Shale oils generated using different laboratory pyrolysis methods have been studied using standard oil characterization methods as well as Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) with electrospray ionization (ESI) and atmospheric photoionization (APPI) to assess differences in molecular composition. The pyrolysis oils were generated from samples of the Mahogany zone oil shale of the Eocene Green River Formation collected from outcrops in the Piceance Basin, Colorado, using three pyrolysis systems under conditions relevant to surface and in situ retorting approaches. Significant variations were observed in the shale oils, particularly the degree of conjugation of the constituent molecules and the distribution of nitrogen-containing compound classes. Comparison of FT-ICR MS results to other oil characteristics, such as specific gravity; saturate, aromatic, resin, asphaltene (SARA) distribution; and carbon number distribution determined by gas chromatography, indicated correspondence between higher average double bond equivalence (DBE) values and increasing asphaltene content. The results show that, based on the shale oil DBE distributions, highly conjugated species are enriched in samples produced under low pressure, high temperature conditions, and under high pressure, moderate temperature conditions in the presence of water. We also report, for the first time in any petroleum-like substance, the presence of N4 class compounds based on FT-ICR MS data. Using double bond equivalence and carbon number distributions, structures for the N4 class and other nitrogen-containing compounds are proposed.
Additional publication details
Molecular characterization and comparison of shale oils generated by different pyrolysis methods