Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

2018 Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Biomarkers: Petroleum

  • Meng HeEmail author
  • J. Michael Moldowan
  • Kenneth E. Peters
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39312-4_170



Biomarkers or biological markers are the complex organic compounds which are comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and other elements. Biomarkers are usually found in oil, bitumen, rocks, and sediments, and they usually show little changes in terms of molecule structure from their parent organic molecules in living organisms.


Petroleum is a complex mixture of liquid, gas, and solid hydrocarbons with small amounts of other substances and may include crude oil, natural gas, and natural asphalt that form naturally in sedimentary rocksfrom the remains of organisms.


The term “biomarker” refers to a molecular fossil, which is an organic chemical that can be identified as originating from a particular biologically synthesized organic molecule. It is distinct from the broader term, “biosignature,” which is used in the context of the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life and refers to any evidence of life (Biosignatures Workshop 2000). Biomarkers in...

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Meng He
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Michael Moldowan
    • 2
  • Kenneth E. Peters
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Biomarker Technologies, Inc.Rohnert ParkUSA
  3. 3.SchlumbergerMill ValleyUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA