hand, are similar in composition but do not show the fissility.

Texture


Shale typically exhibits varying degrees of fissility
Fissility (geology)
Fissility refers to the property of rocks to split along planes of weakness into thin sheets. This is commonly observed in shales, which are sedimentary rocks, and in slates and phyllites, which are foliated metamorphic rocks. The fissility in these rocks is caused by the preferred alignment of...

 breaking into thin layers, often splintery and usually parallel to the otherwise indistinguishable bedding plane because of parallel orientation of clay mineral flakes. Non-fissile rocks
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 of similar composition but made of particles smaller than 0.06 mm are described as mudstone
Mudstone
Mudstone is a fine grained sedimentary rock whose original constituents were clays or muds. Grain size is up to 0.0625 mm with individual grains too small to be distinguished without a microscope. With increased pressure over time the platey clay minerals may become aligned, with the...

s (1/3 to 2/3 silt particles) or claystone (less than 1/3 silt). Rocks with similar particle sizes but with less clay (greater than 2/3 silt) and therefore grittier are siltstone
Siltstone
Siltstone is a sedimentary rock which has a grain size in the silt range, finer than sandstone and coarser than claystones.- Description :As its name implies, it is primarily composed of silt sized particles, defined as grains 1/16 - 1/256 mm or 4 to 8 on the Krumbein phi scale...

s. Shale is the most common sedimentary rock.

Composition and color


Shales are typically composed of variable amounts of clay minerals and quartz grains and the typical color is gray. Addition of variable amounts of minor constituents alters the color of the rock. Black shale results from the presence of greater than one percent carbonaceous material and indicates a reducing
Redox
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 environment. Black shale can also be referred to as black metal. Red, brown and green colors are indicative of ferric oxide (hematite
Hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

 - reds), iron hydroxide (goethite
Goethite
Goethite , named after the German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is an iron bearing oxide mineral found in soil and other low-temperature environments. Goethite has been well known since prehistoric times for its use as a pigment. Evidence has been found of its use in paint pigment samples...

 - browns and limonite
Limonite
Limonite is an ore consisting in a mixture of hydrated iron oxide-hydroxide of varying composition. The generic formula is frequently written as FeO·nH2O, although this is not entirely accurate as limonite often contains a varying amount of oxide compared to hydroxide.Together with hematite, it has...

 - yellow), or micaceous minerals (chlorite
Chlorite group
The chlorites are a group of phyllosilicate minerals. Chlorites can be described by the following four endmembers based on their chemistry via substitution of the following four elements in the silicate lattice; Mg, Fe, Ni, and Mn....

, biotite
Biotite
Biotite is a common phyllosilicate mineral within the mica group, with the approximate chemical formula . More generally, it refers to the dark mica series, primarily a solid-solution series between the iron-endmember annite, and the magnesium-endmember phlogopite; more aluminous endmembers...

 and illite
Illite
Illite is a non-expanding, clay-sized, micaceous mineral. Illite is a phyllosilicate or layered alumino-silicate. Its structure is constituted by the repetition of tetrahedron – octahedron – tetrahedron layers. The interlayer space is mainly occupied by poorly hydrated potassium cations...

 - greens).

Clays are the major constituent of shales and other mudrocks. The clay minerals represented are largely kaolinite
Kaolinite
Kaolinite is a clay mineral, part of the group of industrial minerals, with the chemical composition Al2Si2O54. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedral sheet linked through oxygen atoms to one octahedral sheet of alumina octahedra...

, montmorillonite
Montmorillonite
Montmorillonite is a very soft phyllosilicate group of minerals that typically form in microscopic crystals, forming a clay. It is named after Montmorillon in France. Montmorillonite, a member of the smectite family, is a 2:1 clay, meaning that it has 2 tetrahedral sheets sandwiching a central...

 and illite
Illite
Illite is a non-expanding, clay-sized, micaceous mineral. Illite is a phyllosilicate or layered alumino-silicate. Its structure is constituted by the repetition of tetrahedron – octahedron – tetrahedron layers. The interlayer space is mainly occupied by poorly hydrated potassium cations...

. Clay minerals of Late Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 mudstones are expandable smectites whereas in older rocks especially in mid to early Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 shales illites predominate. The transformation of smectite to illite produces silica, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron and water. These released elements form authigenic
Authigenic
An authigenic mineral or sedimentary rock deposit is one that was generated where it is found or observed. Authigenic sedimentary minerals form during sedimentation by precipitation or recrystallization instead of being transported from elsewhere by water or wind. Authigenic sediments are the main...

 quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

, chert
Chert
Chert is a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline, cryptocrystalline or microfibrous sedimentary rock that may contain small fossils. It varies greatly in color , but most often manifests as gray, brown, grayish brown and light green to rusty red; its color is an expression of trace elements...

, calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

, dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

, ankerite
Ankerite
Ankerite is a calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese carbonate mineral of the group of rhombohedral carbonates with formula: Ca2. In composition it is closely related to dolomite, but differs from this in having magnesium replaced by varying amounts of iron and manganese.The crystallographic and...

