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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Tulsa Geological Society


Tulsa Geological Society Digest
Vol. 23 (1955), Pages 86-88

The American Petroleum Institute's Geological Research Program

Clarence L. Moody


Fundamental research in some field of geology has been continously supported by The American Petroleum Institute for almost 30 years. It is probably not generally realized that of the 58 research projects that have been formulated and implemented by the Institute at least 14 are of a geologic nature. They include the following with their API project numbers:

1: Generation of oil in rocks by shearing pressures

3: Mother rocks of petroleum

4: Source beds of petroleum

5: Genesis of hydrocarbons

23: Limestone reservoirs

25, 25A, 25B, 25C: Geothermal gradients in oil fields

43A, 43B, 43C: Transformation of organic matter into petroleum

49: Clay mineralogy

51: Study of nearshore Recent sediments and their environments of deposition in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

Grants-in-aid have supported among others an early study in isotopic rock dating and another on compaction and cementation of sandstone under conditions simulating deep burial.

Approximately 750 publications have resulted from API fundamental research projects. Of these, 95 may be considered as geological. About frac18.gif (854 bytes) of the Institute's research publication productivity thus flowered in the field of geology. Nine-tenths of the papers dealt with some phase of the origin of oil. It happens that the current research budget allots 17.5% of the total available money to geologic studies. A fund of about $130,000 per year is currently devoted to that purpose.

Not readily measured dollarwise, but looming large in Institute economics, is the devotion of its committeemen to visualizing research problems, organizing investigatory bodies, making recommendations for and securing funds for new projects, consulting with the various project staffs, new and old. then anxiously scrutinizing the quarterly reports to see if earlier judgments are to be verified.

The study of sedimentation in the northern Gulf of Mexico is the largest single project which the Institute has ever sponsored. Project 51 is an outgrowth of monumental labors by the 1947 Research Committee of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Resulting from this work a comprehensive program of sedimentation research was synthesized. API Research Project 51, comparatively large though it is, encompasses only one of the eight main categories established in the A.A.P.G. scheme.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a campus of the University of California, has carried forward the work of the project since the adoption of the program in 1950. Dr. Francis P. Shepard, renowned submarine geologist, is the project director.

The areas chosen for the first studies are still being worked over after three years of scientific scrutiny and continue to yield useful geological information. Rockport, Texas, was chosen as the center of a typical bay-barrier island–open ocean province; the Mississippi delta and environs as an area of rapid deposition under marine and deltaic conditions of unusual profundity.

The areas of study have been extensively and painstakingly surveyed, samples of bottom sediment to depths of 5 or 6 feet have been collected in large quantity, and reams of field data have been assembled. Fathometer surveys have been compared with earlier hydrographic surveys and the differences in depths assumed to represent sediment accumulation. On this assumption the rate in bays has been estimated at 1.25 feet per century; that in the delta, in some cases, scores as much. The samples of bottom sediment, buried sediment (to depths as great as 80 feet) and water at various levels have been subjected to greatly varied laboratory tests and measurements at Scripps and elsewhere, applying for the most part techniques long ago standardized. From the mass of data so accumulated have emerged among others the following conclusions:

1. Fourteen or more environments of clastic sedimentation exist in the bay-island-continental shelf province of Texas.

2. At least seven different ones exist in the delta region.

3. These environments can be identified in sediment samples by:

a. quantitative lithology

b. interpretative biology

Comprehensive reports on both areas are now well advanced. Institute policy of dedicating to the public all results of its sponsored research guarantees early publication of these reports.

Continuance of a sedimentation program, though subject to annual review by Institute committees, seems to be reasonably well assured as long as this discipline offers prospect of contributing to fundamental knowledge.

Interest in the rapidly expanding field of rock dating by measurements of isotope ratios has led the API Advisory Committee on Fundamental Research on the Occurrence and Recovery of Petroleum to divert about 25% of the geologic budget for 1955-56 to this most promising area of pure geologic research and speculation.

All the research committees of the Institute are now happily aware of the need for basic knowledge in earth science. It may be predicted with confidence that geology will long continue to play a leading role in the American Petroleum Institute's fundamental research program.

Though the speaker is the proud possessor of the blessings of the API research heads, it should be emphasized that in this talk he has spoken for himself only.

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