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The effect of oil-water-rock partitioning on the occurrence of alkylphenols in petroleum systems

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Larter, Dr Martin Jones, Dr Jason Dale


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Low molecular weight (C0-C3) alkylphenols are ubiquitous constituents of crude oils and formation waters of petroleum systems, and they represent legislatively monitored pollutants in produced oils and waters from offshore petroleum facilities. Their origin and the controls on their abundance are uncertain. Analysis of forty-four oils from various petroleum provinces, together with laboratory partitioning experiments, has provided further information on these controls. Although phenols are clearly partitioned between oil and water in petroleum systems, the consistency of most nondegraded petroleum phenol distributions (despite the apparent decrease of phenol concentrations in petroleums with increasing secondary migration distance) requires phenol partitioning between petroleum, water, and solid phases -chiefly kerogen in the carrier bed. The retention of significant phenol concentrations in petroleums that have migrated tens of kilometres does indicate that petroleum typically only equilibrates with minor volumes of rock and associated waters. Laboratory experiments indicate that oils which have migrated ∼25 km in the North Sea Tampen Spur through Jurassic sandstones may have equilibrated with less than 20 vol of rock and water, and possibly much less than 1 vol, depending on the sorbing phases within the rock (i.e., mineral or organic matter) and the wetting phase (oil or water). We conclude, supporting the hypothesis of loppolo-Armanios et al. (1995), that although ortho-substituted isomers dominate the phenol distributions of many petroleums, this reflects catalytic alkylation/isomerisation of unknown alkylphenol precursors in source rocks, rather than selective removal of meta- and para-substituted alkylphenol isomers from petroleum by water washing. Copyright © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Taylor P, Larter SR, Jones M, Dale J, Horstad I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

Year: 1997

Volume: 61

Issue: 9

Pages: 1899-1910

Print publication date: 01/05/1997

ISSN (print): 0016-7037

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9533

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7037(97)00034-3


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