, hematite
Hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

 and albite
Albite
Albite is a plagioclase feldspar mineral. It is the sodium endmember of the plagioclase solid solution series. As such it represents a plagioclase with less than 10% anorthite content. The pure albite endmember has the formula NaAlSi3O8. It is a tectosilicate. Its color is usually pure white, hence...

, all trace to minor (except quartz) minerals found in shales and other mudrocks.

Shales and mudrocks contain roughly 95 percent of the organic matter in all sedimentary rocks. However, this amounts to less than one percent by mass in an average shale. Black shales which form in anoxic conditions contain reduced free carbon along with ferrous iron (Fe2+) and sulfur (S2-). Pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

 and amorphous iron sulfide along with carbon produce the black and purple coloration .

Formation



The process in the rock cycle
Rock cycle
The rock cycle is a fundamental concept in geology that describes the dynamic transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. As the diagram to the right illustrates, each of the types of rocks are altered or destroyed when it is forced out...

 which forms shale is compaction
Compaction (geology)
Compaction refers to the process by which a sediment progressively loses its porosity due to the effects of loading. This forms part of the process of lithification. When a layer of sediment is originally deposited, it contains an open framework of particles with the pore space being usually...

. The fine particles that compose shale can remain suspended in water long after the larger and denser particles of sand have deposited. Shales are typically deposited in very slow moving water and are often found in lakes and lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

al deposits, in river delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

s, on floodplain
Floodplain
A floodplain, or flood plain, is a flat or nearly flat land adjacent a stream or river that stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge...

s and offshore from beach sands. They can also be deposited on the continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

, in relatively deep, quiet water. This process could have taken millions of years to complete.

'Black shales' are dark, as a result of being especially rich in unoxidized carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

. Common in some Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 and Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 strata
Stratum
In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers...

, black shales were deposited in anoxic
Hypoxia (environmental)
Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is a phenomenon that occurs in aquatic environments as dissolved oxygen becomes reduced in concentration to a point where it becomes detrimental to aquatic organisms living in the system...

, reducing
Redox
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 environments, such as in stagnant water columns. Some black shales contain abundant heavy metals such as molybdenum, uranium, vanadium, and zinc. The enriched values are of controversial origin, having been alternatively attributed to input from hydrothermal fluids during or after sedimentation or to slow accumulation from sea water over long periods of sedimentation.

Fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s, animal tracks/burrows and even raindrop impact craters are sometimes preserved on shale bedding surfaces. Shales may also contain concretion
Concretion
A concretion is a volume of sedimentary rock in which a mineral cement fills the porosity . Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word 'concretion' is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'...

s consisting of pyrite, apatite, or various carbonate minerals.

Shales that are subject to heat and pressure of metamorphism
Metamorphism
Metamorphism is the solid-state recrystallization of pre-existing rocks due to changes in physical and chemical conditions, primarily heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. Mineralogical, chemical and crystallographic changes can occur during this process...

 alter into a hard, fissile, metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 known as slate
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

. With continued increase in metamorphic grade the sequence is phyllite
Phyllite
Phyllite is a type of foliated metamorphic rock primarily composed of quartz, sericite mica, and chlorite; the rock represents a gradation in the degree of metamorphism between slate and mica schist. Minute crystals of graphite, sericite, or chlorite impart a silky, sometimes golden sheen to the...

, then schist
Schist
The schists constitute a group of medium-grade metamorphic rocks, chiefly notable for the preponderance of lamellar minerals such as micas, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite, and others. Quartz often occurs in drawn-out grains to such an extent that a particular form called quartz schist is...

 and finally to gneiss
Gneiss
Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of rock formed by high-grade regional metamorphic processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous or sedimentary rocks.-Etymology:...

.


See also

  • Bituminous shale
    Bituminous shale
    Bituminous shale is an argillaceous shale impregnated with bitumen, often accompanying coal. It may contain kerogen; in that case it is classified as oil shale. When carbonaceous material is present in large amounts, bituminous shale grades into bituminous coal...

  • Oil shale
    Oil shale
    Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

  • Burgess shale
    Burgess Shale
    The Burgess Shale Formation, located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, is one of the world's most celebrated fossil fields, and the best of its kind. It is famous for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils...

  • Barnett Shale
    Barnett Shale
    The Barnett Shale is a geological formation located in the Bend Arch-Fort Worth Basin. It consists of sedimentary rocks of Mississippian age in Texas...

  • Bearpaw Shale
  • Shale gas
    Shale gas
    Shale gas is natural gas produced from shale. Shale gas has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States over the past decade, and interest has spread to potential gas shales in the rest of the world...

  • Wianamatta shale
    Wianamatta shale
    Wianamatta Shale is the uppermost outcropping unit in the Sydney Basin in New South Wales, Australia. It dates from the Triassic Period and generally comprises fine grained sedimentary rocks such as shales and laminites with less common sandstone units...

  • Wheeler Shale
    Wheeler Shale
    The Wheeler Shale is a Cambrian fossil locality world famousfor prolific agnostid and Elrathia kingii trilobite remains...

  • Slate
    Slate
    Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...