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Use of Thiophenic Organosulfur Compounds in Characterizing Crude Oils Derived from Carbonate Versus Siliciclastic Sources

William B. Hughes
William B. Hughes
Research and Development Department, Phillips Petroleum Company, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
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January 01, 1984


Several families of thiophenic organosulfur compounds (primarily benzo- and dibenzothiophenes) show promise for distinguishing oils derived from carbonate sources versus siliciclastic sources. This observation is based on analyses, using high-resolution gas chromatography coupled with a flame photometric detector, of several representative oils derived from carbonate sources (Smackover and Sunniland Formations, southeastern United States; Burgan and Minagish, Kuwait; and the Khatiyah Formation, Dubai) and, for comparison, of oils from siliciclastic sources (Ekofisk, North Sea; McKee, Texas; Muddy/Dakota, Wyoming; Beaverhill Lake, Alberta; and Klasaman, Indonesia). Some of the distinguishing features of carbonate-derived oils are an abundance of benzothiophenes, a fairly equal distribution among the dibenzothiophenes, and a distinctive distribution of methyldibenzothiophene isomers. Conversely, oils derived from siliciclastic sources commonly show low concentrations of benzothiophenes, decreasing amounts of dibenzothiophenes, and a different pattern in methyldibenzothiophene isomers.

The distinguishing features of carbonate-derived oils are applicable through the main phase of oil generation. Additional thermal maturity results in a significant reduction in the amounts of benzothiophenes and a redistribution of methyldibenzothiophene isomers, making the differences between carbonate- and siliciclastic-derived oils less distinctive. However, in these cases the distribution of mono-, di-, and trimethyl substituted dibenzothiophenes is generally relatively uniform in carbonate oils, while siliciclastic oils show decreasing amounts of dimethyl- and trimethyldibenzothiophenes relative to methyldibenzothiophenes.

Used in conjunction with such other geochemical parameters as total sulfur content, n-alkane compositions, and sterane/triterpane compositions, thiophenic organosulfur analysis provides a useful tool for oil-oil and oil-source-rock correlations as exemplified by a study of 20 oils from the Salawati basin, Indonesia.

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AAPG Studies in Geology

Petroleum Geochemistry and Source Rock Potential of Carbonate Rocks

James G. Palacas
James G. Palacas
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1984




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