From Fossil To Fuel™
From Fossil To Fuel™

Episode 26 · 2 years ago

Formation of Fossil Fuels: Dinosaurs and Doggy Piles


This is an overview of how fossils turn into hydrocarbons and become trapped in reservoirs.

From fossil to fuel with Brendon McDougall and William Bella Bass this is oil and gas one hundred and one, taking you through the entire fundamentals, from geology to refining, without the use of a textbook. Hey everybody, I'm Brendan McDougall. Welcome to the podcast from fossil to fuel too, and I'm William Bell Events. I'm Brendan's younger brother, so I'm the fuel and he's a fossil. Nice I'm the older one, the older and wiser one. I was getting started. Just wanted to start things off for the listeners here do a bit of an introduction. My name is Brendan McDougall. I'm a professional engineer. I work in oil and gas. Worked in a few different roles few different companies and for those of you who haven't listened to this before, this is from fossil to fuel. It's a podcast about the fundamentals of oil and gas and really kind of what we're after here is sort of a wide range, a wide spectrum for the entire industry, and so for anyone who's new to oil and gas, anyone who works in oil and gas, who's nontechnical or really for the general public. Anytime that you're looking for something in oil and gas, typically online, you're probably going to run into one of two scenarios. One is you're going to find something that's way too technical for your level of expertise or two, you're probably just going to find like a narrow segment of it. And so I know even for myself, when I started off in my career back in two thousand and eight, I really didn't know too much about oil and gas. And so you know, you go to Google something online and I can find anything. I mean really, there's not a whole lot on oil and gas. That has gotten a little bit better over the last decade, but even still like there's there's not a whole lot out there. And so you know, that's kind of the drive to where this whole thing came from, is to create some form of digital media that was really the fundamentals of oil and gas really for for anybody. And so I came up with this concept geez probably four or five years ago. Where myself is a technical person in oil and gas, I wanted to learn more about the financial side and the business. So I started educating myself and taking some courses to learn more about that and I will heck if I'm seeing the benefit to learn more about the financial and business side. Even from a fundamental perspective, there's an opportunity for me to reciprocate and provide some material like this, and so that's kind of where this whole concept came from. And so it's from fossil to fuel, because it's literally the whole spectrum of oiling gas, from fossil, how everything was formed, right through to fuel like the diesel or gasoline that we burn in our cars. So it's literally the formation geology, drilling, fracking, production reserves all the way through to refining. It's the whole thing at a high level. And so for those of you who have listened to the previous version of the podcast, because this is really from fossil to fuel. Two, I spent the last four years sort of designing and recording and making this from fossil to fuel podcast on my own. I did it my Home Office with my crappy laptop in my hundred dollar mic I got off Amazon, went through did this whole thing and I actually released the podcasts last October. Two Thousand and nineteen very well received. But generally the consensus was that well, for one, the audio quality sucked because it's just me in my Home Office and to the format of it, which was really kind of just me lecturing the audience, wasn't as interactive as your typical podcast. So we made some changes. We're redoing this whole thing. We're recording live at the ear candy studio. Shout out to bowl for helping... out here. So we're redoing the podcast professionally. Hopefully my voice sounds quite a bit better this time around than it did the first time. And we brought in a cohost, and so that the concept there's to bring in an individual who can help make the process a little bit more interactive, more of a conversation or dialog than a lecture, and to bring in someone who is probably more representative of the average person in society. You probably knows a little bit about oil and gas from, you know, reading it in the news or online digital media, but someone who is a little bit more relatable to the average person. And so who better to bring in then my brother, my brother William Bell of Vants, is joining us today and really for the remainder of the podcast series. To help kind of star the show and have the average person relate to learning about oil and gass. Literally from fossil to fuel. So, William, welcome to the show. For the listeners out there, maybe just tell us a little bit about yourself. Awesome. Hi Everyone, I'm William Bell Evans and I'm a student in natural sciences, concentrating in geology and mathematics. I have a a foundational background in geology. I don't have too much background in oil and gass. My main folks in geology has been on earth systems and climate. But I'm hoping to land on some of the same questions that well, the people might have. So, without further ado, let's get started right all. Thanks so for everybody listening out there. From all of our family dinners and stuff, Williams probably got a little bit of an intro to what oil and gas is and what his brother does. I think it'd be fairly represented ive here. So from fossil to fuel. So when I say fossil fuel, what do you think of fossil fuel is when people talk about that? Well, probably just from the name you can kind of understand that it's a fuel, some form of energy that has come from a fossil, which is something that was buried underground of something that was previously alive. So from a fossil fuel, that's about what it is. Yeah, no, diars, no, no, I don't that's good. That's good. So a fossil fuel, oil and gass, basically is what it is. When we talk about the origin of fossil fuels, one of the questions I feeled a lot is dinosaurs. Right. So a lot of people think fossil fuels, what all, came from from dinosaurs, and while that is true, the analogy I always give is think about it this way. Fossil fuels are derived from organic matters. Organic matter is really just something that was alive at some point in time, and so for fossil fuels were typically talking about hundreds of millions of years ago. A fossil fuel or organic matter was something that was alive. And so while dinosaurs were alive a hundred million years ago, really they would make up a very, very small percentage of what ends up becoming a fossil fuel. And so the example I would give Ted a is that if you go in a forest and there's a bear and you know bear dies over time, gets deposited, buried and the bear becomes oiling gas. Relative to everything else in that forest, the bears just like a very, very, very infantesimal small amount of organic matter. Right. It's everything else, it's the trees, the bushes, the grass. So a lot of oil and gas or fossil fuels, while they would have been derived from dinosaurs or other animals living at the time, the vast vast majority of oil and gas originated as either plant life or some form of like algae, r bacteria, right. Yeah, so I guess just wanted to clear up a little bit of a misconception there. So fossil fuels cold. So they started off as organic matter. What do you know...

