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Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN
Micropalaeontology or the study of microfossils may initially seem an esoteric subject for a desk bound academic; but if your thinking is along these lines then you couldn’t be further from the truth. These microscopic sized fossils can be integral to major engineering projects, can result in helicopter flights to oil rigs around the world and also to detailed forensic studies as part of serious criminal investigations or simple art restoration. The information they provide can act as a proxy for past climate change and consequently as an indicator of the changes which may await us in the future.
Microfossils are abundant and diverse in many everyday rock types found worldwide or simply out in the UK countryside; they are attractive, sometimes structurally complex, but rarely dull and boring. Because they’re not the size of a Diplodocus they’re very easy to carry home in your pocket, but they can still have impact – there would be no pyramids without microfossils.
In industry they are used every day to assist in the enhanced recovery of oil and gas on a global scale, providing massive value added in oil production. Optimal placement and steering of production wells within “sweet spots” in the oil reservoir can enhance recovery by 30%. With oil prices on the rise once again, the micropalaeontologist can have a major impact on hydrocarbon production and consequently, company profits. This paper attempts to put a highly estimated figure onto that added value.
In addition they were used to define the foundations of the Thames Barrier and to steer the tunnelling machines which cut the Channel Tunnel. How can you put a value on these? Closer to home, they’re present in pharmaceuticals, in your breakfast cereals and in your supper drinks. Definite food for thought!
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