How Did Oil and Gas Get Created?


Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Oil, Gas, and Coal in Our Lifetime

Oil and gas started out as tiny organisms in ancient, shallow seas. Over millions of years, the remains of these organisms piled up. As layer upon layer of sediment accumulated and consolidated, the resulting pressure gradually created a type of sedimentary rock known as oil shales. A lot of oil shale can be found in the world today and it is possible to distill oil from these rocks. However, it is expensive.

In some places, oil in the shale migrated out and gradually floated upwards through water-saturated layers of sedimentary rock. Whenever that oil reached an impervious surface that prevented further movement, an oil (petroleum) deposit was formed. Most of the oil and gas we extract come from such deposits.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Formation

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