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Petroleum exploration

Example 2D chromatogram from GCxGC-TOFMS of a whole oil
Example 2D chromatogram from GCxGC-TOFMS of a whole oil

WA-OIGC has pioneered organic geochemical research and regularly conducts consultancy work with international energy companies to help better understand natural resources and their sustainable development.

Advanced Geochemical analyses and interpretation

The WA-OIGC laboratories possess a suite of sophisticated analytical instrumentation to provide analyses of both organic and inorganic compounds. Such analyses can help elucidate the source and geological age of organic matter, establish migration and accumulation histories of petroleum and correlate oils-oils and oils-source rocks, and biodegradation proxies in petroleum reservoirs.

Molecular fossils and indicators

Oils are super-complex mixtures of organic compounds which can be difficult to resolve with conventional gas chromatography (GC), especially if the sample is weathered or biodegraded. Our two-dimensional GC with time time-of-flight mass spectrometer (GC) can more fully resolve complex mixtures revealing biomarkers (sometimes termed molecular fossils) not clearly observed by traditional GC.

An alternative approach to analysing biomarkers is by time of flight-secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). This powerful technique has the capability for analysis of single oil bearing fluid inclusions using extremely small samples without the need for fractionation. This technique is also suited to the study of oil–gas interfaces. Our recently acquired state-of-the-art TOF-SIMS instrument has the potential to provide exciting revelations about the history of life on Earth.

Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA)

The natural abundance of stable isotopes remains relatively constant over geological timescales making them useful as natural tracers. Stable isotope compositions are determined as ratios of the heavier isotope e.g. carbon-13 (13C) to the light isotope carbon‐12 (12C) relative to an international standard. Stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C), hydrogen (δ2H) and sulphur (δ34S) of individual compounds are particularly useful and can be determined using our modern gas chromatography isotope-ratio mass spectrometers (GC-irMS).

High-pressure hydropyrolysis (HyPy)

The HyPy process involves the thermal decomposition of organic matter with increasing temperatures in the presence of hydrogen e.g. to characterise oil shales and coals. An important attribute of HyPy is the release of macromolecularly bound hydrocarbons e.g. within asphaltenes and bitumens with minimal isomeric alteration.   The use of HyPy can thus yield hydrocarbons similar to those of the original oil but not affected by secondary processes such as migration contamination, water washing and biodegradation. Our STRATA technologies HyPy instrument is one of only a few in the world.


We can provide a wide range of analytical services including organic biomarker (e.g. hopanoids) and indicator (e.g. diamondoids) analysis by GC-MS, GC×GC-tofMS and TOF-SIMS, compound specific isotope analysis (CSIA) by GC-irMS and both high-pressure hydropyrolysis (HyPy) and Py-GC-MS, as detailed in Advanced Geochemical analysis and interpretation. Sample preparation can be included if required. Interpretation of results can also be included. To discuss your requirements, contact us HERE.

Training programs

Training programs are available for a wide range of techniques e.g. identification and interpretation of biomarkers. To discuss your requirements, contact us HERE.

Example publications

Ke, C., Li, S., Zhang, H., He, N., Grice, K., Xu, T., Greenwood, P., 2020. Compound specific sulfur isotopes of saline lacustrine oils from the Dongpu Depression, Bohai Bay Basin, NE China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 195, 104361.

Liang, H., Xu, F., Grice, K., Xu, G., Holman, A., Hopper, P., Fu, D., Yu, Q., Liang, J., Wang, D., 2020. Kinetics of oil generation from brackish-lacustrine source rocks in the southern Bohai Sea, East China. Organic Geochemistry, 139, 103945.

Spaak, G., Edwards, D.S., Foster, C.B., Murray, A., Sherwood, N., Grice, K., 2020. Geochemical characteristics of early Carboniferous petroleum systems in Western Australia. Marine and Petroleum Geology 113.

Spaak, G., Edwards, D.S., Grosjean, E., Scarlett, A.G., Rollet, N., Grice, K., 2020. Identifying multiple sources of petroleum fluids in Browse Basin accumulations using semi-volatile compounds. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 104091.

Cesar, J., Eiler, J., Dallas, B., Chimiak, L., Grice, K., 2019. Isotope heterogeneity in ethyltoluenes from Australian condensates, and their stable carbon site-specific isotope analysis. Organic Geochemistry 135, 32-37.

Cesar, J., Grice, K., 2019. Molecular fingerprint from plant biomarkers in Triassic-Jurassic petroleum source rocks from the Dampier sub-Basin, Northwest Shelf of Australia. Marine and Petroleum Geology 110, 189-197.

He, N., Grice, K., Greenwood, P.F., 2019. The distribution and δ34S values of organic sulfur compounds in biodegraded oils from Peace River (Alberta Basin, western Canada). Organic Geochemistry, 128, 16-25.

