Density Gradient Centrifugation: Application to the Separation of Macerals of Type I, II, and III Sedimentary Organic Matter

B. Artur Stankiewicz, Michael A. Kruge, John C. Crelling, Gary L. Salmon

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Samples of organic matter from nine well-known geological units (Green River Fm., Tasmanian Tasmanite, Lower Toarcian Sh. of the Paris Basin, Duwi Fm., New Albany Sh., Monterey Fm., Herrin No. 6 coal, Eocene coal, and Miocene lignite from Kalimantan) were processed by density gradient centrifugation (DGC) to isolate the constituent macerals. Optimal separation, as well as the liberation of microcrystalline pyrite from the organic matter, was obtained by particle size minimization prior to DGC by treatment with liquid N2 and micronization in a fluid energy mill. The resulting small particle size limits the use of optical microscopy, thus microfluorimetry and analytical pyrolysis were also employed to assess the quality and purity of the fractions. Each of the samples exhibits one dominant DGC peak (corresponding to alginite in the Green River Fm., amorphinite in the Lower Toarcian Sh., vitrinite in the Herrin No. 6, etc.) which shifts from 1.05 g mL-1 for the Type I kerogens to between 1.18 and 1.23 g mL-1 for Type II and II-S. The characteristic densities for Type III organic matter are greater still, being 1.27 g mL-1 for the hydrogen-rich Eocene coal, 1.29 g mL-1 for the Carboniferous coal and 1.43 g mL-1 for the oxygen-rich Miocene lignite. Among Type II kerogens, the DGC profile represents a compositional continuum from undegraded alginite through (bacterial) degraded amorphinite; therefore chemical and optical properties change gradually with increasing density. The separation of useful quantities of macerals that occur in only minor amounts is difficult. Such separations require large amounts of starting material and require multiple processing steps. Complete maceral separation for some samples using present methods seems remote. Samples containing macerals with significant density differences due to heteroatom diversity (e.g., preferential sulfur or oxygen concentration in the one maceral), on the other hand, may be successfully separated (e.g., coals and Monterey kerogen).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1513-1521
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 1994


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