Liliana López + *, Jesús A. Romero + and Salvador Lo Mónaco +

+ Centro de Geoquímica, Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, 3895. Caracas 1010 A, Venezuela.

* Corresponding author:

Key words: biodegradation, Quiriquire field, Eastern Venezuela Basin, Maturin Sub-Basin, Venezuela, heavy oil, petroleum geochemistry, UCM, biomarkers.

Five crude oil samples from the Quiriquire field (Maturin sub-basin, Eastern Venezuelan Basin) were analysed to evaluate their levels of biodegradation. The oils were obtained from coarse sandstones and conglomerates of the Pliocene Quiriquire Formation at depths <1000 m. Analyses of the samples’ bulk physicochemical parameters indicate variations in API gravity and in the content of saturated hydrocarbons and NSO+asphaltenes, and also in the saturate/aromatic ratio which increases in more biodegraded oils. n-Alkane distributions are characterized by a dominant unresolved complex mixture (UCM) or hump under an envelope of peaks which lack the acyclic isoprenoids pristane and phytane. The alteration of steranes and terpanes together with the presence of 25-norhopanes and 17-nor-tricyclic terpanes, and the alteration of low molecular-weight (C20-C21) triaromatic steroids, phenanthrene, methyl-phenanthrene, dibenzothiophene and methyl-dibenzothiophene, indicate that the oils have undergone severe biodegradation.

The oils contain compounds with different susceptibilities to biodegradation which is probably a consequence of the mixing of different oil charges in the Quiriquire Formation reservoir. The oils were derived from underlying source rocks in the Upper Cretaceous Guayuta Group (Querecual and San Antonio Formations), and migration into the shallow reservoir at Quiriquire field likely occurred continuously through time. Although the oils have undergone severe biodegradation, it was possible to make some inferences about their origin. Thus, the analyzed oils are interpreted to have originated from marine shale or marl source rocks containing mixed organic matter deposited under anoxic-suboxic conditions and were generated at near peak oil window maturities.

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