C-H and C-C clumping in ethane by high-resolution mass spectrometry

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Matthieu Denis Clog and John M Eiler, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
Ethane (C2H6) is an important natural compound, and its geochemistry can be studied through 13C-13C, 13C-D and/or D-D clumping. Such measurements are potentially important both as a stepping stone towards the study of more complex organic molecules and, in its own regard, to understand processes controlling the generation, migration and destruction of natural gas. Isotopic clumping on C-C and C-H bonds could be influenced by thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, diffusion or gas mixing. Previous work showed that 13C-D clumping in methane generally reflects equilibrium and provides a measure of formation temperature (Stolper et al 2014a), whereas 13C-13C clumping in ethane is likely most controlled by chemical-kinetic processes and/or inheritance from the isotopic structure of source organic compounds (Clog et al 2014). 13C-D clumping in ethane has the potential to provide a thermometer for its synthesis, as it does for methane. However, the difference in C-H bond dissociation energy for these two compounds may suggest a lower ‘blocking temperature’ for this phenomenon in ethane (the blocking temperature for methane is ≥~250 C in geological conditions). We present analytical techniques to measure both 13C-13C and 13C-D clumping in ethane, using a novel two-instrument technique, including both the Thermo 253-Ultra and the Thermo DFS. In this method, the Ultra is used to measure the relative abundances of combinations nearly isobaric isotopologues: (13C12CH6 + 12C2DH5)/12C2H6 and (13C2H6 + 12C13CDH5)/12C2H6, free of other isobaric interferences like O2. The DFS, a very high resolution single-collector instrument, is then used to measure the ratios of isotopologues of ethane at a single cardinal mass: 12C2DH5/13C12CH6, and 12C13CDH5/13C2H6, with precisions of ~1 permil. Those 4 measurements allow us to calculate the bulk isotopic composition (D and 13C) as well as the abundance of 13C2H6 and 13C12CDH5. We also present progress on the development of software tools to use the data measured with the DFS efficiently.