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Origin of Petroleum MG672 Oil and Gas Management

Global oil & gas industry Oil and Gas formation &reserves

Ancient, and Less Ancient, Times Small amounts of petroleum have been used throughout history. The Egyptians coated mummies and sealed their mighty Pyramids with pitch. The Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians used it to pave their streets and hold their walls and buildings together.

Origin of Petroleum
1000 A.D. Arab scientists discovered distillation and were able to make kerosene. This was lost after the 12 th century! Rediscovered by a Canadian geologist called Abraham Gesner in 1852

Origin of Petroleum
3000 BC: Fertile Crescent & Baku Seeps
Oil seeps noted along banks of Euphrates Azerbaijan Persias land of fire

Ancient Persians and Sumatrans also believed petroleum had medicinal value. Boats along the Euphrates were constructed with woven reeds and sealed with pitch.

Origin of Petroleum
The Chinese 600 BC also came across it while digging holes for brine (salt water) and used the petroleum for heating. They burned the gas to evaporate brine for salt. The Bible even claims that Noah used it to make his Ark seaworthy.

Origin of Petroleum
American Indians used petroleum for paint, fuel, and medicine . Desert nomads used it to treat camels for mange , and the Holy Roman Emperor , Charles V, used petroleum it to treat his gout .


Origin of Petroleum
1291 AD: Marco Polos Journey
Caspian oil produced for medicine, lamps Brought back sample of oil from Sumatra

The Search for Oil

Yet despite its usefulness, for thousands of years petroleum was very scarce . People collected it when it bubbled to the surface or seeped into wells. For those digging wells to get drinking water the petroleum was seen as a nuisance. However, some thought the oil might have large scale economic value.

This seemed a popular idea, and up through the 19th Century jars of petroleum were sold as miracle tonic able to cure whatever ailed you. People who drank this " snake oil" discovered that petroleum doesn't taste very good!

George Bissell
George Bissell is often considered the father of the American oil industry Bissell had the innovative idea of using this oil to produce kerosene, then in high demand. he and his partner, Jonathan Eveleth, formed the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company for this purpose. After getting confirmation of the usefulness of the product from Yale chemist Benjamin Silliman Jr., in 1854 Bissell and a friend formed the unsuccessful Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company . In 1858 Bissell and a group of business men formed the Seneca Oil Company . They hired an ex-railroad conductor named Edwin Drake to drill for oil along a secluded creek in Titusville Pennsylvania.

Colonel Drake
In 1856, after seeing pictures of derrick drilling for salt, Bissell conceived of the idea of drilling for oil, rather than mining it. This was widely considered ludicrous at the time but on August 27, 1859, the company first succeeded in striking oil, on a farm in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Bissell invested heavily in the surrounding region and ended up becoming a wealthy business man. The company's agent, Edwin Drake, is sometimes credited with the "discovery" of oil.

Pennsylvania's "Black Gold"

Drake's well produced only thirty-five barrels a day, however he could sell it for $20 a barrel. News of the well quickly spread and brought droves of fortune seekers. Soon the hills were covered with prospectors trying to decide where to dig their wells. Some used Y-shaped divining rods to guide them.


Pennsylvania's "Black Gold"

To dig the wells six-inch wide cast iron pipes were sunk down to the bedrock . A screw like drill was then used to scoop out dirt and rock from the middle. Many discovered to their dismay that once they hit oil they had no way to contain all of it. Until caps were added to the wells vast quantities of oil flowed into the appropriately named Oil Creek.

The First Pipeline

Transporting the oil was also a problem. In 1865 Samuel Van Syckel, an oil buyer, began construction on a two-inch wide pipeline designed to span the distance to the railroad depot five miles away. The teamsters, who had previously transported the oil, didn't take to kindly to Syckel's plan, and they used pickaxes to break apart the line . Eventually Van Syckel brought in armed guards, finished the pipeline, and made a ton-o-money. By 1865 wooden derricks extracted 3.5 million barrels a year out of the ground. Such large scale production caused the price of crude oil to plummet to ten cents a barrel.

How Much Oil?

Andrew Carnegie was a large stockholder in the Columbia Oil Company. Carnegie believed that the oil fields would quickly run dry because of all the drilling. He persuaded Columbia Oil to dig a huge hole to store 100,000 barrels of oil so that they could make a killing when the country's wells went dry. Luckily there was more oil than they thought! But don't feel too sorry for Carnegie, he didn't let the setback slow him down very much, and went on to make his millions in the steel industry.


