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Pennsylvania's Contribution to Petroleum Geology

Parke A. Dickey

John F. Carll of the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania laid the foundations of both petroleum geology and reservoir engineering. J. P. Lesley, director of the Second Survey, had introduced structure contours when he was working in the anthracite fields. He pointed out that the great oil fields of Pennsylvania were in the only part of the state where there were no anticlines. I. C. White, another geologist with the Second Survey, emphasized the anticlinal theory adopted as a method of prospecting until the discovery of the Cushing field in Oklahoma in 1912. George Ashley, state geologist of Pennsylvania in the 1930s and 1940s, said that after the gas companies had drilled all the anticlines there would still be the synclines.

David White in 1915 noticed the relation between the metamorphosis (rank) of coal and the occurrence of oil and gas. This method (vitrinite reflectance) is now widely applied in the evaluation of basins.

In the late 1930s, the resurvey of the Pennsylvania oil regions showed that the reservoirs were shoreline sands, probably barrier islands. In the 1950s the AAPG recommended a study of the recent sediments of the Mississippi delta by Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The ability to recognize depositional environments has caused a revolution in petroleum geology, and recently has been recognized by petroleum engineers as the key to reservoir characterization.

When the Bradford field was revived by waterflooding in the 1920s, some of the more enlightened operators took cores and started a research group at Penn State University. Fancher, Lewis, and Barnes in 1933 wrote the first paper on permeability. About the same time, Muskat and others at Gulf Research in Pittsburgh investigated the flow of fluids in porous media, and laid the foundations of our understanding of reservoir behavior.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91028©1989 AAPG History of Petroleum Industry Symposium, September 17-20, 1989, Titusville, Pennsylvania.