#### Abstract

Planar limits, defined as lines generated by connecting maximum double-bond equivalence (DBE) values at given carbon numbers, are proposed as a means of predicting and understanding the molecular structure of compounds in crude oil. The slopes and y-intercepts of the lines are determined by the DBE/carbon number ratios of functional groups defining the planar limits. For example, the planar limit generated by a serial addition of saturated cyclic rings has a slope of 0.25. The planar limit formed by the linear and nonlinear addition of benzene rings yields lines with slopes of 0.75 and 1, respectively. The y-intercepts of these lines were determined by additional functional groups added within a series of molecules. Plots of DBE versus carbon number for S(1) class compounds observed by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR MS) showed that saturates/aromatics/resins/asphaltenes (SARA) fractions exhibited unique slopes and y-intercepts. The slope of the planar limit observed from a saturates fraction matched well with the slope of a planar limit generated by the serial addition of saturated cyclic rings. The slopes of planar limits of aromatics and resins fractions were very similar to that obtained from the linear addition of benzene rings. Finally, the slope of the asphaltenes fraction was almost identical to the slope obtained from the nonlinear addition of benzene rings. Simulated and experimental data show that SARA fractions exhibit different molecular structure characteristics. On the basis of the slope and y-intercept of the planar limit, the structures of molecules in SARA fractions were predicted and suggested. The use of planar limits for structural interpretation is not limited to crude oil compounds but can also be used to study other organic mixtures such as humic substances or metabolites.