...about the process of deposition? Can you tell me a little bit about what you understand of that process? So, for for deposition, for example, if it happens in certain environments and like at the bottom of a lake, for example, where it has a river feeding into the lake bringing in sediments. So if something, some fish for example, dies and its body sinks to the bottom of the lake, then through this river, sediments are deposit on top of it and over time more and more layers get deposited and other areas get eroded to net produce a deeper and deeper lithification of those fossils. Yeah, that's exactly right. So something is living, it dies, if it's in an aquatic environment, falls to the bottom of the lake or the ocean and over time material gets deposited on top of its same kind of thing is if you look at archeologists who are digging up the ruins of the Roman Empire per se. Right, so that was like twozero years ago, and so they're having to dig up all of these excavations because over time dirt and rock and sediment has been deposited on top of that. Now think the Roman empire was only twozero years ago. Imagine how deep these deposits get if you're talking about a hundred million years ago, right, M and so the deposition process is important because as these pieces of organic matter get deeper and deeper under the surface of the Earth, what do you think happens with pressure and temperature? From what I understand, as you get deeper into the earth, more and more stuff piles on top of each other. So the pressure would increase and as well. The heat comes from the center of the Earth. So as you get closer to the center, temperature increases as well. Yeah, exactly right. So you got pressure going up, you got temperature going up, like William said, the closer to the center of the Earth, which is I think most people would probably be able to guess that it's hot at the center of the Earth. So the deeper you get, the hotter it gets. And then in terms of pressure, I mean really just thinking about it. You know, if you have a doggy pile right for any for me, I don't know what that is. If you have people pile on top of you, you can feel the weight of people on top of you pushing down on you. So if I were to lay down on top of you and and Bo were to come and pile on top of us, be squished. You'd be squished right now. Imagine if you've got several kilometers of rock piling on top of you, you're going to get really squished. And so we've got this environment now over time, as this organic matters deposited, where you've got super high pressure and super high temperature. Maybe a good analogy for you, for the average listener, is if you've ever used a slow cooker or, even better, a pressure cooker. So if you've got like a pot roast, right, you start off with this big chunk of meat. Over time, what you're doing to that piece of meat is you're adding pressure and temperature. And what happens while you you cook it? You Cook it right, falls apart, falls apart. Yeah, and so that's a big part of the process of getting organic matter and turning it into fossil fuels or oil and gas. Is Pressure and temperature component. And if you just kind of think in your head, you've got this pot roast in your pressure cooker, you're adding pressure and temperature and over time that pot roast, you want to kind of get it nice and tender, rights really just kind of like falls apart. And that's a big part of what's happening to the organic matter. It's just there's there's much more pressure and temperature, right, that's starting to break down right then on your pot roast in your kitchen, and so you have this whole cooking process that starts to create the oil and gas. Now Your Pot roast in your kitchen might take thirty or sixty minutes to cook. Right. These things take millions of years, so it's significantly long, right but I guess it's just while we're talking about the pot roast, if you're cooking in your kitchen and you start with pork ribs or a pot roast and you throw them in your slow cooker, you're going to end up...

