Indiana University Bloomington

H205: Gas Prices and Petroleum Geology

H205 GAS PRICES AND PETROLEUM GEOLOGY (3 cr.) NMNS Gas prices and correlation with factors involving geology, prospecting, drilling, refining, transportation and political realities; origin and accumulation of petroleum in sediments; plate tectonic inevitability and predictability of oil accumulation. Current affairs.

Description : This freshman level course, in seminar format, combines geology, costs associated with exploration, extraction, transportation and political realities that largely determine gas prices. The content is focused on the science of the origin and occurrence of petroleum inside the earth at the present time. We explore the geological inevitability of concentrating anomalously high accumulation of petroleum only in a few regions of Earth. A large deposit is economically viable only if the cost of exploration, extraction and delivery to consumers is not prohibitive because of natural and political strife. Students discuss and debate geological and other factors controlling gas prices we pay at the pump.

Without assigned textbooks, students will be required to obtain information from the library and websites (government agencies, newspapers, peer-reviewed journals, oil-company reports) and formulate written questions to ask the instructor and for debates. Students will work in groups to obtain information, write individually to submit reports, and collaborate as debating teams to argue about factors that control gas prices.

Outside of classroom experiences may include, if funds are available, an optional Saturday trip to oil-drilling activities in southern Indiana.

EXAMINATIONS AND GRADING: All examinations, lab reports, papers etc. are OPEN BOOK, OPEN NOTES. Grading will be on an "A-F" scale; "S-F" will not be permitted and an "I" will be allowed only for medical reasons and extremely extenuating circumstances.

  • Three Lab Examinations 30%
  • Three in-class Examinations 15%
  • Two Papers 30%
  • Final Examination 10%
  • Homework 10%
  • Quality of discussion in class 5%


Textbooks: None.

Compulsory reading:
Surely, You're Joking Mr. Feynman (Bantam; 1986; pp 191-198)
Additional Resources:
Grotzinger, Jordan, Press, Siever (GJPS): Understanding Earth (2007; 5th Ed)
Dott and Prothero: Evolution of the Earth (1994; 5th Ed)
These three are on Reserve in the Geology Library

Other Recommended Readings:
Articles (or parts thereof) from Scientific American, American Scientist, Science, Nature; NY (Science) Times and other newspapers; sections of freshman textbooks; course-packet.


Spring 2009 Preliminary Schedule for Two one-hour Lectures and One one-hour Laboratory (per week for ~14 weeks)


Week 1
M Jan 12  
W Jan 14 Petroleum, crude oil, natural gas, refined products – petrol, kerosene, diesel, lubricants. Dead animals and plants; rotting; preservation of rotted products; oily substances. Minerals and macerals. Homework I Assigned (due Mon Sep 15)
F Jan 16 LAB I: Earth Materials
Week 2
M Jan 19 Minerals, rocks, fossils – molecular fossils, fossil fuels; rock cycle; concept of burial and uplift.
W Jan 21 Elementary chemistry; atoms, bonds, molecules, P, T, reactions, distillation; alkane chains and aromatic compounds
F Jan 23 LAB II: Minerals
Week 3
M Jan 26 Sedimentation and sedimentary rocks; biochemical rocks; organic sediments.

Homework I Due

W Jan 29 Depositional environments and processes; burial and diagenesis; porosity and permeability. Homework II Assigned (due Mon Oct 6)
F Jan 30 LAB III: Minerals and Rocks (mostly sedimentary)
Week 4
M Feb 2 Origin of coal and petroleum; preservation (and destruction), migration and accumulation of petroleum.
W Feb 4 Concepts of rigidity and density; P and S waves; their distribution in Earth’s interior; plates and plate motions.
F Feb 6 LAB IV: Sedimentary Rocks (continued)
Week 5
M Feb 9 Plate tectonics; distribution of land and oceans, volcanoes, earthquake centers and foci.
W Feb 11 Examination I
F Feb 13 LAB V:Examination I
Week 6
Mon Feb 16 Geological time scale; sequence of layered rocks; principles of radiometric age-dating.

Homework II Due

W Feb 18 Plate tectonics vis a vis petroleum; fate of sedimentary basins. Homework III Assigned (due Mon Nov 3: Collect data on petroleum resources, production, and reserves of different countries.)
F Feb 20 LAB VI: Contour maps and cross sections
Week 7
M Feb 23 Marginal seas and potential of forming petroleum source rocks.
W Feb 24 Brittle and plastic deformation of rocks and petroleum traps
F Feb 27 LAB VII: Geological maps and cross sections
Week 8
M Mar 2 Geological maps and cross sections.
W Mar 4 Reconstructions of paleogeographic distribution of land and oceans
F Mar 6 LAB VIII: Cross-section of the earth and plate boundaries
Week 9
M Mar 9 Oil-rich regions of the world; geographic and political map of the world.
W Mar 11 Examination II
F Mar 13 LAB IX: Examination II
March 14-22 SPRING BREAK
Week 10
M Mar 23 Geological “inevitability”; reconstructions of paleogeographic distribution of land and oceans revisited.

Homework III Due

W Mar 25 Petroleum resources of the past and present; oil seepage 2 billion years ago; 200 million years ago; 20 million years ago
F Mar 27 LAB X: Introduction to optical microscopy
Week 10
M Mar 30 Distribution of oil fields in geologically predictable regions; sedimentary basins and plate boundaries.
W Apr 1 Geology of the Middle East. Homework IV Assigned (due Fri Dec 12)
F Apr 3 LAB XI: Minerals and optical microscopy
Week 11
M Apr 6 Geology of the Middle East.
W Apr 8 Petroleum exploration; geology and the tools
F Apr 10 LAB XII: Optical microscopy of sedimentary rocks
Week 12
M Apr 13  
W Apr 15  
W Apr 17 Geology of the Middle East
Week 13
M Apr 20 Petroleum exploration; geology and the tools; role of industrialized nations. (no moral judgment please; stick to facts)
W Apr 22 Examination III
F Apr 24 LAB XIII: Optical microscopy of porous rocks
Week 14
M Apr 27 Petroleum (aka crude oil) engineering and recovery; on-land, shallow marine, deep marine, and inclined (angle) holes.
W Apr 29 LAB XIV:  Examination III (Group A)
F May 1 LAB XIV:  Examination III (Group B)
Homework IV due for ALL

*Tentative EXAMPLE of a Possible Draft for Homework I

  • DRAFT of Homework I (Weeks 2 and 3): Find from the web or any other source (keep your bibliography) the following since 1970.
  • Rise and fall of 'petrol' aka 'gas' prices.
  • Rise and fall of car (type) sales and gas mileage.
  • Rise and fall of crude spot-prices, NY Harbor prices, refinery capacities.
  • Rise and fall of industrial needs of energy.
  • Rise and fall of coal, nuclear power, solar power, and wind turbines.
  • Rise and fall of Governments/Rulers of a few countries.
  • Rise and fall of hemline of skirts and the solar cycle.
  • Rise and fall of birth rate in Germany and the number of storks in German zoos.

Is there any positive or negative correlation
between the data sets?

Instructor: Abhijit Basu; Email:
Office GY 521 Ph. 855-6654/855-5913
Office Hours: MTW 10:30-11:30 a.m.


Click on images to enlarge

world oil reserves [image]

world oil production [image]

origin of petroleum [image]

sediments to rocks to traps [image]

sea-shore of future oil [image]

forty million years ago [image]

deformation produces oil traps [image]

petroleum prospecting [image]

sea-bottom pumping [image]