Analysis of unresolved complex mixtures of hydrocarbons extracted from Late Archean sediments by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC×GC)

University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, M/C 186, 845 West Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7059, USA; Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, MS#4, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1543, USA; Department of Science, US Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT 06320-8101, USA
Organic Geochemistry 01/2008; DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2008.03.006
Source: OAI

ABSTRACT Hydrocarbon mixtures too complex to resolve by traditional capillary gas chromatography display gas chromatograms with dramatically rising baselines or “humps” of coeluting compounds that are termed unresolved complex mixtures (UCMs). Because the constituents of UCMs are not ordinarily identified, a large amount of geochemical information is never explored. Gas chromatograms of saturated/unsaturated hydrocarbons extracted from Late Archean argillites and greywackes of the southern Abitibi Province of Ontario, Canada contain UCMs with different appearances or “topologies” relating to the intensity and retention time of the compounds comprising the UCMs. These topologies appear to have some level of stratigraphic organization, such that samples collected at any stratigraphic formation collectively are dominated by UCMs that either elute early- (within a window of C15–C20n-alkanes), early- to mid- (C15–C30n-alkanes), or have a broad UCM that extends through the entire retention time of the sample (from C15–C42n-alkanes). Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC–MS) was used to resolve the constituents forming these various UCMs. Early- to mid-eluting UCMs are dominated by configurational isomers of alkyl-substituted and non-substituted polycyclic compounds that contain up to six rings. Late eluting UCMs are composed of C36–C40 mono-, bi-, and tricyclic archaeal isoprenoid diastereomers. Broad UCMs spanning the retention time of compound elution contain nearly the same compounds observed in the early-, mid-, and late-retention time UCMs. Although the origin of the polycyclic compounds is unclear, the variations in the UCM topology appear to depend on the concentration of initial compound classes that have the potential to become isomerized. Isomerization of these constituents may have resulted from hydrothermal alteration of organic matter.

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