Oil / Petroleum is basically a mix of naturally occurring organic compounds from within the earth that contain primarily hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. There is also natural gas, which can be associated with oil or found alone.
Most oils are mixtures of many different compounds, most of which are hydrocarbons.
Petroleum in ancient times was called bitumen, and mankind for centuries was not at all sure what bitumen was made of or where it came from. Two ideas developed in ancient times to explain the composition and origin of bitumen. One held that bitumen was inorganic and bore no relation to living things, whereas the other theorized that it somehow formed from once-living plants or animals.
Leo Lesqueroux, considered the father of paleobotany, claimed in 1866 that petroleum in Pennsylvania formed from marine algae in Devonian shales much the same way that coal forms from land plants. Later, Anderson and Arnold convincingly argued in a 1907 bulletin of the U.S. Geological Survey that the only possible source for oils from Santa Maria field in California was microscopic fossil plants, called diatoms. Another bulletin by Clarke in 1916 demonstrated that the Santa Maria oils were chemically similar to the organic remains of diatoms.
There is agreement among most geologists today that crude oil was formed over million of years from the remains of tiny aquatic plants and animals. This oil was formed from organic matter that is either "cooked" deep within the earth.
Kerogen is the name given to the fossil organic matter. Kerogen occurring in many areas is derived mainly from Diatoms one-celled planktonic plants with microscopic shells of silica. Other types of plankton & sometimes bacteria that feed on decaying Plankton make up most of the kerogen in many of the oil source rocks.
Most crude oil was thus formed from planktons, one-celled plants and animals, which floated on the surfaces of ancient oceans. As these organisms died, they settled to the Ocean floor and were covered with mud. If the mud did not contain enough oxygen for the soft parts of these organisms to decay, then the organic material was converted into kerogen. Some kerogen may later be converted into oil.
Some oils also formed from non-marine algae and bacteria which grew in ancient lakes.
In summary, most crude oil formed from microscopic plants and animals – prominent among them being algae - that died millions of years ago. With deeper burial, sufficient time and temperature, the soft parts of these organisms, were slowly converted to oil over millions of years
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Some interesting resources
- Energy & Oil Related Questions at Billion Dollar Questions:
- Plant Oils Database – provides resources and links for over 200 different plant oils and related plant extracts
About Oilgae - Oilgae - Oil & Biodiesel from Algae has a focus on biodiesel production from algae while also discussing alternative energy in general. Algae present an exciting possibility as a feedstock for biodiesel, and when you realise that oil was originally formed from algae - among others - you think "Hey! Why not oil again from algae!"
To facilitate exploration of oil production from algae as well as exploration of other alternative energy avenues, Oilgae provides web links, directory, and related resources for algae-based biofuels / biodiesel along with inputs on new inventions, discoveries & breakthroughs in other alternative energy domains such as Solar Wind nuclear, hydro, Geothermal hydrogen & fuel cells, gravitational, geothemal, human-powered, ocean & Wave / Tidal energy. We hope Oilgae proves to be useful as a research information & inputs resources, and as a source of news & info for business & trade of algal oil, algal fuels & new alternative energy products - specially with regard to new feedstock / feedstocks, production processes and uses, and market info such as price / prices, data & statistics