05. Untapped Oil Resources

Lawrence M. Cathles, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, determined that untapped gas and oil resources amount to tens of billions of barrels hidden below the Gulf of Mexico. These reserves can be found by chemically mapping the subsurface streams of hydrocarbons—matching hydrocarbons’s chemical signatures with geologic models for stratigraphic layers under the sea floor. One of the most active areas of hydrocarbon exploration is the northern Gulf of Mexico. Hydrocarbons are being naturally generated from strata deposited during the Tertiary and Jurassic periods miles below the sea floor. Each period of hydrocarbons has a distinctive chemistry. Using small submarines, Cathles and other researchers visited and studied sites where hydrocarbons are leaking through natural vents at hundreds of locations in the offshore area of Louisiana. Employing hydrocarbon chemistry in this new way could provide geologists with accurate information on the presence and size of deeper reservoirs.

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