Early Refining
In contrast, "Colonel" Drake was committed to the oil business. He scoured the country looking for customers willing to buy his crude oil. However, the bad smell, muddy black color, and highly volatile component, called naphtha, caused few sales. It became obvious that one would have to refine the oil to find a market. By 1860 there were 15 refineries in operation. Known as "tea kettle" stills , they consisted of a large iron drum and a long tube which acted as a condenser. Capacity of these stills ranged from 1 to 100 barrels a day. A coal fire heated the drum, and three fractions were obtained during the distillation process.

The first component to boil off was the highly volatile naphtha. Next came the kerosene, or "lamp oil", and lastly came the heavy oils and tar which were simply left in the bottom of the drum. These early refineries produced about 75% kerosene, which could be sold for high profits.

Kerosene was so valuable because of a whale shortage that had began in 1845 due to heavy hunting. Sperm oil had been the main product of the whaling industry and was used in lamps. Candles were made with another whale product called "spermaceti".

This shortage of natural sources meant that kerosene was in great demand. Almost all the families across the country started using kerosene to light their homes. However, the naphtha and tar fractions were seen as valueless and were simply dumped into Oil Creek.

Later these waste streams were converted into valuable products. In 1869 Robert Chesebrough discovered how to make petroleum jelly and called his new product Vaseline . The heavy components began being used as lubricants, or as waxes in candles and chewing gum .


John D. Rockefeller
Tar was used as a roofing material. But the more volatile components were still without much value. Limited success came in using gasoline as a local anesthetic and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in a compression cycle to make ice. The success in refined petroleum products greatly spread the technique. By 1865 there were 194 refineries in operation.

In 1862 John D. Rockefeller financed his first refinery as a side investment. He soon discovered that he liked the petroleum industry, and devoted himself to it full time. As a young bookkeeper Rockefeller had come to love the order of a well organized ledger. However, he was appalled by the disorder and instability of the oil industry.

Anyone could drill a well, and overproduction plagued the early industry. At times this overproduction meant that the crude oil was cheaper than water. Rockefeller saw early on, that refining and transportation, as opposed to production, were the keys to taking control of the industry. And control the industry he did!

In 1870 he established Standard Oil, which then controlled 10% of the refining capacity in the country. Transportation often encompassed 20% of the total production cost and Rockefeller made under-the-table deals with railroads to give him secret shipping rebates.

This cheap transportation allowed Standard to undercut its competitors and Rockefeller expanded aggressively, buying out competitors left and right. Soon Standard built a network of "iron arteries" which delivered oil across the Eastern U.S.

This pipeline system relieved Standard's dependence upon the railroads and reduced its transportation costs even more. By 1880 Standard controlled 90% of the country's refining capacity . Because of its massive size, it brought security and stability to the oil business, guaranteeing continuous profits. With Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller became the richest person in the World


Origin of petroleum
The great compositional complexity of petroleums (this term includes both oil and gas) reflects the combined effects of all processes involved in the origin of petroleum accumulations and their fate during long periods of geological time.

Since relevant geological and geochemical conditions under which these processes proceed can vary from place to place, the composition of petroleums are subject to great variations.

As a general rule, the origin of petroleum is never in the reservoir accumulation from which it is produced. Instead, petroleums have experienced a long series of processes prior to accumulation in the reservoir.

Fig. 1. Main geological conditions and geochemical processes required for the formation of petroleum accumulations in sedimentary basins: 1) petroleum generation in source rocks; 2) primary migration of petroleum; 3) secondary migration of petroleum; 4) accumulation of petroleum in a reservoir trap; 5) seepage of petroleum at the Earths surface as a consequence of a fractured cap rock.

Petroleum accumulation forms in sedimentary basins and can be discovered by exploration, if the following geological conditions are met: Occurrence of source rocks which generate petroleums under proper subsurface temperature conditions. Sediment compaction leading to expulsion of petroleum from the source and into the reservoir rocks (primary migration).


Occurrence of reservoir rocks of sufficient porosity and permeability allowing flow of petroleum through the pore system (secondary migration). Structural configurations of sedimentary strata whereby the reservoir rocks form traps, i.e. closed containers in the subsurface for the accumulation of petroleum. Traps are sealed above by impermeable sediment layers (cap rocks) in order to keep petroleum accumulations in place.

Correct timing with respect to the sequence by which the processes of petroleum generation /migration and trap formation have occurred during the history of a sedimentary basin. Favourable conditions for the preservation of petroleum accumulation during extended periods of geologic time, i.e. absence of destructive, such as the fracturing of cap rocks leading to dissipation of petroleum accumulations, or severe heating resulting in the cracking of oil into gas.

