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The effect of biodegradation on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in reservoired oils from the Liaohe basin, NE China

Lookup NU author(s): Bernard Bowler, Thomas Oldenburg, Professor Stephen Larter


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The occurrence and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been studied in oil columns from the Liaohe basin, NE China, characterized by varied degrees of biodegradation. The Es3 oil column has undergone light to moderate biodegradation - ranging from levels 2 to 5 on the [Peters, K.E., Moldowan, J.M., 1993. The Biomarker Guide: Interpreting Molecular Fossils in Petroleum and Ancient Sediments. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, p. 363] scale (abbreviated as 'PM level') - while the shallower Es1 column has undergone more severe biodegradation, ranging from PM level 5 to 8. Both columns show excellent vertical biodegradation gradients, with degree of biodegradation increasing with increasing depth toward the oil-water contact (OWC). The compositional gradients in the oil columns imply mass transport control on degradation rates, with degradation occurring primarily at the OWC. The diffusion of hydrocarbons to the OWC zone will be the ultimate control on the maximum degradation rate. The chemical composition and physical properties of the reservoired oils, and the 'degradation sequence' of chemical components are determined by mixing of fresh oil with biodegraded oil. The PAH concentrations and molecular distributions in the reservoired oils from these biodegraded columns show systematic changes with increasing degree of biodegradation. The C3+-alkylbenzenes are the first compounds to be depleted in the aromatic fraction. Concentrations of the C0-5-alkylnaphthalenes and the C0-3-alkylphenanthrenes decrease markedly during PM levels 3-5, while significant isomer variations occur at more advanced stages of biodegradation (> PM level 4). The degree of alkylation is a critical factor controlling the rate of biodegradation; in most cases the rate decreases with increasing number of alkyl substituents. However, we have observed that C-3-naphthalenes concentrations decrease faster than those Of C-2-naphthalenes, and methylphenanthrenes concentrations decrease faster than that of phenanthrene. Demethylation of a substituted compound is inferred as a possible reaction in the biodegradation process. Differential degradation of specific alkylated isomers was observed in our sample set. The relative susceptibility of the individual dimethylnaphthalene, trimethylnaphthalene, tetramethylnaphthalene, pentamethylnaphthalene, methylphenanthrene, dimethylphenanthrene and trimethylphenanthrene isomers to biodegradation was determined. The C-20 and C-21 short side-chained triaromatic steroid hydrocarbons are degraded more readily than their C26-28 long side-chained counterparts. The C21-22-monoaromatic steroid hydrocarbons (MAS) appear to be more resistant to biodegradation than the C27-29-MAS. Interestingly, the most thermally stable PAH isomers are more susceptible to biodegradation than less thermally stable isomers, suggesting that selectivity during biodegradation is not solely controlled by thermodynamic stability and that susceptibility to biodegradation may be related to stereochemical structure. Many commonly used aromatic hydrocarbon maturity parameters are no longer valid after biodegradation to PM level 4 although some ratios change later than others. The distribution of PAHs coupled with knowledge of their biodegradation characteristics constitutes a useful probe for the study of biodegradation processes and can provide insight into the mechanisms of biodegradation of reservoired oil. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Huang HP, Bowler BFJ, Oldenburg TBP, Larter SR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organic Geochemistry

Year: 2004

Volume: 35

Issue: 11-12

Pages: 1619-1634

Print publication date: 01/11/2004

ISSN (print): 0146-6380

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5290

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2004.05.009


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