Scarlett, A.G., Despaigne-Diaz, A.I., Wilde, S.A., Grice, K., 2019. An examination by GC x GC-TOFMS of organic molecules present in highly degraded oils emerging from Caribbean terrestrial seeps of Cretaceous age. Geoscience Frontiers 10, 5-15.

Scarlett, A.G., Holman, A.I., Georgiev, S.V., Stein, H.J., Summons, R.E., Grice, K., 2019. Multi-spectroscopic and elemental characterization of southern Australian asphaltites. Organic Geochemistry 133, 77-91.

Scarlett, A.G., Spaak, G., Mohamed, S., Plet, C., Grice, K., 2019. Comparison of tri-, tetra- and pentacyclic caged hydrocarbons in Australian crude oils and condensates. Organic Geochemistry 127, 115-123.

Shan, C., Ye, J., Scarlett, A., Grice, K., 2019. Molecular and Isotopic Characteristics of Mature Condensates from the East China Sea Shelf Basin Using GC×GC-TOFMS and GC-IRMS. Journal of Earth Science 30, 376-386.

Cesar, J., Grice, K., 2018. Drimane-type compounds in source rocks and fluids from fluvial-deltaic depositional settings in the North-West Shelf of Australia. Organic Geochemistry 116, 103-112.

Greenwood, P.F., Mohammed, L., Grice, K., McCulloch, M., Schwark, L., 2018. The application of compound-specific sulfur isotopes to the oil–source rock correlation of Kurdistan petroleum. Organic Geochemistry 117, 22-30.

Holman, A.I., Grice, K., 2018. δ13C of aromatic compounds in sediments, oils and atmospheric emissions: A review. Organic Geochemistry 123, 27-37.

Spaak, G., Edwards, D.S., Allen, H.J., Grotheer, H., Summons, R.E., Coolen, M.J.L., Grice, K., 2018. Extent and persistence of photic zone euxinia in Middle-Late Devonian seas – Insights from the Canning Basin and implications for petroleum source rock formation. Marine and Petroleum Geology 93, 33-56.

Zhu, G.Y., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Z.Y., Li, T., He, N., Grice, K., Neng, Y., Greenwood, P., 2018. High abundance of alkylated diamondoids, thiadiamondoids and thioaromatics in recently discovered sulfur-rich LS2 condensate in the Tarim Basin. Organic Geochemistry 123, 136-143.

Cesar, J., Grice, K., 2017. The significance of benzo[b]naphtho[d]furans in fluids and source rocks: New indicators of facies type in fluvial-deltaic systems. Organic Geochemistry 113, 175-183.

Cesar, J., Grice, K., 2017. δ13C of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to establish the facies variations in a fluvial deltaic Triassic record (Dampier sub-Basin, Western Australia). Organic Geochemistry 107, 59-68.

Grotheer, H., Greenwood, P.F., McCulloch, M.T., Bottcher, M.E., Grice, K., 2017. δ34S character of organosulfur compounds in kerogen and bitumen fractions of sedimentary rocks. Organic Geochemistry 110, 60-64.

Spaak, G., Edwards, D.S., Foster, C.B., Pages, A., Summons, R.E., Sherwood, N., Grice, K., 2017. Environmental conditions and microbial community structure during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event; a multi-disciplinary study from the Canning Basin, Western Australia. Global and Planetary Change 159, 93-112.

Spaak, G., Nelson, R.K., Reddy, C.M., Scarlett, A.G., Chidlow, G.E., Grice, K., 2016. Advances on the separation of crocetane and phytane using GC-MS and GC x GC-TOFMS. Organic Geochemistry 98, 176-182.

Hall, P.A., McKirdy, D.M., Grice, K., Edwards, D.S., 2014. Australasian asphaltite strandings: Their origin reviewed in light of the effects of weathering and biodegradation on their biomarker and isotopic profiles. Marine and Petroleum Geology 57, 572-593.

Le Métayer, P., Grice, K., Chow, C.N., Caccetta, L., Maslen, E., Dawson, D., Fusetti, L., 2014. The effect of origin and genetic processes of low molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons in petroleum on their stable carbon isotopic compositions. Organic Geochemistry 72, 23-33.

Ladjavardi, M., Berwick, L.J., Grice, K., Boreham, C.J., Horsfield, B., 2013. Rapid offline isotopic characterisation of hydrocarbon gases generated by micro-scale sealed vessel pyrolysis. Organic Geochemistry 58, 121-124.

Alexander, R., Berwick, L.J., Nasir, S., Fazeelat, T., Grice, K., 2012. Markers for secondary reactions of migrated crude oil on carbonaceous surfaces. Organic Geochemistry 49, 30-35.

Eiserbeck, C., Nelson, R.K., Grice, K., Curiale, J., Reddy, C.M. 2012. Comparison of GC–MS, GC–MRM-MS, and GC×GC to characterise higher plant biomarkers in Tertiary oils and rock extracts. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 87, 299-322.

