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AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition

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Lewis G. Weeks and the “Oil Habitat” Paradigm in Petroleum Geology


In March 1955, a symposium titled “Habitat of Oil” was held by the AAPG during its annual convention in New York. The proceedings volume of this symposium, edited by Lewis G. Weeks (1893-1977), was published in 1958. The symposium and its 1300-page publication marked the integration and culmination of the three previous paradigms in petroleum exploration, namely, the “anticline” theory, the “economic distribution” analysis, and the “subsurface entrapment” geology. Taking the Oil Habitat publication as a point of departure, this paper reviews how the previous three previous paradigms in petroleum geology developed and eventually led to the concept of “Oil Habitat.” Furthermore, it is argued that Lewis Weeks' opening paper titled “Habitat of oil and some factors that control it” heralded the era of systematic exploration that later came to be called the “petroleum system” analysis. The Oil Habitat paradigm described in the 1958 AAPG publication thus marked a transition between two major periods of geologic thinking in petroleum exploration, namely pre-1950s and post-1960s. The significant of “oil habitat” analysis has not diminished with the rise of the so-called unconventional shale plays because it is still crucial to locate the generative aspects and productive sweet spots of these self-sourced reservoirs.