Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Early developments in petroleum geochemistry

January 31, 2002

Petroleum geochemistry is the outgrowth of the application of the principles and methods of organic chemistry to petroleum refining and petroleum geology. This paper reviews 120 years of petroleum geochemistry, from about 1860 to 1980, and includes a discussion of the formal recognition of petroleum geochemistry as an earth-science discipline starting in 1959 when a general petroleum geochemistry symposium was first organized at Fordham University, New York. A chronology of significant events, including concepts, techniques, and textbook publications, is presented. Because petroleum geochemistry has been a tool for petroleum exploration from the beginning, the early developments of surface prospecting, source-rock identification, and oil/oil and oil/source correlation are discussed, along with the application of geochemistry to petroleum migration, accumulation, and alteration. In addition the paper deals with the biomarker revolution, which began in earnest about 1964, and with early models of geothermal history. Concepts in petroleum geochemistry have continually evolved, enhanced by the development of new analytical techniques, leading to new discoveries concerning the origin and occurrence of petroleum.

Publication Year 2002
Title Early developments in petroleum geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/S0146-6380(02)00056-6
Authors J.M. Hunt, R. Paul Philp, Keith A. Kvenvolden
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Organic Geochemistry
Index ID 70208243
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center