Oil-based mud additives are used frequently during drilling for various purposes. The chemical compositions of these may interfere/overprint the chemical composition of hydrocarbon shows in the well and thereby complicate geochemical interpretations. This is likely to be an increasing problem as hydrocarbon findings become more subtle. It is important that the geochemist compiles a list of all additives used during drilling and obtains a sample of the pre-drill oil-based mud additives used. In the case of detailed geochemical analyses to be carried out post-drilling, it is then possible to check the influence/contamination of the additives on the hydrocarbons found.

The chemical composition of a frequently used oil-based mud additive is demonstrated to have overprinted the hopane signature of an oil-slick sample in well 35/1-1, northern North Sea. This could easily have resulted in erroneous interpretations regarding age and depositional environment of the source rock of the oil. However, the steranes used for interpretation of facies are shown to be unaffected by the mud additive. A study of shows from well 35/1-1 suggested the source of these to be an atypical developed Upper Jurassic source rock, despite the hopane signature suggesting a carbonaceous Permian source. The main argument was that a Permian source would imply higher maturities than observed. The present study reveals that the hopanes in the shows are contaminated completely by the mud additive used during drilling and, hence, a Permian source is ruled out successfully.

This paper demonstrates that if one biomarker group from the mud additive overprints that of the indigenous oil show this does not preclude other biomarker groups from truly representing the oil show.

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