Geochemical signatures of thermochemical sulfate reduction in controlled hydrous pyrolysis experiments

Organic Geochemistry
By: , and 



A series of gold tube hydrous pyrolysis experiments was conducted in order to investigate the effect of thermochemical sulfate reduction (TSR) on gas generation, residual saturated hydrocarbon compositional alteration, and solid pyrobitumen formation. The intensity of TSR significantly depends on the H2O/MgSO4 mole ratio, the smaller the ratio, the stronger the oxidizing conditions. Under highly oxidizing conditions (MgSO4/hydrocarbon wt/wt 20/1 and hydrocarbon/H2O wt/wt 1/1), large amounts of H2S and CO2 are generated indicating that hydrocarbon oxidation coupled with sulfate reduction is the dominant reaction. Starting with a mixture of C21–C35 n-alkanes, these hydrocarbons are consumed totally at temperatures below the onset of hydrocarbon thermal cracking in the absence of TSR (400 °C). Moreover, once the longer chain length hydrocarbons are oxidized, secondarily formed hydrocarbons, even methane, are oxidized to CO2. Using whole crude oils as the starting reactants, the TSR reaction dramatically lowers the stability of hydrocarbons leading to increases in gas dryness and gas/oil ratio. While their concentrations decrease, the relative distributions of n-alkanes do not change appreciably from the original composition, and consequently, are non-diagnostic for TSR. However, distinct molecular changes related to TSR are observed, Pr/n-C17 and Ph/n-C18 ratios decrease at a faster rate under TSR compared to thermal chemical alteration (TCA) alone. TSR promotes aromatization and the incorporation of sulfur and oxygen into hydrocarbons leading to a decrease in the saturate to aromatic ratio in the residual oil and in the generation of sulfur and oxygen rich pyrobitumen. These experimental findings could provide useful geochemical signatures to identify TSR in settings where TSR has occurred in natural systems.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geochemical signatures of thermochemical sulfate reduction in controlled hydrous pyrolysis experiments
Series title Organic Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2007.12.007
Volume 39
Issue 3
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Central Energy Resources Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 308
Last page 328
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