Development of Oil and Gas Research Paper

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Oil and Gas

Development of Two Important Materials in Earth's Early History

According to scientists, Earth began its life 4.6 billion years ago, when cosmic dust collided to form increasingly large particles. These particles, after millions of years of colliding and increasing in mass, eventually formed the Earth, with a mass similar to what it is today (5.9736 x 1024 kg or 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg) . Soon, the Earth's atmosphere began to form, as well as various minerals within its core. Studying the Earth is a fascinating endeavor, yet one that comprises extensive research and writing. For the purposes of this paper, I will examine two elements that are of vital importance to human life today: oil and gas. In this study, I will thus speak both about the development of the two materials in the Earth's early history-how they developed, what factors contributed to this development, and when this development occurred -- and how oil and gas have affected our life throughout history and today. [1: "Early History of the Earth." Geography: Physical Geography. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ] [2: Cain, Fraser. "Earth's Mass." Universe Today. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. .]

Oil and Gas: Formation

Oil and gas have been thoroughly discussed and exploited in our modern world, for political and financial purposes. For example, many became rich overnight, especially in the Middle East today or in the United States in the 19th century, following oil deposit discoveries. The words oil, petroleum and hydrocarbon, so popular in our modern day, will be analyzed here to find meaning and provenance of popular use.

To begin understanding how oil and gas are formed, one must understand the concept of fossil fuels. These are energy sources that have formed from remains of dead organisms and include oil, gas, coal, and fuels derived from oil shale and tar sand. Differences between the different fossil fields arise from differences between the starting materials that form the fossil fuels. There are also changes that happen to those organisms buried within the earth, and this impact the fossil fuel formation as well. [3: "Oil...Black Gold...What's All the Fuss About?" Colorado Geological Survey, Vol.7 No.2. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

For example, petroleum, which means "rock-oil" (form the Latin petra (rock) and oleum (oil)), in liquid form, turns to oil as we know it, and comprises "a variety of hydrocarbon compounds," according to the Colorado Geological Survey. This description further goes on to state that compounds are "made up of different proportions of the elements carbon and hydrogen," that there are "gaseous hydrocarbons (natural gas), in which methane is the most common component" as well and that "hydrocarbon mixtures usually also contain minor amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur as impurities." [4: "Oil...Black Gold...What's All the Fuss About?" Colorado Geological Survey, Vol.7 No.2. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

The Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) also explains the process of formation through a set of four diagrams, included below in the footnotes, which illuminate the reader on the formation on oil and gas. The first step of this formation, the creation of oil, happens when land plant debris and sediment falls into water. The production of fossil fuels deposit requires accumulation of organic matter rich in carbon and hydrogen, but this debris must be buried quickly in order to be protected from the air. This process, though lengthy, is important because it ensures that the deposits will not be destroyed by biological decay or its reaction with oxygen. Land debris also mixes with the abundant life in the oceans of the Earth which, when it dies, settles on the sea floor. This is the setting in which oil forms, and most oils have formed from "accumulated marine microorganisms," according to CGS . [5: "How do coal and oil form?" Energy Discussion -- EarthSky. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

The next step is the continuation of the burial process, where organic matter constantly changes. For example, underwater pressures will increase also due to the sediments of rock and thus temperatures will increase as well. Over long periods of time chemical reactions take place, which break down the complex organic molecules into smaller hydrocarbon molecules, according to CGS. The survey goes on to state,

"As the petroleum matures, and as the breakdown of large molecules continues, successively "lighter" hydrocarbons are produced. Thick liquids give way to thinner ones, from which lubricating oils, heating oils, and gasoline are derived. In the final stages, most or all of the petroleum is broken down further into very simple, light, gaseous molecules -- natural gas. Most of the maturation (cooking) process occurs in the temperature range of 50° to 100° C (approximately 120° to 210° F). Above these temperatures, the remaining hydrocarbon is almost entirely methane (natural gas); with further temperature increases, methane can also be broken down and destroyed." [6: " Oil...Black Gold...What's All the Fuss About?" Colorado Geological Survey, Vol.7 No.2. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

Once the organic matter is converted into either liquid or gas, the hydrocarbons migrate out of the source rocks and into more permeable rocks over long spans of geologic time, thus enabling us to today extract oil from these rocks. Oil is found in rocks, not in large pools, which is a myth, and usually will be extracted from the tiny holes in solid rock. The "holes" or "pores" from which the oil is extracted will be filled with water and gas as well, and if unconnected, oil cannot flow out. Permeability is thus important to extracting oil, as is high porosity, which "allows the rock to hold large amount of oil," according to the CGS. [7: Illustration: Colorado Geological Survey" Oil...Black Gold...What's All the Fuss About?" Colorado Geological Survey, Vol.7 No.2. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

Gas has also been described above in its formation, but I would like to include a more comprehensive discussion here. Natural gas, for instance, is colorless, shapeless and odorless in its purest form. We utilize it for many chores, including cooking. Natural gas is combustible as well and unlike other fossil fuels, it is clean burning and "emits lower levels of potentially harmful byproducts into the air." Natural gas is differentiated from oil and other elements of hydrocarbon, such as methane or octane. However, natural gas is mixture of hydrocarbon gases and can be found in methane, ethane, propane and butane. [8: "Background." 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ] [9: " Background." 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

Again, natural gas is a fossil fuel and is formed in the same was as oil: from animal and microorganisms that lived millions of years ago. However, unlike oil, natural gas can also be formed through transformation of microorganisms, which is known as biogenic methane. A third way in which natural gas (or methane) can be formed is through something called "abiogenic processes," which include the rise of underground hydrogen-rich gases to Earth's surface. The reaction of these gases with other compounds found in the earth leads to the formation of methane. [10: " Background." 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. . ]

The above descriptions of the formation of oil and gas, coupled with the descriptions of the components below provide for a clear picture of how these two elements began to exist in our lives today though they formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. However, the question of how to extract these elements from the earth is also complex and requires not only invention, but manpower and financial power. This will be described briefly below, but, one must note that oil and gas wells are risky and do not always yield results. Extraction of these tow fossil fuels is a long and arduous process, and this is just to hydrocarbons. After that, the process of purifying the elements in special plants by skilled workers must also occur. Thus, one must wonder why go through all this trouble to get oil and gas. [11: Than, Ker. "The Mysterious Origin and Supply of Oil." Live Science. 2005. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. .]

The answer is that oil and gas have been around for a long time, including the last 200 years, which have had a huge impact upon our civilization, and these fuels have thus been brought into daily activities such as transportation, food production, clothing production, and even some recreational activities. We cannot live without oil and gas, mainly because they have been utilized by humans since the beginning of recorded history, and perhaps even before that. For example, oil pits are described as far back as 450 B.C. By Herodotus. In circa 100 A.D., Plutarch is said to have described "oil bubbling from the ground near Kirkuk in present day Iraq." A more recent instance involves the Dutch traveler, Jan Struys, who visited Azerbaijan and wrote that there were "wells built with stones" and that white and black oil was "coming to the surface on Besh Barmag mountain"…[continue]

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