The Re-Os geochronometer constrains the timing of petroleum formation and provides an oil-source isotopic correlation tool for improved geologic knowledge and exploration success. However, the effects of secondary processes that may sometimes complicate interpretations are not well understood.
This paper discusses Re-Os systematics in a petroleum system that experienced extensive asphaltene precipitation upon mixing of different oil phases. The Solveig oil field (formerly Luno II), Utsira high, Norwegian North Sea, comprises three structural compartments that capture different stages of the mixing process. In the central compartment, an Re-Os age of circa 40 Ma for whole-rock extracts sampling the residual (asphaltene-rich and biodegraded) oil below the oil–water contact is consistent with burial models for Paleocene–Miocene generation. A 10-m-thick, asphaltene-rich (65 wt. %) tar mat zone precipitated upon mixing of at least two components does not yield meaningful ages. The Re-Os isochrons for the free-flowing crude oil and whole-rock extracts from the oil leg above the tar mat zone indicate circa 10 to 0 Ma ages for the younger oil phase, supporting independent estimates for recent oil influx. Decreasing 187Os/188Os from maltenes to asphaltenes in oil from the southeastern compartment are highly unusual and provide geochemical evidence for recent mixing, consistent with the strong asphaltene-in-oil gradient.
Very low and remarkably uniform Re/Os ratios for all petroleum phases, combined with relatively low and uniform 187Os/188Os ratios, strongly support isotopic overprint of the Re-Os system, likely during water–oil interaction. Despite this overprint, Re-Os ages retain information on primary events, whereas initial 187Os/188Os ratios are strongly affected.