Two crude oils with relatively high (0.60 wt%) and low (0.18 wt%) oxygen contents were heated in the presence of water in gold-plated reactors at 300??C for 2348 h. The high-oxygen oil was also heated at 200??C for 5711 h. The compositions of aqueous organic acid anions of the oils and of the headspace gases were monitored inn order to investigate the distribution of organic acids that can be generated from liquid petroleum. The oil with higher oxygen content generated about five times as much organic anions as the other oil. The dominant organic anions produced were acetate, propionate and butyrate. Small amounts of formate, succinate, methyl succinate and oxalate were also produced. The dominant oxygen-containing product was CO2, as has been observed in similar studies on the hydrous pyrolysis of kerogen. These results indicate that a significant portion (10-30%) of organic acid anions reported i be generated by thermal alteration of oils in reservoir rocks. The bulk of organic acid anions present in formation waters, however, is most likely generated by thermal alteration of kerogen in source rocks. Kerogen is more abundant than oil in sedimentary basins and the relative yields of organic acid anions reported from the hydrous pyrolysis of kerogen are much higher than the yields obtained for the two oils. ?? 1993.