Hydrous pyrolysis of crude oil in gold-plated reactors

Organic Geochemistry
By: , and 



Crude oils from Iraq and California have been pyrolyzed under hydrous conditions at 200 and 300°C for time periods up to 210 days, in gold-plated reactors. Elemental (vanadium, nickel), stable isotopic (carbon), and molecular (n-alkanes, acyclic isoprenoids, steranes, terpanes and aromatic steroid hydrocarbons) analyses were made on the original and pyrolyzed oils. Various conventional crude oil maturity parameters, including 20S/(20S + 20R)-24-ethylcholestane ratios and the side-chain-length distribution of aliphatic and aromatic steroidal hydrocarbons, were measured in an effort to assess the modification of molecular maturity parameters in clay-free settings, similar to those encountered in “clean” reservoirs.

Concentrations of vanadium and nickel in the Iraq oil decrease significantly and the V/(V + Ni) ratio decreases slightly, with increasing pyrolysis time/temperature. Whole oil carbon isotope ratios remain fairly constant during pyrolysis, as do hopane/sterane ratios and carbon number distribution of 5α(H),14α(H),17α(H),20R steranes. These latter three parameters are considered maturity-invariant.

The ratios of short side-chain components to long side-chain components of the regular steranes [C21/(C21 + C29R)] and the triaromatic steroid hydrocarbons [C21/(C21 + C28)] vary systematically with increasing pyrolysis time, indicating that these parameters may be useful as molecular maturity parameters for crude oils in clay-free reservoir rocks. In addition, decreases in bisnorhopane/hopane ratio with increasing pyrolysis time, in a clay-free and kerogen-free environment, suggest that the distribution of these compounds is controlled by either differential thermal stabilities or preferential release from a higher-molecular weight portion of the oil.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydrous pyrolysis of crude oil in gold-plated reactors
Series title Organic Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/0146-6380(92)90100-C
Volume 18
Issue 5
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 12 p.
First page 745
Last page 756
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