The question of the origin of petroleum has been hotly debated for a long time. A great many theories, hypotheses and speculations have been proposed. Decades ago, various ideas on a possible inorganic origin of petroleum were brought forward, e.g. that it results from the reaction of iron carbide with water deep in the Earths crust.

The main evidence supporting these theories was the occasional occurrence of hydrocarbon fluid inclusions and solid bitumens in igneous rocks as well as a few cases of oil and gas fields hosted in fractured basement rocks (e.g. granites, basalts, and metamorphic rocks).

However, in most of these cases it could be demonstrated that the petroleum materials were ultimately generated in sedimentary rocks and had been transported, e.g. by convective flow of mineralising aqueous fluids, into the granites, or that they had migrated from sedimentary strata over long distances to accumulate in fractured basement rocks. These cases of petroleums occurring in basement rocks are extremely rare and not commercially important when compared to the vast majority of hydrocarbon reserves in sedimentary basins (Selley, 1998).

One of the main arguments concerns the ubiquitous occurrence of biological marker molecules in petroleums, such as porphyrines, steranes and hopanes. The highly specific carbon structures of these molecules could not be synthesized by inorganic reactions. They are clearly and uniquely derived from molecular structures synthesized by living organisms.


Petroleum source rocks

Today, the evidence in favour of an organic origin of petroleum is overwhelming. One of the main arguments concerns the ubiquitous occurrence of biological marker molecules in petroleums, such as porphyrines, steranes and hopanes. The highly specific carbon structures of these molecules could not be synthesized by inorganic reactions. They are clearly and uniquely derived from molecular structures synthesized by living organisms.

Petroleum source beds are fine grained, clayrich siliclastic rocks (mudstones, shales) or dark coloured carbonate rocks (limestones, marlstones), which have generated and effectively expelled hydrocarbons. A petroleum source is characterised by three essential conditions:

1. it must have a sufficient content of finely dispersed organic matter of biological origin; this organic matter must be of a specific composition, i.e. hydrogen-rich; 2. the source rock must be buried at certain depths and 3. subjected to proper subsurface temperatures in order to initiate the process of petroleum generation by the thermal degradation of kerogen.

Based on empirical evidence, minimum concentration levels of 1.5% and 0.5% total organic carbon (TOC) in source rocks of siliclastic and carbonate lithologies respectively have been established (Hunt, 1996). The organic carbon concentration is an approximate measure of the organic matter content of a rock.

Organic matter is predominantly composed of organic carbon, but also contains minor amounts of heteroelements (N, S, and O). This minimum concentration of organic carbon in source rocks is controlled by the relationship between the quantity of petroleum generated and the internal storage capacity of the rocks in terms of their porosity. If too little organic matter is present, the small quantities of petroleum generated will not exceed the storage capacity of the rock, i.e. no petroleum expulsion will take place.

Most source rocks which have effectively generated and expelled commercial quantities of petroleum have TOC concentrations in the order of 2-10%. An example of a prolific source rock of siliclastic lithology is the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation in the North Sea Basin which has generated most of the oil accumulated in many large fields in that area. It has TOC contents ranging mostly between 5 and 12% (Bordenave et al., 1993).


A good-quality petroleum source rock of carbonate lithology is exemplified by the Triassic-age Meride Limestone, which is the source of the oil present in several fields in the Po valley area of northern Italy. Its TOC content varies mostly between 0.5 and 1.5% (Leythaeuser et al., 1995). The reason why petroleum source rocks of carbonate lithologies tend to have significantly lower TOC concentrations has to do with the quality and composition of the organic matter present. In carbonate source rocks, the organic matter tends to be richer in hydrogen.

Most petroleum source rocks display dark brown to black colours. This is due to the presence of finely disseminated organic matter as well as finely dispersed pyrite crystals (FeS2). 2 cm section seen under a microscope

Basic Depositional Scenarios

There are three basic depositional scenarios which ensure favourable conditions for the preservation of organic matter. 1. The stagnation model requires a silled basin, i.e. a marine basin which has highly restricted water circulation with the open ocean (Fig. 3 A).

The Stagnation Model

This is the case today, e.g. of the Black Sea which is up to 2,500 m deep but only has a narrow 25 m deep connection to the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the high input of freshwater from rivers, surface waters of the Black Sea have lower salinity levels.

Productivity Model
Below the halocline lies a huge, stagnant water mass which provides favourable conditions for the preservation of dead bodies of algae that settle down from the surface interval where there are light and nutrients for their growth (bioproductivity). The second principal depositional system in this context is the so-called productivity model (Fig. 3 B).


