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Thermal evolution and applications of aromatic hydrocarbons in highly mature coal-bearing source rocks of the Upper Triassic Xujiahe Formation in the northern Sichuan Basin

  • Li, Ying1
  • Zhu, YangMing1
  • Hao, Fang2
  • Zou, HuaYao3
  • Guo, TongLou4
  • 1 Zhejiang University, Department of Earth Sciences, Hangzhou, 310027, China , Hangzhou (China)
  • 2 China University of Geosciences, College of Earth Resources, Wuhan, 430074, China , Wuhan (China)
  • 3 China University of Petroleum, College of Earth Sciences, Beijing, 102249, China , Beijing (China)
  • 4 SINOPEC, Southern Exploration Company, Chengdu, 610000, China , Chengdu (China)
Published Article
Science China Earth Sciences
Science China Press
Publication Date
May 19, 2015
DOI: 10.1007/s11430-015-5084-8
Springer Nature


Based on the GC-MS analytical data of aromatic fractions of over forty highly mature coal-bearing source rock samples collected from the Upper Triassic Xujiahe Formation in the northern Sichuan Basin, the thermal evolution of aromatic hydrocarbons during late-mature to over-mature stage (Ro=1.13%–2.85%) was characterized, and aromatic indicators suitable for recognizing the organic source and sedimentary environment of high maturity source rocks were discussed. The results indicated that the concentrations of low carbon-cycle naphthalene as well phenanthrene series reduce gradually with increasing Ro at the highly mature levels. However, some high-cyclic components such as chrysene, benzofluoranthene, and benzo[e]pyrene are relatively enriched, in companying an enhancement of parent aromatic compounds. The variations are attributed to thermal cracking and polymerization reactions due to continuous dehydrogenation under enhanced burial temperature. As thermal maturity rises, MPI1 (Methylphenanthrene Index) values display a two-modal varying trend, namely, increasing when Ro is below 1.80% and decreasing above 1.8% Ro. The relationships between Ro and MPI1 are Ro=0.98MPI1+0.37 for Ro<1.80% and Ro=−0.90MPI1+3.02 at Ro>1.8%, being different from the previous research. The amount of dibenzofurans declines sharply at Ro higher than 1.1%, leading to a significant change of relative composition among dibenzothiophenes, dibenzofurans and fluorenes (referred as three-fluorenes series composition). Thus, this parameter appears to be unsuitable for identifying the sedimentary environment of the highly matured source rocks. 4-/1-MDBT (methyldibenzothiophene) ratio could be served as an effective indicator for organic facies, and can distinguish coals from mudstones at over-maturity in this case. The ratios of 2,6-/2,10-DMP (dimethylphenanthrene) and 1,7-/1,9-DMP and the relative abundance of triaromatic steroids in these highly mature rocks could be considered as biological source parameters for relative input of terrigenous versus aquatic organic matter.

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