Abelsonite - Green River Formation, Uintah County, Utah, USA.jpg
Abelsonite from the Green River Formation, Uintah County, Utah, US
CategoryOrganic minerals
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification10.CA.20
Dana classification50.4.9.1
Crystal systemTriclinic
Space groupP1 (No. 2)[2]
Unit cella = 8.508, b = 11.185 Å
c = 7.299 [Å], α = 90.85°
β = 114.1°, γ = 79.99°
Z = 1[1]
ColorPink-purple, dark greyish purple, pale purplish red, reddish brown
CleavageProbable on {111}[1]
Mohs scale hardness2–3
LusterAdamantine, sub-metallic
Specific gravity1.45
Optical propertiesBiaxial[1]
Ultraviolet fluorescenceNon-fluorescent[3]
Absorption spectraStrong reddish brown to reddish black[1]

Abelsonite (IMA symbol: Abl[5]) is a nickel porphyrin mineral with chemical formula C31H32N4Ni. It was discovered in 1969 in the U.S. State of Utah and described in 1975. The mineral is named after geochemist Philip H. Abelson. It is the only known crystalline geoporphyrin.


Abelsonite is semitransparent and pink-purple, dark greyish purple, pale purplish red, or reddish brown in color.[1][4] The mineral occurs as thin laths or plates or small aggregates up to 1 cm (0.39 in).[1] The mineral is soluble in benzene and acetone and is insoluble in water, dilute hydrochloric acid, and dilute nitric acid.[6]

Occurrence and formation

The mineral is known only from the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation.[7] It has been known from the Uinta Basin in Utah since its discovery and from the Piceance Basin in Colorado since 1985.[7] Abelsonite occurs in association with albite, analcime, dolomite, mica, orthoclase, pyrite, and quartz.[1]

Abelsonite is a secondary mineral that formed in fractures, vugs, and bedding planes of oil shale.[1][7] The mineral probably formed from diagenesis of chlorophyll, likely chlorophyll a, which was transported as an aqueous solution into a favorable geologic setting.[7][8]

In 2003, abelsonite was fully synthesized for the first time.[9]


Structure of abelsonite

In 1989, abelsonite was the only known geoporphyrin to have a crystalline structure.[7][a] Most geoporphyrins occur as a series of homologues spanning a large range of carbon numbers.[7] The porphyrin which comprises abelsonite is common, but it does not usually occur in isolation from other porphyrins.[10]

The mineral is a deoxophylloerythroetioporphyrin (DPEP), with nickel occupying the center of the porphyrin ring. Most of the mineral consists of a C31 porphyrin with small quantities of a C30 norisomer.[11] The mineral crystallizes in the triclinic crystal system.[1]


The mineral was first noted in 1969 in a core sample made by the Western Oil Shale Corporation in Uintah County, Utah.[12] It was described in 1975 in the journal Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs.[13] The mineral was named after Philip H. Abelson (1913–2004), a long-time editor of the journal Science,[7] for his work in organic geochemistry.[14]

Type specimens are held in The Natural History Museum in London and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.[1]


  1. ^ So far as the authors were aware[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Anthony, John W.; Bideaux, Richard A.; Bladh, Kenneth W.; Nichols, Monte C. (eds.). "Abelsonite" (PDF). Handbook of Mineralogy. Chantilly, VA: Mineralogical Society of America.
  2. ^ Hummer et al. 2017, pp. 1129–1132.
  3. ^ a b "Abelsonite". Webmineral. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Abelsonite". Mindat. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  5. ^ Warr, L.N. (2021). "IMA-CNMNC approved mineral symbols". Mineralogical Magazine. 85: 291–320.
  6. ^ Milton et al. 1978, p. 932.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Mason, Trudell & Branthaver 1989, p. 585.
  8. ^ Mason, Trudell & Branthaver 1989, p. 594.
  9. ^ Zhang & Lash 2003, p. 7253.
  10. ^ Mason, Trudell & Branthaver 1989, p. 593.
  11. ^ Storm et al. 1984, p. 1075.
  12. ^ Milton et al. 1978, pp. 930–931.
  13. ^ Fleischer, Michael (May–June 1976). "New Mineral Names" (PDF). American Mineralogist. 61 (5–6): 502.
  14. ^ Milton et al. 1978, p. 931.
  • Hummer, D.R.; Noll, B.C.; Hazen, R.M.; Downs, R.T. (2017). "Crystal structure of abelsonite, the only known crystalline geoporphyrin". American Mineralogist. 102: 1129–1132.
  • Mason, G. M.; Trudell, L. G.; Branthaver, J. F. (1989). "Review of the stratigraphic distribution and diagenetic history of abelsonite". Organic Geochemistry. 14 (6): 585–594. doi:10.1016/0146-6380(89)90038-7. (subscription required)
  • Milton, C.; Dwornik, E. J.; Estep-Barnes, P. A.; Finkelman, R. B.; Pabst, A.; Palmer, S. (September–October 1978). "Abelsonite, nickel porphyrin: A new mineral from the Green River Formation, Utah" (PDF). American Mineralogist. 63 (9–10): 930–937.
  • Storm, C. B.; Krane, J.; Skjetne, T.; Telnaes, N.; Branthaver, J. F.; Baker, E. W. (1984). "The structure of abelsonite". Science. 223 (4640): 1075–1076. doi:10.1126/science.223.4640.1075. JSTOR 1693019. PMID 17830155. S2CID 19850858. (subscription required)
  • Zhang, B.; Lash, T. D. (September 2003). "Total synthesis of the porphyrin mineral abelsonite and related petroporphyrins with five-membered exocyclic rings". Tetrahedron Letters. 44 (39): 7253–7256. doi:10.1016/j.tetlet.2003.08.007. (subscription required)

External links

  • Images of abelsonite from mindat.org