Immiscible hydrocarbon fluids in the deep carbon cycle

The cycling of carbon between Earth’s surface and interior governs the long-term habitability of the planet. But how carbon migrates in the deep Earth is not well understood. In particular, the potential role of hydrocarbon fluids in the deep carbon cycle has long been controversial. Here we show that immiscible isobutane forms in situ from partial transformation of aqueous sodium acetate at 300 °C and 2.4-3.5 GPa and that over a broader range of pressures and temperatures theoretical predictions indicate that high pressure strongly opposes decomposition of isobutane, which may possibly coexist in equilibrium with silicate mineral assemblages. These results complement recent experimental evidence for immiscible methane-rich fluids at 600-700 °C and 1.5-2.5 GPa and the discovery of methane-rich fluid inclusions in metasomatized ophicarbonates at peak metamorphic conditions. Consequently, a variety of immiscible hydrocarbon fluids might facilitate carbon transfer in the deep carbon cycle.

References: Immiscible hydrocarbon fluids in the deep carbon cycle. Fang Huang, Isabelle Daniel, Hervé Cardon, Gilles Montagnac & Dimitri A. Sverjensky.

Immiscible hydrocarbon fluids in the deep carbon cycle (publication in  Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon (LGL-TPE)

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