Bitumen biomarkers in the Mid-Proterozoic Ilímaussaq intrusion, Southwest Greenland - A challenge to the mantle gas theory

T. Laier, H.P. Nytoft

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftArtikelForskningpeer review

14 Citationer (Scopus)


GC and GC/MS/MS analysis on rock extracts has shown that the bitumen in the peralkaline Ilímaussaq intrusion, previously assumed to be abiogenic, is biotic in origin. A biotic origin is in accordance with previously published stable carbon isotopic data on bituminous matter in the rocks. The biomarker distribution in the bitumen, including the less common bicadinanes, resembles that of oil seeps on the central West Greenland coast 2200 km farther north, whose source rocks and migration history are relatively well established. We use a recent re-construction of the subsidence and later exhumation of the West Greenland coastal region during the Mesozoic-Cenozoic (Japsen et al., 2006a, b) to anticipate that hydrocarbons migrated from deeper parts of the basin offshore west of Greenland. The rocks of Ilímaussaq were probably more deeply invaded than the surrounding granites due to their higher proportion of corroded minerals, which may explain why bitumen has not been observed elsewhere in the area.Hydrocarbon gases (C1-C5) present in fluid inclusions were also analysed, after having been released by treatment with hydrochloric acid that resulted in an almost complete disintegration of the Ilímaussaq intrusion rocks. The acid extraction method proved generally more efficient than the crushing procedure applied by others, but gave similar results for the chemical composition of the gas (CH 4: 88-97%) and isotopic ratios (δ 13CCH4: -1.6 to -5.0‰; δ 13CC2H6: -9.2 to -12.5‰), with the exception of hydrocarbons hosted in quartz, which showed significantly lower isotopic values for methane (Graser et al., 2008). Previous researchers have suggested an abiotic origin for these hydrocarbon gases, but we suggest a biotic origin for the majority of them, not just those in quartz, assuming that the isotopic ratio of the constituents have changed due to loss of gas by diffusion. The assumption of gas loss via diffusion is supported by published studies on micro-fissures in minerals typical of the Ilímaussaq and field investigations showing diffusive loss of gas from the peralkaline Khibina and Lovozero massifs on the Kola Peninsula, Russia, which are, in many respects of mineralogy and hydrocarbon content, similar to the Ilímaussaq intrusion.Both the hydrocarbon gases and bitumen in the Khibina and Lovozero massifs have been cited as prime examples of a deep mantle source, although the carbon isotopic ratio of the bitumen clearly pointed to an organic origin. The trends in carbon isotopic ratio of methane released with time from freshly exposed rocks also supports our hypothesis of 13C enrichment of the methane remaining within the rock. Thus, there is good evidence that the hydrocarbons in the Kola alkaline massifs are mostly biotic in origin, in which case the probability of finding economic hydrocarbon accumulations from a deep mantle source seems exceedingly small.

Sider (fra-til)50-65
Antal sider16
TidsskriftMarine and Petroleum Geology
Udgave nummer1
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2012


  • Programområde 3: Energiressourcer


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