...with a different product. Right with oil and Gass's kind of the same thing. Depending on what you start with will determine what you end up with. Okay, yeah, there's so there's different qualities for different kind of materials that end up as oil and gas. Yeah, yeah, exactly. For Oil, when I say, or when the average person here's oil in your mind, do you think that when people talk about oils, it just like one thing? It's like olive oil. Yeah, something like liquidy that's kind of sticky, fiscuss, something like that. Yeah, so I guess maybe it would be kind of like the oils in your kitchen. There's different kinds, there's different grades and it really just depends on, if you want to get into the nitty gritty, kind of depends on the molecular structure and how big those molecules are will kind of dictate what kind of oil or gas you're going to get. But tying it back to sort of the pot roast ribs. Analogy, depending on what you start off with is going to give you a different product in the end. And so for oil and gas, you've got natural gas, light oil, some people call that condensate. You've got heavy oil, crude oil. So there's different kinds of oils. You've coal, coals another type of oil and gas. And so if I said to you, okay, I'm a hundred million years ago and I've got two scenarios. I've got scenario one where I've got a bunch of like hard woody trees that die, get buried in deposited over time and they turn into something. And then I've got a whole bunch of algae that you know, it's mushy algae, that right posits to the bottom of the ocean, deposited and gets turned into something. And I say one of those things is going to turn into oil and one of those things is going to turn into coal. Do you think the mushy algae is going to turn into oil or the woody trees? Probably the woody trees, just considering that one of them is already harder than the other one. Algae, we actually be more like oil I'll try and paint it here for you, so that the trees, generally things that are more solid or woody, would end up being something solid like coal. Algae would probably be the easiest one to imagine, or like a swampy environment, HMM, would tend to be something more like oil. So then that, I guess. The next part of it is is the gas component of it, and really the difference between oil and gas is really just how long you cook it for. And so, okay, let me ask you this. So we talked about like the actual molecule of oil and gas, right, their different sizes, right, based on the amount of carbon? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so hydrocarbon rate, so that that would be hydrocarbon would be what we call an oil and gas because it's made of hydrogen and carbon. There you go, right. Yeah, so you've got these chains, these hydrocarbon chains, which are made of primarily hydrogen and carbon, and depending on how big those chains are is going to determine what type of oil and gas you have, right, the end product. So if I've got oil and gas, do you think gas is a longer molecule or a smaller molecule? Probably a smaller molecule. That's right. Why do you think? Just because gas is lighter. Yeah, so, yeah, that's molecules less weight. Yep, you're exactly right. Natural gas is actually mostly methane and methane. I don't know if you're if you took any chemistry classes, you know how many carbons are in methane. I think it's for one right. Yeah, methane is one utane beating. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, natural gas is really just kind of like the very, very light hydrocarbons, and then the more carbons you have, the longer those chains get. The longer those chains get, the heavy the oil gets. So when people are talking about light oil or heavy oil, really all they're saying is there are more carbons... the molecule or a longer, bigger chain. And so the reason that's important. If we go back to our pressure cooker example, the longer you have that meat in your pressure cooker, the more it's going to fall apart. So it's the same thing with oil and gass. If your organic matter starts off as as big chunk of material and you only have it in the pressure cooker for a little bit, it's only going to break down so much. Okay, the longer you have it in the pressure cooker, the higher the temperature, the higher the pressure, the more it's going to break down, right. So those larger molecules will start breaking a bargain too, smaller and smaller pieces, Yep, until you can have ones that are small enough to, yeah, become gases. Yeah, exactly. Let's say I've got an oil and gas reservoir. If that reservoir is really deep, so there's high pressure and high temperature, do you think that's going to have more or less gas? Probably more gas content. Yeah exactly. Okay. Yeah, so that's kind of a generic rule of thumb. Is, the deeper your oil and gasses, the longer it's been there, right, because it's deposited over time, the longer it's been there, the longer it's been cooking, the deeper it is, the more pressure and temperature you have, which also helps with decompositions. So generally speaking, the deeper your oil and gasses, the more gas you have relative to oil. Okay, now it's kind of like those rule of thumb things, right. There's obviously going to be some exceptions there, but just to kind of help you picture in your head, you know oil and gas is formed, right, so it's organic matter and we talked about how it needs to cook to form. Let's talk about what happens when it forms. So you have this oil and gas that gets created. Well, now what? Let me ask you this. I've you ever made your own salad dressing before? I've made a couple. Yeah, I'm going to judge you on this one, but I've followed her respec so what are the two main ingredients, generally speaking, in in cell dressing? Some sort of like olive oil and then like a balsamic vinegar. Okay, you're off to a get start. MOMAP proves. So you've got oil and vinegar, right, and so one floats on top of the right because, yes, less dance, right. So basically what we're talking about is relative densities, and so oil will float on top when you're making your your salad dressing. And so, like the salad dressing, when you're in the reservoir, when this oil gets created, has a tendency to want to rise up. So what happens is this oil and gas gets created in it's rising up over time. Right, this is not happening instantaneously and eventually what's going to happen is it's going to reach a barrier or what we call a trap. Now this is for a conventional reservoir. We'll talk in a later episode about unconventional reservoirs. Okay, but it's going to reach a trap and what's going to happen is it's going to start to accumulate and over time this accumulation becomes what we call an oil reservoir. And so when I say an oil reservoir, like, in your head, how big do you think? These things are? Just curious. Well, I live in Calgary and I live right next to the glenmore reservoir and it's a large body of water, I guess, similar to a lake. So maybe am I if I'm thinking about a reservoir, im thinking about something about lake kind of size. Yeah, that's probably a good guess. Obviously it depends on the the reservoir and and how everything was deposited, but for the average listener out there, just to put in perspective, some of these reservoirs can be as large as a city or downtown Calgary. Right. So there's massive reservoirs of oil and gas out there. Just to again, some are smaller, some are bigger, but just to put sort of like a scale, they're generally quite large. And so I think one of the important concepts to talk about here is that when we talk about a reservoir, I think one of the terms that people use is a pool of oil, and so I just want to clarify something here. It's...

