The Puguang gas field is the largest gas field found in marine carbonates in China. Marine carbonate reservoirs in this field were buried to a depth of about 7000 m (22,966 ft) and experienced maximum temperature up to 220°C before uplift to the present-day depth of 5000–5500 m (16,404–18,045 ft), with present-day thermal maturity between 2.0 and 3.0% equivalent vitrinite reflectance (Ro). Sulfur-rich pyrobitumens with reflectance up to 3.5% are widespread in the reservoirs and resulted from thermal cracking of crude oils most likely generated from Upper Permian source rocks and thermochemical sulfate reduction (TSR). Natural gases in the Puguang gas field have wide variations in nonhydrocarbon gas contents, with H2S contents between 5.1 and 58.3% and CO2 contents between 7.9 and 18.0%. The hydrocarbon gases originated mainly from thermal cracking of accumulated oil but were altered by TSR. Thermochemical sulfate reduction in the study area exerted different effects on the isotope compositions of different hydrocarbon gas components at different TSR stages. The differential increase of δ13C values for different gas components reflects transformation from a heavy-hydrocarbon-gas–dominated TSR stage to a methane-dominated TSR stage. This caused a decrease of δ13Cmethane−δ13Cethane values and a corresponding conversion from reversed to normal isotope distributions. Thermochemical sulfate reduction in the study area appears to have been limited by sulfate concentrations in the reservoirs. A successive, three-stage TSR series, namely, liquid-hydrocarbon–involved TSR, heavy-hydrocarbon-gas–dominated TSR, and methane-dominated TSR, occurred in reservoirs with sufficient sulfate concentration. Methane can be the dominant organic reactant for TSR, but only at elevated temperature and after most C2+ hydrocarbons are exhausted.

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