In certain areas of todays world oceans, nutrient-rich bottom water currents upwell across the shelf edges from deep parts of the continental slopes. When they reach the near-surface interval penetrated by sun light (photic zone), a massive growth of marine algae occurs (phytoplanctonic blooms). Enormous quantities of algal biomass are produced by this photosynthetic activity.

This is the basis of the marine food chain, i. e. algae are eaten by zooplankton which in turn are eaten by fish, etc. After the residues of all of these dead organisms sink down through the water column, degradation and decay is initiated.

The vast majority of this biomass is of phytoplanctonic origin. Due to the great quantity of decaying organic matter, oxygen is consumed at such a rate that dysaerobic and anaerobic conditions are established within the water column. Sharp contact between oxygen deficient bottom waters and oxygen-bearing water masses above, is again observed.

This is known as the redox-boundary. On the ocean floor the organic matter is partly degraded by micro-organisms. In this process, bacterial biomass is added to the sedimentary organic matter. TOC contents of sediments deposited under this environmental regime are in the order of 2-4%.

Oxygen-minimum Zone Model

Currents of water masses of higher density originate in arctic and Antarctic oceanic realms and flow along the deep ocean topography towards lower latitudes.
The third principal scenario leading to deposition of organic matter rich sediments is controlled by the global deep oceanic circulation system (Fig. 3 C).



Wherever they encounter major topographic elevations they displace nutrient-rich bottom water masses towards the surface of the ocean. In this way, a series of processes and effects are initiated which are similar to those in the upwelling regime leading to the establishment of an open-ocean oxygenminimum zone.

Wherever this oxygen minimum zone impinges on a continental shelf, organic matter-rich sediments are deposited. Such conditions can be observed in todays oceans, e.g. along parts of the deep shelf offshore India and Pakistan.

What has been described here in terms of type of organic matter input for marine sediment systems applies in a similar way to great lakes on the continents, e.g. the lakes in the East African Rift Valley. Biomass derived from freshwater algae and bacteria is deposited in dysaerobic or anaerobic bottom waters of deep lakes, the water masses of which never get overturned.

All the depositional environments of marine and freshwater systems can also receive an input of organic matter derived from higher land plants transported by rivers or glaciers, or wind-blown. In contrast to algal or bacterial biomass which is rich in hydrogen, land plant-derived organic matter tends, due to high contributions by cellulose and lignin-derived precursor materials, to be rich in oxygen.

The solid organic matter in source rocks which is insoluble in low-boiling organic solvents is called kerogen. Kerogen is partly formed by the accumulation of resistant macromolecular substances of biological origin such as cellular lipids, algae cell walls, membranes, cuticles, spores and pollen, etc.

Other parts of kerogen are formed in sediments during a process called diagenesis:
The geochemical and mineralogical processes that occur within the topmost interval of a sedimentary column. Organic matter is synthesized by living organisms in the form of biopolymers such as carbohydrates, proteins, lignin, etc.

Kerogen is, however, not a polymer in a strict chemical sense, rather a complex mixture of high molecular weight substances.



The main building blocks are polycondensed aromatic ring-systems with attached aliphatic side chains of various lengths which are interconnected by a variety of functional groups, such as esther, ketone and sulphide-bridges. In summary, kerogen consists of a physical mixture of diagenetically restructured biomass as well as preserved biosynthesized compounds (Killops and Killops, 1993).

van Krevelen diagram Evolutionary pathways

A useful and initial geochemical approach for determining the complex composition of kerogen is by elemental analysis and consideration of the relationship between the atomic hydrogen/carbonratio H/C and the atomic oxygen/carbon-ratio O/C (Fig. 4). The high H/C-ratio of type I-kerogens, goes back to a high input of algae and bacterial biomass and
In this way, the great variety of kerogens occurring in nature can be classified into three broad categories referred to as type I-, type IIand type IIIkerogens.

Fig. 4. Variation of elemental composition of naturally occurring kerogens in terms of their atomic H/C- and O/Cratios Classification of kerogens into three broad categories. Elemental composition of organic matter in freshly deposited sediments is plotted towards the upper right end of each field (diagenesis stage). With increasing burial, kerogen transformation proceeds during the catagenesis and metagenesis stages.

