Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering (MSPE)

Committee Chair

Todd Hoffman

First Advisor

David Reichhardt

Second Advisor

Scott Rosenthal


From using surface seeps to modern day exploitation of hydrocarbon source rocks, the petroleum industry is awaiting the next big innovation, accelerated kerogen conversion. In the industry’s history, electromagnetic radiation (EMR) has been used for exploration and now it will be taken to the extreme by determining an effective and efficient method to synthetically generate readily available hydrocarbons. The study starts with examining and defining what kerogen is and its importance as a source material. A strong understanding of what kerogen is, and an analysis of other in-situ projects presents an opportunity to study the finer details of kerogen’s conversion to hydrocarbons. In-situ projects from around the world were studied to eliminate unsuccessful methods of conversion. The unsuccessful methods highlight key details that are needed for developing a successful conversion methodology. To understand the method being developed, it was necessary to build a strong understanding regarding the process of thermal maturation. For this study, samples rich in organic matter were tested in various methods of EMR exposure. Bakken formation samples were used because of their high organic concentrations and proximity to the research center. This study additionally focuses on microwaves, a region of larger waves in the electromagnetic spectrum and their impact on kerogen. Methods of exposure include using dry cores, water-soaked cores, and cores submerged in water baths. Unaltered Bakken cores and water-soaked cores exposed to the microwaves showed better results of hydrocarbon generation than those tested in a water bath. The effectiveness of EMR kerogen conversion was compared to the results of a simple retort analysis conducted within the expected thermal maturation temperature range for 10-hours. Microwave tests were conducted in the same temperature range with evidence of successful hydrocarbon generation. An estimate of the energy requirement for kerogen conversion with EMR was analyzed and the inaccuracy of this requirement value was discussed. Experiments conducted in this study showed that microwaves can be used to generate hydrocarbon fluids. Conclusions of the study acknowledge that the EMR methodology of kerogen conversion is possible but further experimentation is required.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering.