Of oil, rocks and feathered dinosaurs

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has given its nod for a novel study expected to come up with valuable data that wo

Published: 07th April 2012 12:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 10:27 PM   |  A+A-


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Oil has always made nations rich. The petroleum potential of the Kerala-Konkan coast, from Goa in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, has been estimated to be approximately 660 million metric tonnes by the ONGC. Unfortunately, none of the exploratory wells in the region have yielded oil.

 However, this does not mean that there is no oil. The potential remains. Obviously, the tools have to be changed. Moving away from the traditional tools that searched for oil, the Centre for Earth Science Studies is going in for a technology that was used to study origin of hard rocks.

 Last week, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences gave its nod for this novel study led by Dr V Nandakumar. This project is expected to come up with valuable data that would help locate petroleum reserves in South Ratnagiri and Kerala-Konkan offshore basin. Probably, this is the first time ever that this indigenous technology is being used for oil exploration.

 What the scientists intend to do is look for oil at the micro and nano levels, with the help of microscopes. They would take thin sections of the rock and look for oil trapped in minerals and crystals at the microscopic level.

 ‘’The oil-accumulating reservoir rocks are not always the source rocks. The source rocks are often rich clay rocks from where the oil migrates and gets trapped in minerals under various conditions of temperature and pressure. So, we can trace the movement of oil by this method,’’ said Dr Nandakumar, the principal investigator of the project.

 The study will provide valuable data on the composition of fluids that have migrated through the Kerala-Konakan basin in the geological past, which will become very significant for the petroleum exploration in the basin.

 ‘’The oil is waxy and highly viscous than petrol. We can even check the quality of the oil and also determine in the lab whether it will be economically viable,’’ said Nandakumar.

 Another scientist, H Upadhyay from the Keshava Deva Malaviya Institute of Petroleum Exploration (KDMIPE), Dehradun, is the project co-ordinator from the ONGC side.

 The MoES has also sanctioned a sophisticated National Facility for Fluid Inclusion Research (NFFIR) along with the project. What is even more exciting is the sanctioning of the state-of-the-art automated laser-excited Raman Spectroscope with three lasers.

 The technologies employed for the three-year project and the data emerging out of the proposed work are expected to give India a cutting edge in its future oil exploration activities.

 Talking of rocks, in China, scientists have unearthed the remains of a new species of extensively feathered dinosaurs from 125-million-year-old rocks. The dinosaurs are estimated to have weighed up to about 1,400 kilograms and stretched 9 metres from nose to tail.

 The fossils, from one adult and two younger dinos, were unearthed in northeast China, a discovery  that has been described in the April 5 issue of the journal ‘Nature.’ Studying the shape of the skull, scientists have concluded that these dinosaurs belong to the two-legged meat-eaters called ‘theropods,’ which are supposed to have given rise to modern birds.  .

 The newly-discovered species had feathers covering the skin, which gave it a shaggy appearance. Full-feathered dinosaurs that have been discovered so far have been much smaller, and much more likely to lose body heat because of their size. So scientists thought these petite creatures used a fluffy layer to stay warm.

(Sci-bug takes you across the world, from test-tubes and petri-dishes to the farthest corners of the planet and beyond, wherever science makes interesting findings. Keep track of the bug, every Saturday. And do not forget to give us a feedback on


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