Identification of aryl isoprenoids in source rocks and crude oils

Biological markers for the green sulphur bacteria

R. E. Summons*, T. G. Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

278 Citations (Scopus)


A series of C13 to C31 aryl isoprenoids (1-alkyl,2,3,6-trimethylbenzenes) have been identified in reef-hosted oils and their source rocks from the Middle and Upper Silurian of the Michigan Basin and Middle Devonian of the Alberta Basin, Canada. Their structure has been confirmed by unambiguous synthesis of the C14 member of the series. Their structure and isotopic composition indicate that they are derived from isorenieratene from the Chlorobiaceae family of sulphur bacteria. These results are consistent with geological and geochemical studies that show that the source rocks were deposited under metahaline to hypersaline sulphate and sulphide rich water columns. The distribution of other biomarkers in these oils and source rocks indicates that a diverse biota contributed organic matter to the source environment. In conjunction with the aryl isoprenoids, they show that there is a remarkable similarity in composition between the two sets of oils and source rocks despite their great temporal and geographic separation. This reflects the similarity of their environments and emphasizes the importance of sedimentary facies in controlling the composition of organic matter in source rocks and their derived oils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-566
Number of pages10
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1987


Cite this