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Hydrocarbons in alkaline and carbonatite intrusions: geochemistry and distribution, origin and evolution, environmental, geological and metallogenic implications


It has long been clear that alkaline igneous complexes frequently contain high levels of hydrocarbon (HC) gases and dispersed bitumens. What is less clear is the source and origin of these hydrocarbons, and what controls their distribution. The prime aim of the proposed project is to understand the geological, petrological and mineralogical controls on the distribution of the HC gases within alkaline complexes on both a regional and a micro-structural scale. The alkaline complexes of the Kola Peninsula and the Ukraine are ideal places in which to carry out such a study as they have, well documented, high levels of hydrocarbons. This project aims to assess the distribution of the HC gases on both a regional and a micro-structural scale, the composition of the gases, their source and origin, and whether, if sufficiently mobile, they could ever represent an energy source with commercial potential?

Seven teams, three from INTAS countries and four from NIS states, are involved in the research project. Professor Andrew H. Rankin is the Principal Investigator and Dr Peter J. Treloar the project co-ordinator. These teams have many years experience in the petrology and mineralogy of alkaline igneous rocks, in the analysis of volatile species in fluid inclusions and in the analysis of gases extracted from rocks during milling.

The initial stages of the project, to involve all teams, will involve collating all available data that relate to hydrocarbon distribution in alkaline complexes of the Kola peninsula and the Ukraine, and to flow rates of HC gases within those complexes. On the basis of this data set, the NIS teams joined by senior scientists from the INTAS teams will carry out a sampling program. Samples will be studied petrographically for evidence of mineral reactions that might encourage HC evolution, abundance of fluid inclusions, and evidence for connectivity of micro-fractures, the length and distribution of which will be analysed and modelled. The analytical phase, will involve all teams, each with a specific task or tasks.

Microthermometric analysis of gases contained within fluid inclusions coupled with Laser Raman analysis of gases and higher hydrocarbons held within the inclusions and the bulk analysis of gases extracted into a GC during milling will define gas compositions. GCMS analysis of bitumens and stable C, H and O isotope analysis of gases extracted from fluid inclusions will identify any biogenic component. All teams will be involved in the interpretative stage. Maps showing distribution of gas species within the complexes will be drawn that are based on our direct measurements of gas compositions. Combining volumetric data derived from whole rock milling and fluid inclusion abundance data based on point counting and image analysis will make estimates of the total mass of hydrocarbons. Gas release rate data from new underground experiments in stressed rocks coupled with a fractal analysis of fracture connectivity will permit potential gas mobility through the complexes to be numerically modelled.

The main results to be expected from this research program include: documentation of the distribution of HC gases and the higher hydrocarbons within alkaline complexes of the Kola Peninsula and the Ukraine; a model that accounts for the evolution of hydrocarbons in alkaline igneous rocks and which shows whether this requires an external source of biogenic HC or is solely a function of abiogenic, late-stage magmatic processes; and a preliminary indication of the potential of HC-bearing alkaline rocks to be an economic reservoir of HC gases.

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Kingston University


Pemrhyn Road
Kt1 2ee Kingston-Upon-Thames

United Kingdom

Administrative Contact

Andrew RANKIN (Professor)

Participants (6)

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All Russian Scientific Research Institute of Mineral Resources (VIMS)


Copenhagen University


M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University


National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine


Oulu University


Russian Academy of Sciences


Project information

Grant agreement ID: INTAS-2001-00244

  • Start date

    1 July 2002

  • End date

    30 June 2005

Funded under:


Coordinated by:

Kingston University

United Kingdom