Investigation of hydrocarbon biodegradation from a downhole profile in Bohai Bay Basin: Implications for the origin of 25-norhopanes
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A suite of reservoir cores (oil sands) from a single well in Bohai Bay Basin, East China, displayed a progressive increase in petroleum biodegradation extent on the basis of bulk composition and 25-norhopane content. This fits with the proposal that subsurface petroleum biodegradation is dominantly an anaerobic process and usually occurs at the oil–water contact. It is likely that sequential microbial degradation of hydrocarbons under anoxic conditions does not occur in a true stepwise fashion, but is controlled by various factors such as concentration and solubility of hydrocarbons and their diffusion rate to the oil/water contact. In fact, 25-norhopanes were formed prior to the complete elimination of the acyclic, and monoand bicyclic alkanes. An inverse response of the 22S/(22S + 22R) ratio between each extended 17a(H)- hopane and its corresponding 25-norhopane was observed as severe biodegradation occurred, supporting the proposal that the 25-norhopanes originate from demethylation of hopanes. Field observation revealed that biomarkers without extended alkyl side chains, such as oleanane, gammacerane and b-carotane, have significant resistance to biodegradation and can be used as naturally occurring ‘‘internal standards’’ to evaluate variations in other biomarkers. The results suggest that the quantity of 25-norhopanes showed a minor increase as the hopanes decreased significantly, i.e. only partial hopane conversion to the corresponding 25-norhopanes. Alternative degradation pathways for hopanes might occur in reservoirs, in addition to C-25 demethylation.
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