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Musings on the History of Petroleum Geochemistry – From My Perch


In the 1930's, Parker Trask in the USA and Alfred Treibs in Germany both recognized that crude oil was derived from organic matter in sedimentary rocks and the field of organic geochemistry was born. Petroleum geochemistry is a sub-division and was first formally recognized in 1959 at the 5th World Petroleum Congress. In the 1950's, G.T. Philippi at Shell and J. M. Hunt at N.J. Standard competed to get new petroleum geochemical ideas into print. Their concepts spread rapidly in the 1960's and several organic geochemical societies were formed, many papers written, and meetings held. By 1970, interest in petroleum geochemistry had exploded and many classic impact papers were published. Computer driven technology made detailed analysis or sedimentary organic matter possible on a scale not seen before. Interest in petroleum geochemistry waned in the 1984-2003 recession period and attention turned to other organic geochemical disciplines. Petroleum geochemistry had a new awakening in 2004 when conventional oil and gas source rocks became unconventional reservoirs. New technologies, improved computers, and an interdisciplinay approach defined source rocks and their production potential in more detail than was previously possible and petroleum geochemistry assumed an important place on exploration and production teams. Because of the pre-unconventional reservoir recession, experienced petroleum geochemists are in short supply and their future never looked brighter.