Investigation of Structure and Origin of Kerogen by Ruthenium Tetroxide Oxidation

Grant Winner

  • Veljko Dragojlovic, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center


  • Richard Dodge – Oceanographic Center


Award Winners

Kerogen is an insoluble organic material from sedimentary rocks. It is by far the most abundant organic sedimentary material comprising an estimated 90% of it. It has been estimated that coal makes up 9% and oil only 1% of the sedimentary organic material. Lack of solubility of kerogen makes it difficult to analyze it and establish its structure by conventional spectroscopic methods. Thus, to study its structure we have to resort to various degradation methods, which break up kerogen macromolecule into smaller soluble fragments. Knowledge of structure of kerogen is important both for practical reasons (conversion into oil and value added chemicals) and for more fundamental reasons such as establishing its origin. We propose to conduct structural studies on kerogen by application of selective ruthenium tetroxide oxidative degradations recently developed in our laboratory. Our methodology has solved several problems that have plagued previous studies (lack of selectivity, formation of artifacts). Kerogen fragments obtained as a result of oxidation will be isolated and identified by means of gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. Finally, from the fragments we will attempt to reconstruct the original structure of kerogen and establish its origin. Results of our work will be presented at the American Chemical Society conferences and submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Besides the PI, two Oceanographic Center graduate students will be involved in the project and will be co-authors on any publication(s) that result from it. There is also a possibility for involvement of other students including undergraduate and high school students. We already have samples of various kerogens and needed equipment and instrumentation. To conduct this project only a modest support ($3,000) is needed.