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Thank Volcanoes From T-Rex Era for America's Oil Dominance

  • Ash was key to getting shale soaked in crude, Rice study shows
  • Eruptions in Cretaceous helped form basins like Permian

America’s looming dominance in crude production started about 100 million years ago.

Ash from hundreds of volcano flare-ups during the time when the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed North America was key to forming the oil-rich layers of shale rock, from the Permian Basin in Texas to the Bakken in North Dakota, according to a study led by Rice University professor Cin-Ty Lee in Houston.

The energy bounty that pioneers like EOG Resources Inc. started tapping with fracking techniques -- supplies that are now elevating the U.S. to the ranks of the world’s biggest oil producers, rivaling Russia and Saudi Arabia -- probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the high concentration of carbon the volcanoes provided.

Between all those ash-spewing eruptions during the Cretaceous and the development of horizontal drilling, everything has been laid out for U.S. production to surpass 11 million barrels a day by October. That’s how soon the Energy Information Administration expects the milestone to be reached, putting the U.S. at par with top producer Russia.

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