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Abstract

Reports on the presence of hydrocarbons in igneous rocks have been on the increase and generating greater interest in the scientific community over the last 20 years. Most of the occurrences are due to the incorporation of organic material into the magmatic systems. However, reports on the presence of hydrocarbons formed by abiogenic processes have also increased in recent years, suggesting that these hydrocarbons may not be as rare as previously thought and may have implications for natural gas resources in the future. This paper reviews these occurrences and the models proposed for the generation of these hydrocarbons, in particular the nature of the hydrocarbon-bearing fluids in the alkaline complexes Khibina, Lovozero and Ilimaussaq. The origin of these hydrocarbons remains controversial, whether they are (1) derived directly from the mantle, (2) formed during late crystallization stages by respeciation of a C-O-H fluid below 500°C, or (3) formed during postmagmatic alteration processes involving Fisher-Tropsch type reactions catalysed in the presence of Fe-oxides and silicates. The reports suggest that a direct mantle origin for the hydrocarbon fluid is unlikely. A model involving near-solidus reequilibration of a C-O-H fluid to a CH4-rich composition is possible, although only for extreme melt compositions that have large crystallization temperature ranges (i.e. hyperagpaitic melts). The Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of hydrocarbons in igneous rocks seems to be a more applicable model for a wide variety of igneous rocks.

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