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Uranium and organic matters: use of pyrolysis-gas chromatography, carbon, hydrogen, and uranium contents to characterize the organic matter from sandstone-type deposits

January 1, 1994

Organic matter seems to play an important role in the genesis of uranium deposits in sandstones in the western United States. Organic materials associated with ore from the Texas coastal plain, Tertiary basins of Wyoming, Grants mineral belt of New Mexico, and the Uravan mineral belt of Utah and Colorado vary widely in physical appearance and chemical composition. Partial characterization of organic materials is achieved by chemical analyses to determine atomic hydrogen-to-carbon (H/C) ratios and by gas chromatographic analyses to determine the molecular fragments evolved during stepwise pyrolysis.

From the pyrolysis experiments the organic materials can be classified and grouped: (a) lignites from Texas and Wyoming and (b) hydrogen poor materials, from Grants and Uravan mineral belts and Wyoming; (c) naphthalene-containing materials from Grants mineral belt and Wyoming; and (d) complex and aromatic materials from Uravan, Grants and Wyoming.

The organic materials analyzed have atomic H/C ratios that range from approximately 0.3 to at least 1.5. The samples with higher H/C ratios yield pyrolysis products that contain as many as 30 carbon atoms per molecule. Samples with low H/C ratios are commonly more uraniferous and yield mostly methane and low-molecular-weight gases during pyrolysis.