We take our oil and gas supplies for granted – filling up at the petrol station, firing up our hobs for a fry-up and searching online for the cheapest oil for our boilers. How often do we stop and think about how these precious substances came into being? If you’ve never asked this question, read on to find out how this world-changing resource started out.
- The first stage
Around 600 million years ago, microscopic plants and animals lived in the oceans; they also died there in their countless trillions and their bodies sank to the seabed. During their lives, they absorbed energy from the sun and from nutrients around them, fixing this energy in their bodies as hydrocarbons. Over the millions of years, layer after layer of these creatures and plants were deposited.
- Heat and pressure
Over time, these layers were buried deeper and deeper and the temperature and pressure started to rise. Depending on the amount of heat and pressure, as well as the type or organism, the deposits became either oil or gas. Higher heat made lighter oils and if the biomass was of mainly plant origin and the temperatures were especially high, the result was natural gas.
- Escaping or remaining
Once formed, oil and gas would move through the porous rock surrounding it, with some reaching the surface and escaping into waterways or the atmosphere. Other deposits ended up being trapped under layers of impermeable rock, where they stayed until they were found by drilling teams. These deposits give us our oil and gas.
These deposits – or reserves – have been found all over the globe. At first, demand was low and the supply was high, but as time and technology moved on, our demands for oil and its by-products has become insatiable, so all the easily-accessible oil and gas has been exhausted.
The search for oil is now conducted in the more challenging areas and terrains of the world – think about it, the first prospectors made their fortunes from ground seepage! Drilling teams search for new deposits thousands of feet under the ocean and in the more inhospitable areas of the world.
- We’re not about to run out of oil and gas just yet
If we carry on using oil and gas at our current rate, we have enough to last us for another 50-90 years. This is mainly because our ability to locate and extract oil is improving all the time, not because there’s suddenly more of it.
We can now find and extract gas from deeply-buried coal seams, as well as finding oil and gas from the deep deposits miles beneath the earth’s surface. We also look hundreds of miles offshore and under seabeds that are more than 10,000 feet below the sea.
In addition to this, we are also developing ways to take oil from oil shales (the porous rock that absorbed oil millions of years ago) and coal tars and this could keep us going for a few centuries.
- A greener future
In the meantime, many industries are working hard to develop and improve alternative and renewable energy sources like solar geothermal and wind. These types of energy need to become reliable and cheaper before we can use them to replace oil completely. Solar energy is already becoming a valuable option for many people and has become much more economical in the last decade. It is a natural energy source provided from Mother Nature. Wind power is also being utilized in many states every year as a renewable and sustainable energy source.