Aboglila, S., Grice, K., Trinajstic, K., Snape, C., Williford, K.H., 2011. The significance of 24-norcholestanes, 4-methylsteranes and dinosteranes in oils and source-rocks from East Sirte Basin (Libya). Applied Geochemistry 26, 1694-1705.

Asif, M., Fazeelat, T., Grice, K., 2011. Petroleum geochemistry of the Potwar Basin, Pakistan: 1. Oil–oil correlation using biomarkers, δ13C and δD. Organic Geochemistry 42, 1226-1240.

Asif, M., Nazir, A., Fazeelat, T., Grice, K., Nasir, S., Saleem, A., 2011. Applications of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons to Assess the Source and Thermal Maturity of the Crude Oils from the Lower Indus Basin, Pakistan. Petroleum Science and Technology 29, 2234-2246.

Eiserbeck, C., Nelson, R.K., Grice, K., Curiale, J., Reddy, C.M., Raiteri, P., 2011. Separation of 18α(H)-, 18β(H)-oleanane and lupane by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A 1218(32), 5549-5553.

Maslen, E., Grice, K., Le Métayer, P., Dawson, D., Edwards, D. 2011. Stable carbon isotopic compositions of individual aromatic hydrocarbons as source and age indicators in oils from western Australian basins. Organic Geochemistry 42, 387-398.

Aboglila, S., Grice, K., Trinajstic, K., Dawson, D., Williford, K.H., 2010. Use of biomarker distributions and compound specific isotopes of carbon and hydrogen to delineate hydrocarbon characteristics in the East Sirte Basin (Libya). Organic Geochemistry 41, 1249-1258.

Fusetti, L., Behar, F., Lorant, F., Grice, K., Derenne, S., 2010. New insights into secondary gas generation from the thermal cracking of oil: Methylated monoaromatics. A kinetic approach using 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene. Part III: An isotopic fractionation model. Organic Geochemistry 41, 431-436.

Fusetti, L., Behar, F., Grice, K., Derenne, S., 2010. New insights into secondary gas generation from the thermal cracking of oil: Methylated mono-aromatics. A kinetic approach using 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene. Part II: An empirical kinetic model. Organic Geochemistry 41, 168-176.

Fusetti, L., Behar, F., Bounaceur, R., Marquaire, P.-M., Grice, K., Derenne, S., 2010. New insights into secondary gas generation from the thermal cracking of oil: Methylated monoaromatics. A kinetic approach using 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene. Part I: A mechanistic kinetic model. Organic Geochemistry 41, 146-167.

Asif, M., Grice, K., Fazeelat, T., 2009. Assessment of petroleum biodegradation using stable hydrogen isotopes of individual saturated hydrocarbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon distributions in oils from the Upper Indus Basin, Pakistan. Organic Geochemistry 40, 301-311.

Maslen, E., Grice, K., Gale, J.D., Hallmann, C., Horsfield, B., 2009. Crocetane: a potential marker of photic zone euxinia in thermally mature sediments and crude oils of Devonian age. Organic Geochemistry 40, 1-11.

Hallmann, C., Schwark, L., Grice, K., 2008. Community dynamics of anaerobic bacteria in deep petroleum reservoirs. Nature Geoscience 1, 588-591.

Dawson, D., Grice, K., Alexander, R., Edwards, D., 2007. The effect of source and maturity on the stable isotopic compositions of individual hydrocarbons in sediments and crude oils from the Vulcan Sub-basin, Timor Sea, Northern Australia. Organic Geochemistry 38, 1015-1038.

Grice, K., Nabbefeld, B., Maslen, E., 2007. Source and significance of selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sediments (Hovea-3 well, Perth Basin, Western Australia) spanning the Permian-Triassic boundary. Organic Geochemistry 38, 1795-1803.

Dawson, D., Grice, K., Alexander, R., 2005. Effect of maturation on the indigenous δD signatures of individual hydrocarbons in sediments and crude oils from the Perth Basin (Western Australia). Organic Geochemistry 36, 95-104.

Grice, K., Backhouse, J., Alexander, R., Marshall, N., Logan, G.A., 2005. Correlating terrestrial signatures from biomarker distributions, δ13C, and palynology in fluvio-deltaic deposits from NW Australia (Triassic–Jurassic). Organic Geochemistry 36, 1347-1358.

Thomas, B.M., Willink, R.J., Grice, K., Twitchett, R.J., Purcell, R.R., Archbold, N.W., George, A.D., Tye, S., Alexander, R., Foster, C.B., Barber, C.J., 2004. Unique marine Permian-Triassic boundary section from Western Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 51, 423-430.

Grice, K., Alexander, R., Kagi, R.I., 2000. Diamondoid hydrocarbon ratios as indicators of biodegradation in Australian crude oils. Organic Geochemistry 31, 67-73.