Petroleum-bearing fluid inclusions emit fluorescent light when excited with UV or visible light. The fluorescence decay time of the emission is dependent upon the wavelengths of the excitation and emission light, and the chemical composition of the petroleum oil. In general heavy oils have short lifetimes, whereas the emission from light oils is much longer lived. One can thus use plots of the fluorescence lifetime versus emission wavelength (tau-lambda plots), to show even subtle changes in the chemical composition of the entrapped oil. As a consequence, these tau-lambda plots can be used for fluid inclusion research to discriminate different oil populations in situ. In particular, it is demonstrated that tau-lambda plots discriminate two sets of inclusion oils in each of four North Atlantic basins [Jeanne d'Arc Basin (Newfoundland), Porcupine Basin (Ireland), Clair field West of Shetland (UK) and Kangerlussuaq Basin (East Greenland)] where multistage oil charge is inferred from other geological evidence.