Oil is formed naturally from the remains of plant and animal life that existed millions of years ago in a marine environment before the dinosaurs. Layers of sand and silt covered these plant and animal remains and accrued heat and pressure slowly turned them into crude oil. This is why oil is often referred to as a fossil fuel, because it is literally made from the remains of old forms of life.
The process in which oil is formed is the same process that produces the natural gas and pure methane we mine for. Organic matter (fossils) are buried by sediment until the pressure is so great that its molecules re-bond, forming oil. More pressure – i.e., deeper under the Earth’s surface – forms natural gas, and even further down the pressure is so great that the organic matter forms pure methane.
Some excellent organic-rich source rocks also form in lakes rather than marine environments.
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