Why does mineral oil occur below natural gas? It was asked in our science book in the Geology section and I didn't get a clear explanation from the teacher.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Think about his: why does the ocean occur below the atmosphere? The answer is almost the same. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Dec 30 '17 at 4:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Think about the density of the two fluids $\endgroup$ – Fred Dec 30 '17 at 6:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ if you fill water in a cup why is there no air below the water. no effort have been done to find an answer before posting this. $\endgroup$ – trond hansen Dec 30 '17 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ All the commenters are oversimplifying the question. They've forgotten to answer a big part of the question, which is why gas and oil are found together at all. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Jan 10 '18 at 12:14

Natural gas can occur above and below oil formations however when they occur in the same formation natural gas will sit on top because it’s density per kg/m3 is 800+ and natural gases density is 400+

weight of natural gas

weight of crude oil

  • $\begingroup$ linking to liquified natural gass is probably not too usefull even if it still is lighter than oil,but it is still useful as an ilustration of the difference in density. $\endgroup$ – trond hansen Dec 31 '17 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ you can even see this in formations, in tilted formation the gas all flow uphill and pools at the top if there is a capstone. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 8 '18 at 23:57

I'm expanding upon a couple of the answers because none of them used the term "buoyancy" explicitly. Also, don't use the term "mineral oil", just call it oil or petroleum. Mineral oil is a distillation by-product of petroleum and is not found in subsurface reservoirs.

Let's consider a simple example of a thick reservoir quality sandstone with constant lithology throughout the whole reservoir. Then there are two forces acting on fluids in the sandstone pore space in an undisturbed reservoir. The pore space is the space between the rock grains in the sandstone. By undisturbed, I mean a reservoir which has not been drilled.

The two forces are the buoyancy pressure and the capillary force. The buoyancy pressure is due to the difference of specific gravities between fluids in the pore space. The specific gravity is a unit-less proxy for density. More formally, the specific gravity is simply the ratio of the density of the substance to the density of water at 4 degrees Celsius.

The capillary pressure is due to fluids becoming trapped in narrow pore throats, and because of this pressure there is always an irreducible water saturation in the reservoir. Put simply, even in the gas or oil zone, water always occupies some fraction of the pore space. In other words, for most rocks water is sticky and oil is not. As a result, a bit of water is left behind even when the rock is full of oil or gas. This is the " irreducible water saturation".

See these links:



Once an exploration well has been drilled, figuring out the water and hydrocarbon saturations in the reservoir are critically important because many subsequent decisions will be based upon these numbers.

In a reservoir containing gas, oil and water. The fluids will occupy the pore spaces of the formation from shallowest to deepest-- gas first, then oil and finally water.

In a reservoir, one may have only gas or oil, but there is always water because water always exists as the major constituent of the pore space of underground formations unless it has been replaced by gas or oil.

In addition, due to the capillary pressure, the saturation of the reservoir fluids changes inside each gas/oil/water zone with depth and proximity to the nearest fluid contact. For example, near the oil-water contact, the water saturation is highest and decreases upwards to a constant minimum as it nears the gas-oil contact. Around that point, the oil saturation is at a maximum. The oil saturation then decreases from a maximum as the gas saturation increases, however, the water saturation is still a constant and minimum value.

More detail can be found here - http://wiki.aapg.org/Fluid_contacts .

I'm a geoscientist who works with petroleum engineers-- hope this helps!


it is all about the density.gass have a lower density than oil and oil have a lower density than water.

oil will float on water and gass will float on oil.

some gasses are lighter than air like hydrogen gass so this will float on air because hydrogen have lower density than air.

your question is about schoolwork so i asume this Q&A will be closed soon.


The obvious answers have been posted, but I believe the question really should be why do they occur together?

The answer to such a question is because their source is the same - organic remains subjected to specific conditions: no oxygen, pressure, temperature, and a lot of time.


LOTS of time for density differences to cause migration miles through relatively solid rock. And beyond the level of the question to point out there is always water and often CO2 which make for some complicated ( for me) physical chemistry.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.