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October 3, 2017

This EarthWord may sound infinite, but it actually refers to a type of finite resource...

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

Image shows a graph with continuous resources and conventional resources
A diagram showing both conventional and continuous oil and gas accumulations. Credit: USGS (Public domain.)

The EarthWord: Continuous Resource


  • Continuous resources, despite their name, are not limitless assets, but rather a type of oil and gas deposit.

  • The continuous part actually refers to how the resource is spread throughout a rock unit and/or petroleum basin. Unlike conventional oil and gas, which usually accumulate in discrete traps, continuous resources extend throughout rock layers and across large areas of a petroleum basin.


  • Continuous comes from the Latin continuus, meaning “uninterrupted,” while resource ultimately comes from the Latin resurgere, meaning “to rise again.”

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Continuous resources occur in or are closely associated with oil and gas source rocks, which means the rock layer that the oil and gas formed in (i.e. the unit is both the source rock and reservoir). Shales, chalks, and sandstones are all typical examples of rock layers that can host continuous oil and gas accumulations.

  • Continuous oil and gas resources often require special techniques to develop, such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing.


Next EarthWord: This EarthWord is probably what you’ve been doing thanks to our fantastic puns...

Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.

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