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Petroleum Geochemistry Assignment 2

Name : Muhammad Hanif Haziq bin Mohammad

Matrix No. : 15323
Lecturer : Assoc. Prof. Dr. Swapan Kumar

Gas Chromatography (GC) and Gas Chromatography- Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS)

1.0 Theory of analysis
A gas chromatograph evaluates the gas liberated during the drilling process and records the
individual peaks for methane, ethane, propane, isobutene, butane and lastly another single peak
encompassing all hydrocarbons of pentane and above (C
). In the lab, the analysis could be done
on the oil and also on the source rock sample which is first pyrolyzed to generate the hydrocarbon.
The analysis could be used to correlate between the source rock and the oil. It could also be used to
correlate between oil and other oils.
GC-MS on the other hand is the supplementation of gas chromatography with mass
spectroscopy. This would provide a detail analysis of the organic compunds present in small
concentrations which were unable to be detected by gas chromatography alone. These small trace
elements have been discovered as biomarkers in the industry. The markers could be classified into
basic groups which in turn contains members having variation of the same basic structure. The
groups could be related to certain organisms which in turn could aid in prediction of environment of
deposition. The combination of the original molecules to the chemical reactions that they
underwent varies from one field to another which could form a biomarker distribution unique to a
specific location. As biomarker patterns also change with time and temperature, they also indicate
the level of maturity of the oil.

2.0 Mechanical measurements

Figure 1: The procedure for GC-MS (McCarthy, Rojas, Niemann, Palmowski, Peters, & Stankiewitz, 2011).
Separate compunds are drawn through the gas chromatograph capillary column and passes
to the ionizer. There, a metallic filament ionizes each compound. It is then sent to a quadrupole
analyser which filters the ions based on their mass/charge ratio. The electron multiplier then detects
the filtered ions one at a time.

3.0 Interpretation
For gas chromatography, it is more of a qualitatiove interpretation instead of a quantitative
interpretation but the patterns generated can be used to determine whether the source rock is oil or
gas prone (maturity indicator). Refer figure 2, the x axis is the retention time while the y axis is the
quantity of each compound. Each spike represents the the number of carbon atoms in the
compound going from lower to higher from left to right.

Chromatograms of oil-prone rock Chromatograms of gas-prone rock
Dominated by long-chain carbon compounds
(greater than C
Dominated by short-chain carbon compounds
from C

Contain carbon compounds up to C
or greater Contain very few carbon compounds above C

Figure 2: Three different gas chromatograph results of different samples (AAPG, 2014).

As for interpretation of mass spectrometers, they are related to the mass over charge (m/z)
value of the ions detected. Refer to figure 3, which are the mass chromatograms for a single oil
sample. The x-axis is the retention time while the y-axis is the relative intensity. The top left figure
represents the daughter ions intensity of the compunds having a mass of 191 daltons. The top right
and bottom figure represents compunds with 218 and 217 daltons respectively. We can determine
the common biomarkers from Table 1.

Figure 3: Mass chromatograms of an oil sample

Ion (m/z) Compound class monitored
123 Diterpanes, sesquiterpanes
125 Carotanes
177 Demethylated triterpanes
191 Triterpanes, bicadinanes, tricyclic diterpanes (cheilanthanes)
217 Steranes, bicadinanes
218 steranes
231 4-methylsteranes
259 Diasteranes

Table 1: The types of biomarkers represented by their weight/charge.

4.0 Limitation
-When oil migrates from its source to the reservoir rock, it tends to carry biomarkers from rocks that
they pass through which would give a false identification of their level of maturity. Moreover, the
biomarkers in migrating oil tend to change a lot of their properties. This makes it difficult to
correlate between the oil and its source rock.
- Biodegraded rocks might lose important biomarkers for their correlation. Not only that, some
biodegradation could also alter the biomarker chemical structure in certain rocks.
-Some interpreters get confused with the added internal standards during the experimental
procedure. They mistakenly interpret the standards as indigenous.

5.0 References

AAPG. (2014, March 13). GC/MS. Retrieved from AAPG WIKI:
McCarthy, K., Rojas, K., Niemann, M., Palmowski, D., Peters, K., & Stankiewitz, A. (2011). Basic
Petroleum Geochemistry for Source Rock evaluation. Schlumberger.