Geology And Geophysics

Where Oil comes from



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Oil transformed the world and propelled humanity into the age of engines and high technology of composite materials, plastics, medicines and a multitude of catalectic agents used to energise manufacturing processes in almost every conceivable industry. If oil were to suddenly disappear, the world today is ill prepared to function without such a basic source of nearly all energy and propulsion. So what is the source of this incredible source of energy that transformed the world?

Oil is traditionally considered a fossil fuel and as such, this is our only clue to the processes in how oil is formed in nature. Scientific consensus believes that oil is the fossilised remains of plants and marine organisms accumulated on ancient ocean floors, riverbeds or swamps. Over millions of years where accumulated layers of mud, sand and more organic sediment, heat is generated and the lower levels are subjected to pressure as layers continue to accumulate. In time a dark and waxy substance known as kerogen is formed.

Over more time, and with increasing heat and pressure, kerogen begins to decompose on a molecular scale where lighter molecules are principally carbon or hydrogen atoms. Depending on the consistency of the newly formed substances, the result is oil or natural gas. In the scientific community there is much debate regarding how long this process takes that suggest anywhere from hundreds of thousands of years, to millions there is no real consensus on this issue.

The fact is that the above is not anymore than a theory because the scientific community still argue and debate as well as experiment by attempting to replicate the process at a greatly accelerated rate. Some degree of success suggests validity in the generally accepted theory of oil creation yet manufacturing oil using organic matter has been possible since the late 19th century.

This in a way proves as well as possible the validity in conventional thinking regarding the natural formation of oil however irrespective of fact or theory, oil is a finite resource. At some time in our future, natural reserves will run dry and unless more oil is found, the world will face the choice of alternative energy or more efficient production of synthesised oil products with which to produce the fuels we so heavily rely on to exist in our 21st century lifestyle.

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