Fig. 5. Diagram to illustrate the main conditions and processes for kerogen formation from biological precursor materials and kerogen transformation into petroleum products with increasing maturation



Petroleum generation
Oil and gas are generated by the thermal degradation of kerogen in the source beds. With increasing burial, the temperature in these rocks rises and, above a certain threshold temperature, the chemically labile portion of the kerogen begins to transform into petroleum compounds. The main reaction mechanism is the breaking of carbon-carbon bonds (cracking), which requires that the input of thermal energy exceed certain minimum levels (activation energy). Activation energies vary according to the position and type of carbon-carbon bond within the kerogen structure.

At higher temperature levels, petroleum compounds are generated by the cracking of carbon-carbon bonds within the kerogen structure in such a way that long aliphatic side chains and saturated ring structures are removed from it.

These reactions result in gradual changes in the elemental composition of the kerogen, especially in a decrease of its hydrogen content. These changes are expressed in the van Krevelen diagram for each kerogen type as trend lines, the so-called evolutionary pathways (see again Fig. 4).

The generation of oil and gas in source rocks is a natural consequence of the increase of subsurface temperature during geologic time. The process of kerogen transformation with increasing temperatures is called maturation, which is subdivided into the catagenenis and metagenesis stages

With respect to the stage to which petroleum generation has advanced, the organic matter is labeled immature prior to the onset of hydrocarbon generation, mature if hydrocarbon generation is in progress, or over mature when these reactions have been terminated.



oil window
Heat is the main driving force in maturation and petroleum generation reactions. The temperature interval where oil generation is in progress is referred to as the liquid window or oil window. It extends over the temperature interval of about 80-150C.

B. Formation of Oil
Surface to about km, T , 50 C; CH4

B. Formation of Oil
Greater than 4 km, and 150C Dry gas C rich residue Graphite developed

50 to 150C, P about 1.5 kb Compaction of sediment, expulsion of water Organic matter becomes kerogen and liquid petroleumbiogenic gas decreases, however some formed by thermal cracking of kerogen Wet gas: methane+ethane+propane+butane

Origin (1): Chemistry

en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Image:Petroleum.JPG en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Image:Octane_molecule_3D_model.png

Origin (2): Plankton

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Plant plankton 10,000 of these bugs would fit on a pinhead!

Animal plankton


Oil and gas are made of a mixture of different hydrocarbons. As the name suggests these are large molecules made up of hydrogen atoms attached to a backbone of carbon.

en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Image:Ceratium_hirundinella.jpg

en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Image:Copepod.

Crude Oil

Most oil and gas starts life as microscopic plants and animals that live in the ocean.



Origin (3): Blooms

s erc.carleton.edu/ images / microbelife/ topics/ red_tide_genera.v3.jpg

Origin (4): On the sea bed

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T oday, most plankton can be found where deep ocean currents rise to the surface This upwelling water is rich in nutrients and causes the plankton to bloom Blooms of certain plankton called dinoflagellates may give the water a red tinge Sea bed

When the plankton dies it rains down on sea bed to form an organic mush

en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Image:N err0328.jpg

Miriam G odfrey

If there are any animals on the sea bed these will feed on the organic particles

Dinoflagellate bloom

Origin (6): Cooking Origin (5): Black Shale

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However , if there is little or no oxygen in the water then animals cant survive and the organic mush accumulates

As Black Shale is buried, it is heated.

Organic matter is first changed by the increase in temperature into kerogen, which is a solid form of hydrocarbon Around 90 C, it is changed into a liquid state, which we call oil

Where sediment contains more than 5% organic matter , it eventually forms a rock known as a Black Shale



Around 150 C, it is changed into a gas A rock that has produced oil and gas in this way is known as a Source Rock

www.oilandgas geology.com/ oil_g as _w indow.jpg Earth Science W orld Image Bank

Origin (7): Migration

Origin (8): Ancient Earth
www.diveco.co.nz / img/ ga llery/ 2006/diver_bubbles .j pg

Hot oil and gas is less dense than the source rock in which it occurs Oil and gas migrate upwards up through the rock in much the same way that the air bubbles of an underwater diver rise to the surface

Ron Blakey, Ariz ona Flags taff

During mid-Mesozoic times around 150 million years ago, conditions were just right to build up huge thicknesses of Black Shale source rocks

Rising oil

Ancient Earth The worlds main oil deposits all formed in warm shallow seas where plankton bloomed but bottom waters were deoxygenated

The rising oil and gas eventually gets trapped in pockets in the rock called reservoirs



Why is there oil in Texas?

II. A Strategic Natural Resource

National Geographic, 2002

Origin (9): Source of North Sea Oil

Ian and Tonya W es t

Black Shale

Ancient Earth

The Kimmeridge Clay is a Black Shale with up to 50% organic matter . It is the main source rock for the North Sea Oil & Gas Province