Kinetics of elemental sulfur reduction by petroleum hydrocarbons and the implications for hydrocarbon thermal chemical alteration

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 

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Abstract

Although sulfur-containing compounds are known to play a significant role in the diagenic and catagenic processes that generate oil and gas, relatively little is known about the kinetics of reactions between elemental S and petroleum hydrocarbons. To investigate this subject, a series of closed-system pyrolysis experiments using paraffin, a low-sulfur oil, and a high-sulfur oil with and without elemental S were conducted, and first-order chemical kinetics were fit to the experimental results. The average value for the activation energy required to reduce elemental S to H2S and to thermochemically alter higher molecular weight hydrocarbons to methane was calculated to be 193 kJ mol-1 (46 kcal mol-1). The results of this study demonstrate that under typical geologic conditions the rate of reduction of elemental S to H2S by petroleum hydrocarbons is quite rapid. The maximum time for substantial amounts of elemental S to persist in contact with petroleum hydrocarbons is estimated to be no more than a few million years in cool reservoirs (e.g., <80 °C), and in hotter reservoirs (e.g., >120 °C) the half-life of elemental S may be as short as hundreds of years. Additionally, the presence of elemental S substantially lowers the onset temperature of hydrocarbon thermal chemical alteration (TCA). The activation energy for TCA of a low-sulfur oil to generate methane is estimated to be lowered by 92 kJ mol-1 (22 kcal mol-1) due to the presence of elemental sulfur. Consequently, the presence of elemental S in petroleum reservoirs is expected to lower the thermal stability of oil and decrease the maximum depth at which oil occurs within a basin (thermal deadline). The observed acceleration of hydrocarbon TCA is possibly due to organic sulfur compounds (e.g., thiols and sulfides) that form through the reaction of H2S or polysulfides with hydrocarbons and subsequently thermally degrade leading to the formation of sulfur radicals that in turn enhance TCA reactions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Kinetics of elemental sulfur reduction by petroleum hydrocarbons and the implications for hydrocarbon thermal chemical alteration
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2019.02.023
Volume 251
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Central Energy Resources Science Center
Description 25 p.
First page 192
Last page 216