The opinion that has prevailed among most scientists since the 1870s is called the biogenetic theory. This “holds that biological debris buried in sediments decays into oil and natural gas in the long course of time and that this petroleum then becomes concentrated in the spore space of sedimentary rocks in the upper most layer of the {Earths} crust.” This process then produces petroleum, whose main components are hydrocarbons-that is, hydrogen and carbon. However, since the 1970s this theory has at time been challenged by some scientists.

In the august 20, 2002, issue of Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, the article “The Genesis of Hydrocarbons and the Origin Petroleum” was published. The authors argue that the origin of natural petroleum must occur at depths that are “well into the mantle of the Earth” and not at the much shallower depths generally accepted.

  Physicist Thomas Gold has suggested some controversial theories and explains his reasons in detail in his book The Deep Hot Biosphere-The Myth of Fossil Fuels. “The theory of the biological origin of hydrocarbons was so favored in the United States and in much of Europe that it effectively shut out work on the opposing viewpoint. This was not the case in the countries of the former Soviet Union.” That was probably because the revered Russian chemist Mendeleyev had supported the biogenic {not biological} view. The arguments he presented are even stronger today, given the greatly expanded information we now have.” What is the biogenic view?

  Gold states: “The biogenic theory holds that hydrocarbons were a component of the material that formed the earth, through accretion of solids, some 4.5 billion years ago.” According to this theory, the elements of petroleum have been deep in the earth since the earth’s formation.*


*EXPLORING: Seismic surveying, one method used, records the below-ground reflections of artificially generated sound waves.

*EXTRACTING: Extraction methods include the use of inland, offshore, and under water oil wells. To maintain the pressure gases or water may be injected.

*TRANSPORTING: Pipelines above the ground and under the sea transport the oil. Other methods of transport include tankers, barges and rail cars.

*REFINING: Crude oil is heated, distilled and broken up into fractions that can be used to make everyday products.


1.       Refinery Gases: These include methane, ethane, propane, and butane.

2.       Gasoline: Used as automobile fuel and as raw materials for plastics.

3.       Naphtha:  Can be made into plastics, automobile fuel and other chemicals.

4.       Kerosene: Made into jet fuel and oil.

5.       Gas Oil: Made into diesel and furnace fuels.

6.       Residue: Further processed into refinery fuels, heavy fuel oil, candle wax, greases


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