the AAPG President's Award (now called the Robert H. Dott Sr. Memorial
Award) was given to Paul V. Smith Jr., for his AAPG article titled "Studies on Origin of Petroleum: Occurrences of Hydrocarbons in
of the Science newsletter cited Smith's study as one of the most
significant science stories of the year. It pointed out that Smith's
discovery of hydrocarbons deposited in recent sediments provided
an important quantitative study by a chemist that overturned the
general geologic opinion that oil was generated in the subsurface.
one major oil company spent many years trying to create a useful
hypothesis of petroleum generation that could start with flushing
sediment hydrocarbons into traps.
of hydrocarbons in recent sediments was correct, but ... further
work demonstrated that these hydrocarbons were biomass and detritus
of once-living organisms, and were not petroleum-like.
understand that petroleum hydrocarbons are the result of the transformation
of organic matter under subsurface conditions of elevated pressure
and temperature, often retaining fragments of the original organic
molecules. The preserved fragments, called biomarkers, allow petroleum
accumulations to be traced to a particular subsurface layer and
to specific organisms abundant in that source layer.
a long way in 50 years.