Methane is an important greenhouse gas and energy resource generated dominantly by methanogens at low temperatures and through the breakdown of organic molecules at high temperatures. However, methane-formation temperatures in nature are often poorly constrained. We measured formation temperatures of thermogenic and biogenic methane using a “clumped isotope” technique. Thermogenic gases yield formation temperatures between 157° and 221°C, within the nominal gas window, and biogenic gases yield formation temperatures consistent with their comparatively lower-temperature formational environments (<50°C). In systems where gases have migrated and other proxies for gas-generation temperature yield ambiguous results, methane clumped-isotope temperatures distinguish among and allow for independent tests of possible gas-formation models.
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Formation temperatures of thermogenic and biogenic methane
American Association for the Advancement of Science