The analysis of forms of sulfur in ancient sediments and sedimentary rocks: comments and cautions

Chemical Geology
By: , and 



Assumptions commonly made during analysis of the amount of monosulfides [acid-volatile sulfides (AVS)] and disulfides in modern sediments, may not be valid for ancient sedimentary rocks. It is known that ferric iron can oxidize H2S during AVS analysis unless a reducing agent such as stannous chloride is added to the treatment. In addition, some monosulfides such as greigite and pyrrhotite require heat during the AVS analysis in order to dissolve completely. However, the use of heat and/or stannous chloride in the AVS treatment may partially dissolve disulfides and it is generally recommended that stannous chloride not be used in the AVS treatment for modern sediments. Most of the monosulfides are assumed to be recovered as AVS without the addition of stannous chloride. This study investigates the recovery of monosulfides during sulfur speciation analysis with application to ancient sedimentary rocks. Sulfur in samples containing naturally occurring greigite and mackinawite or pyrite was measured using variations of a common sulfur-speciation scheme. The sulfur-speciation scheme analyzes for monosulfide sulfur, disulfide sulfur, elemental sulfur, inorganic sulfate and organically bound sulfur. The effects of heat, stannous chloride and ferric iron on the amounts of acid-volatile sulfide and disulfide recovered during treatment for AVS were investigated. Isotopic compositions of the recovered sulfur species along with yields from an extended sulfur-speciation scheme were used to quantify the effects. Hot 6 N HCl AVS treatment recovers > 60% of the monosulfides as AVS in samples containing pure greigite and mackinawite. The remaining monosulfide sulfur is recovered in a subsequent elemental sulfur extraction. Hot 6 N HCl plus stannous chloride recovers 100% of the monosulfides as AVS. The addition of ferric iron to pure greigite and mackinawite samples during AVS treatment without stannous chloride decreased the amount of monosulfides recovered as AVS and, if present in great enough concentration, oxidized some of the AVS to a form not recovered in later treatments. The hot stannous chloride AVS treatments dissolve <5% of well-crystallized pyrite in this study. The amount of pyrite dissolved depends on grain size and crystallinity. Greigite in ancient sedimentary rocks was quantitatively recovered as AVS only with hot 6 N HCl plus stannous chloride. Hot 6 N HCl AVS treatment of these rocks did not detect any monosulfides in most samples. A subsequent elemental sulfur extraction did not completely recover the oxidized monosulfides. Therefore, the use of stannous chloride plus heat is recommended in the AVS treatment of ancient sedimentary rocks if monosulfides are present and of interest. All assumptions about the amount of monosulfides and disulfides recovered with the sulfur-speciation scheme used should be verified by extended sulfur-speciation and/or isotopic analysis of the species recovered. ?? 1993.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The analysis of forms of sulfur in ancient sediments and sedimentary rocks: comments and cautions
Series title Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/0009-2541(93)90103-P
Volume 107
Issue 1-2
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Chemical Geology
First page 83
Last page 95