Oil and Gas Well Pressure

How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims
by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002

Young-earth "proof" #18: The incredible pressure found in oil and gas wells indicates they have been there less than 15,000 years. (Presumably, the oil or gas would have escaped long before then.)

The incredible pressure found in oil and gas wells indicates that the oil and gas have been effectively trapped. The initial, slow accumulation of oil and gas from the source area (primary migration) would hardly have had a chance to build up great pressure if the trapping rock were leaking like a sieve!

Oil and gas do a lot of migrating, and the oil accumulated in a given reservoir may have recently migrated there from another reservoir. Thus, a given pool of oil may or may not have been there for millions and millions of years. A recent geological shift in the rocks might also increase the leakage of the primary oil pool, which had been hitherto sealed for millions of years. Thus, the mere existence of leaky trapping rocks does not prove that a pool of oil and gas was recently created.

The primary migration of oil from 1 to 5 kilometers deep in the earth, where it is produced under a combination of pressure and heat acting on organic matter, probably goes hand in hand with water migration. Certainly, oil and water are often found together, the oil floating on top of the water within permeable rock. The water is squeezed out as the source sediment experiences more and more pressure. Thus, it may interest you to know how fast water migrates down there.

Some idea of the extremely slow speed of fluid motion to be expected can be gained by considering the movement of ground water at shallow depths in dense clays, classed as "impermeable." Under a moderate hydraulic gradient and a reasonable value of permeability for clay, we come up with flow speeds of ground water on the order of 2 to 3 million years per kilometer [3.2 to 4.8 million years per mile]. Yet the permeability of source shales of petroleum is rated at only one-thousandth as great as for clays tested in the surface environment (Wszolek and Burlingame, 1978, p. 573).

(Strahler, 1987, p.237)

Thus, the primary migration of oil from its place of origin will take far longer than the mere 6000 years or so creationists allow for the age of the earth. Creationists have tried to dance around that figure by quoting special cases of secondary migration or by simple smoke screen tactics, but the problem remains (Strahler, 1987, pp.237-238).

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