The apatosaurus, a symbol of petroleum’s origin as a fossil fuel, has been the trademark of the Sinclair Oil Corporation since 1930. It may be time for Sinclair to retire its dino. In July three researchers published a study in the journal Nature Geoscience suggesting that the heavy hydrocarbons that compose oil could be produced without dinosaur detritus.
The researchers transformed a simple compound—methane, the chief component of natural gas—into heavier petroleum-like compounds by subjecting it to temperatures and pressures found far below Earth’s surface. They argue that a similar process may have produced petroleum in the past, affecting methane deposited in Earth’s crust as the planet was forming billions of years ago. One of the researchers, Vladimir G. Kutcherov of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, believes this finding will make it easier for oilmen to locate new petroleum reserves, pushing back against the prediction that global oil production is about to peak.