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Topic 2 Review of Fundamentals

January 01, 1979


The terminology of organic geochemistry is, in a very real sense, the language of organic chemistry. The following outline provides a brief review of the basic terminology necessary for understanding the application of organic geochemistry in exploration. The treatment is not meant to be comprehensive. In particular, it should be noted that the system used for naming organic compounds is a simplified and abridged form of several more comprehensive ones.*

The simplest organic compound is methane in which one carbon atom is linked tetrahedrally to four hydrogen atoms (Figure 2.1). The linkages, or bonds, are fixed in direction and length and are covalent in character. Even in more complex organic compounds carbon always forms four bonds and these commonly link the carbon to hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur or to other carbon atoms. This ability to form carbon-carbon bonds results in large groups of linked carbon atoms and leads to the enormous number and variety of organic compounds. Representing these structures presents problems because even the simplest hydrocarbon, methane, is three-dimensional and must be shown by a perspective drawing or be drawn in two dimensions according to some convention. Many different methods are in use and some of the more common ones are illustrated in Figure 2.1 using the branched 7-carbon compound (“2-methylhexane”) as an example.

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AAPG Continuing Education Course Notes Series

Organic Geochemistry in Petroleum Exploration

Colin Barker
Colin Barker
University of Tulsa
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1979




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