Kudryavtsev’s Rule

Kudryavtsev's Rule

Nikolai Alexandrovich Kudryavtsev [1893 – 1971] was a Russian petroleum geologist who is considered the founding father of the modern abiogenic theory for petroleum.

Nikolai Kudryavtsev was also a prominent and forceful advocate of the abiogenic theory.
He argued that no petroleum resembling the chemical composition of natural crudes has ever been made from plant material in the laboratory under conditions resembling those in nature.

He gave many examples of substantial and sometimes commercial quantities of petroleum being found in crystalline or metamorphic basements, or in sediments directly overlying those.

He cited cases in Kansas, California, western Venezuela, and Morocco.

He also pointed out that oil pools in sedimentary strata are often related to fractures in the basement directly below.

This is evidenced by the Ghawar supergiant oil field (Saudi Arabia); the Panhandle Field in Kansas (United States), which also produces helium; the Tengiz Field (Kazakhstan); the White Tiger Field (Vietnam); and innumerable others.

The Lost Soldier Field in Wyoming has oil pools, he stated, at every horizon of the geological section, from the Cambrian sandstone overlying the basement to the upper Cretaceous deposits. A flow of oil was also obtained from the basement itself.

Hydrocarbon gases, he noted, are not rare in igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Canadian Shield.

Petroleum in Precambrian gneiss is encountered in wells on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal.


Nikolai Alexandrovich Kudryavtsev provided observational evidence in support of the abiogenic theory for petroleum.

Columns of flames have been seen during the eruptions of some volcanoes, sometimes reaching 500 meters in height, such as during the eruption of Mount Marapi in Sumatra in 1932. (There have been several other instances subsequently.)

The eruptions of mud-volcanoes have liberated such large quantities of methane that even the most prolific gasfield underneath should have been exhausted long ago.

The quantities of mud deposited in some cases would have required eruptions of much more gas than is known in any gasfield anywhere.

The water in mud volcanoes in some instances carries such substances as iodine, bromine and boron that could not have been derived from local sediments, and that exceed the concentrations in seawater one hundredfold.

Mud volcanoes are often associated with lava volcanoes, and the typical relationship is that where they are close, the mud volcanoes emit incombustible gases, while the ones further away emit methane.

He knew of the occurrence of oil in basement rocks of the Kola Peninsula, and of the surface seeps of oil in the Siljan Ring formation of central Sweden.

He noted as mentioned above that the enormous quantities of hydrocarbons in the Athabasca tar sands in Canada would have required vast amounts of source rocks for their generation in the conventional discussion, when in fact no source rocks have been found.


Kudryavtsev concluded that commercial accumulations are simply found where permeable zones are overlaid by impermeable ones.

Kudryavtsev’s Rule states that any region in which hydrocarbons are found at one level will also have hydrocarbons in large or small quantities at all levels down to and into the basement rock.

Thus, where oil and gas deposits are found, there will often be coal seams above them.

Gas is usually the deepest in the pattern, and can alternate with oil.

All petroleum deposits have a capstone, which is generally impermeable to the upward migration of hydrocarbons. This capstone leads to the accumulation of the hydrocarbon.


Thomas Gold found that Kudryavtsev’s Rule was “repeated very frequently” around the globe.

The most common sequence is to find gas at the deepest levels, oil above, sometimes more gas above the oil, and coal at the shallowest.

If one examines gas, oil and coal maps of different parts of the globe, one finds this rule repeated very frequently.

It holds in most of the Middle East: many oil wells in Iran have penetrated through large coal deposits.

Deep underneath the oil of the Gulf States, large gas fields have been discovered.

Almost all the oil wells of Java and Sumatra have drilled through coal, and even the deep gas of Oklahoma is often underneath coal.

What we are seeing is principally a succession of hydrocarbons with diminishing hydrogen content as one goes from the deepest to the shallowest.

One presumes that bacterial action, which attacks the hydrogen rich hydrocarbons first, has been largely responsible for the progressive hydrogen depletion of upwelling hydrocarbons.

The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of the Earth – Thomas Gold
U.S.G.S. Professional Paper 1570 – The Future of Energy Gases – 1993

Ironically, the best illustration of Kudryavtsev’s Rule [where multiple levels of “commercial accumulations are simply found where permeable zones are overlaid by impermeable ones”] I have found [so far] is from a study of Biomarkers Characteristics in the Gulf of Suez.

Gulf of Suez

Stratigraphic column of the Gulf of Suez

Biomarkers Characteristics of Crude Oils from some Oilfields in the Gulf of Suez, Egypt.
M. I. Roushdy, M. M. El Nady, Y. M. Mostafa, N.Sh. El Gendy and H. R. Ali
Journal of American Science – 2010

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