Biomarker and isotope evidence for microbially-mediated carbonate formation from gypsum and petroleum hydrocarbons

G. Aloisi*, M. Baudrand, C. Lécuyer, J. M. Rouchy, R. D. Pancost, M. A M Aref, V. Grossi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Along the western coast of the Gulf of Suez large amounts of evaporitic gypsum of Miocene age have been microbially transformed into carbonates and elemental sulfur in the presence of petroleum. Similar diagenetic transformations have been described from numerous sites worldwide but the role of petroleum, specifically as a carbon source for the sulfate-reducing microbial community, remains elusive. We carried out a geochemical investigation of microbial carbonates from the Gulf of Suez that suggests the presence of a community of sulfate-reducing bacteria thriving on carbon substrates contained in petroleum. Specifically, a set of non-isoprenoidal macrocyclic glycerol diethers (McGDs), that we tentatively ascribe to sulfate-reducing bacteria, have a stable carbon isotope composition close to that of petroleum n-alkanes associated with the carbonates. The presence of archaeol that is 13C-enriched relative to bacterial lipids suggests that Archaea are present but either indirectly involved or not involved in the transformation of petroleum-derived carbon. The lipid biomarker pattern we observe is distinct from those observed in settings where sulfate reduction is coupled to the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Our results suggest that petroleum migration has triggered the microbial transformation of gypsum into carbonates in the Gulf of Suez. By extension, the involvement of petroleum in the microbial transformation of gypsum into carbonates in other settings, which was suggested by more indirect, geological and inorganic geochemical evidence, seems very likely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Geology
Volume347
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2013

Keywords

  • Authigenic carbonates
  • Biomarkers
  • Gulf of Suez
  • Gypsum
  • Petroleum
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria

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