Compound-Specific Sulfur Isotope Analysis of Petroleum Gases

Ward Said-Ahmad, Kenneth Wong, Monaca McNall, Lubna Shawar, Tracey Jacksier, Courtney Turich, Artur Stankiewicz, Alon Amrani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We describe a simple, sensitive, and robust method for sulfur isotope ratio (34S/32S) analysis of ppm-level organic sulfur compounds (OSCs) in the presence of percent-level H2S. The method uses a gas chromatograph (GC) coupled with a multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS). The GC, equipped with a gas inlet and a valve that transfers the H2S to a thermal conductivity detector (TCD), enables a precise heart cut and prevents the saturation of the MC-ICPMS. The sensitivity and accuracy of the method are better than 0.3‰ for OSCs at a concentration of 25 pmol or 1.4 ppm, and better than 0.5‰ for concentrations ≥0.7 ppm of OSCs. An order of magnitude increase in sensitivity, with no effect on accuracy, can be achieved if the loop volume (0.5 mL) is changed to 5 mL. High concentrations of methane (95% v/v) and/or H2S (20% v/v) had no effect (within 0.5‰) on the precision and accuracy of the gas sample containing 2 ppm of OSCs after heart cut. The applicability and robustness of this method are demonstrated on a gas sample (10% v/v H2S) that was produced by pyrolysis of sulfur-rich kerogen. The results show good precision and reveal sulfur isotope variability between individual OSCs that may represent key processes during formation and degradation of OSCs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3199-3207
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 7 Mar 2017

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© 2017 American Chemical Society.


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