...not like, when we talk about an oil and gas reservoir that there's this rant ball of oil down there and we just kind of like stick a straw in and suck it out. Below the surface of the earth. It's all rock and inside the Rock our little poor spaces, and we'll talk about this little bit more on the next episode, but the oil and gas is actually inside the rock right. It's trapped inside there. It's trapped inside there. Yeah, to the important concepts will talk about, probably next episode will be permeability and perosity. permeability is is how something flows, and Perosity, like the pores in your skin, is the ability for the rock to store oil. And so I guess just quickly to wrap up, let's talk a little bit about permeability, because I think that's an important concept to finish up here. I kind of gave you a bit of a clue. permeability is how things move. Maybe give us your interpretation of what permeability is. So I'm thinking of something like a sponge. So I can have some liquid flow in and out of the sponge because there's little holes that it can kind of flow through. But if I am using like a rock or a brick instead, then less of that water would be able to flow through it. Yep, so the more like spaces you kind of have that are interconnected within a structure, and that kind of increases the amount of permeability because you can penetrate that surface more. Yeah, it's really just permeability is just how easily something can move through. You know, if you're living in an apartment and your neighbor next to you likes to play the drums and he likes to play the drums really loud. If you've got a thin wall, that wall is likely going to be permeable to sound, meaning sound can get through easily, whereas, let's say you've got a twelve inch concrete wall in between you and your neighbor, that wall is going to be way less permeable to sound and you're not going to hear it as much. So permeability is important because you've got this oil and gas that's being created three, four kilometers below the surface of the earth or deeper, and it's going to migrate up. But the only way it's going to migrate up right, because it wants to float, like in the solid dressing. The only way it's going to migrate up is if there's permeability. So if there's permeable rock above it, the oil and gas over time will find its way up. Okay, until it reaches relatively impermeable barrier that's going to act as basically like a trap like we talked about. Okay, so that's really the whole concept of the formation of the fossil fuels, right. So organic matter is alive, it dies, it gets buried. Over time, it gets deposited deeper and deeper. As it gets deeper and deeper, the pressure goes up, the temperature goes up, it starts to cook, it turns into oil and gas. The oil and gas, because of its relative density, like you said, starts to migrate up until it reaches an impermeable barrier, in which case it starts to accumulate over time and creates an oil reservoir. So permeabilities really important. This is definitely not going to be the last time we're talking about it. We'll get into it more next episode. It'll become really important once we start talking about fracking. But that's pretty much it. So rather than me recap the episode, why don't you recap to me? What do we talk about today? Okay, so from fossil to fuel. So we're talking about the formation of fossil fuels and how it all how it all gets there, how it accumulates in a reservoir. So basically you start with organic matter, which can be plants, can be animals. That matter ends up dying and gets deposited deeper and deeper into the earth where the pressure and temperature increases and transforms that product into oil and...

...gas. Then oil wants to flow upwards due to its density, so it flows through the rocks, which are, I guess, semipermeable, which is a concept will talk more about in the next episode, and it'll flow until it reaches a rock that isn't as permeable. So then it will accumulate there and then form reservoir and that's the formation of fossil fuels. You got it. From fossil fueling. No, that's perfect. Really, the formation of fossil fuels is is exactly what you just said, and that really is probably one of the most important parts, because I think it's probably one of the most misunderstood parts. A lot of the stuff that we'll talk about later I don't think is understood at all, but it's important to sort of clarify that part of it. So, yeah, thanks a lot for coming in. Man, awesome one down. Who knows how we going to go. Yeah, thanks everyone for tuning in for the first episode of this series. From fossil of fuel to we talked about formation of fossil fuels today. On the next episode, episode two, we're going to talk about rock geology. We're going to get a little bit more into perosity and permeability, two really important things. All right, and we're going to talk about the rocks themselves. Rate up your alley, of course. The geology go types of rocks and in the formation I'll be able to contribute a little bit down. Yeah, and and we're going to talk also about the oil and gas where it's found. How the heck do we find this stuff? Where is it and how do we find it. So thanks everyone for tuning in. Until next time, see you later. From fossil to fuel with Brendan McDougal and William Bell of ants. Subscribe now in your favorite podcast platform and share with your network.

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