Abstract

Samples of solid bitumen from the Thornton Quarry (Illinois) and the Cynthia Quarry (Mississippi) were found to be strongly magnetic and to have rock magnetic properties suggesting that the magnetizable grains present are magnetite. Studies of magnetic isolates revealed that magnetite is present primarily as spherical crystal aggregates that appear identical to magnetite spherules isolated from re-magnetized Paleozoic carbonate units from other localities. Organic geochemical analyses of the solid bitumen suggest an origin by microbial attack on what once was liquid crude oil. The occurrence of secondary magnetite as inclusions within solid bitumen suggests a relationship between crude oil biodegradation and development of that mineral in our samples. We infer that secondary magnetite in other geologic environments may be related to the presence of hydrocarbons. The discovery of a natural association of secondary magnetite and hydrocarbons has important implications for paleomagnetism and for petroleum exploration.

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