Preferential jointing of Upper Devonian black shale, Appalachian Plateau, USA: Evidence supporting hydrocarbon generation as a joint-driving mechanism

Gary Lash, Staci Loewy, Terry Engelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The Catskill Delta Complex of western New York State contains fractured Upper Devonian black shales throughout a 300 km-transect from the more distal, somewhat shallower, deposits of the western region of the state eastward to more proximal and more deeply buried deposits. Each black shale unit grades upward into organically lean grey shale and abruptly overlies another grey shale unit. Within each black shale-grey shale sequence, ENE-trending vertical joints, interpreted to be hydraulic fractures, are best developed (i.e. more closely and uniformly spaced) in the organic-rich shale. Moreover, the density of ENE joints diminishes up-section through each black shale unit, as does the total organic carbon (TOC) content. While ENE joints are less well developed outside the black shale intervals, joints that formed during the Alleghanian orogeny (NW-trending) are found throughout the Upper Devonian shale sequence. Both sets are best developed in black shales in the distal delta sequence, whereas in more proximal deposits the Alleghanian joint sets are best developed in grey shales. Moreover, the density of ENE joints within each stratigraphic level of the black shale exceeds that of Alleghanian joints at the same level, except in the deepest black shale where Alleghanian joints are locally best developed at the top of the black shale interval. The preferential jointing of black shale units in the Appalachian Plateau reflects an extended hydrocarbon generation history. In the distal delta, hydrocarbon generation began when black shale was close to or at maximum burial depth (c. 2.3 km) during the Alleghanian orogeny with the propagation of a NW joint set and continued through post-Alleghanian uplift of the Appalachian Plateau when the ENE joints propagated. In the proximal delta deposits ENE joints propagated before the onset of Alleghanian deformation suggesting that the base of the Upper Devonian section was buried to thermal maturity by progradation of the Catskill Delta Complex before the advent of Alleghanian sedimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-151
Number of pages23
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Preferential jointing of Upper Devonian black shale, Appalachian Plateau, USA: Evidence supporting hydrocarbon generation as a joint-driving mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this