Formation of volatile organic sulfur compounds by low thermal maturation of source rocks: A geochemical proxy for natural gas

Ilya Kutuzov, Qilin Xiao, Chunfang Cai, Alon Amrani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Volatile organic sulfur compounds (VOSC) are trace components of natural gas that can provide substantial information regarding gas origins, migration, and key processes such as H2S generation and its occurrence in natural gas reservoirs. In the current study we demonstrate the applicability of VOSC as a proxy for gas-source rock correlations and identification of interactions between H2S and other natural gas components. We studied the molecular and isotopic compositions of VOSC formed during low-level thermal maturation (%Ro equivalent = 0.60–0.71) of six different immature source rocks covering a variety of kerogens (types I, II, II-S and III). Anhydrous pyrolysis experiments (300 °C, 72h) were performed on all the source rocks studied, and the produced gases were analyzed for their molecular compositions and compound specific sulfur isotopes of the various VOSC formed. The formed gases were either dominated by CH4 (32.2–49.9%) or CO2 (31.9–46.2%) and contained a variety of alkanes in the C2–C5 range. H2S formed in 6 out of 8 experiments at concentrations ranging from 0.6 to 4.3%. The results demonstrated formation of VOSC in all experiments, regardless of kerogen types or source rock lithologies. The formation of thiols (16–121.2 ppm) in the produced gas was restricted to those experiments that contained H2S. This indicates that thiols formation is limited to gas-phase interactions between H2S and hydrocarbons. In contrast, thiophenes formed in all experiments (14.9–1778.8 ppm) regardless of H2S presence. Thiols preserved the δ34S signal of their associated H2S due to gas-phase interactions between the two, while thiophenes showed no interaction with the associated H2S and instead preserved the δ34S signature of the bulk kerogen (within 3.5‰ on average) of each source rock. This work demonstrates the applicability of thiophenes to act as a gas-source rock proxy for natural gas and thiols as a proxy for identification of present or paleo-interactions between natural gas and H2S.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number106531
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Compound specific sulfur isotope analysis
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Natural gas
  • Pyrolysis
  • Thiols
  • Thiophenes
  • Volatile organic sulfur compounds


Dive into the research topics of 'Formation of volatile organic sulfur compounds by low thermal maturation of source rocks: A geochemical proxy for natural gas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this