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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Oil clues found through fossils
Dr Rae Jones
The tiny fossils are extracted from rocks
A valleys scientist is using ancient fossils and even a louse from a dinosaur to help big oil companies strike it rich.

Dr Rae Jones analyses fossils from around the world looking for clues about where best to drill.

Microscopic fossils, some smaller than the width of a human hair, arrive daily at his laboratory in Blackwood.

He extracts the minute fossils, known as palynomorphs, from inside rocks.

Dr Jones transfers the tiny specimens onto microscope slides which are sent off for further analysis to help petroleum exploration.

We have seen tropical flies and even found a dinosaur louse from one sample in India
Dr Rae Jones

"We do see some really unusual things through the microscope," said Dr Jones, who started his business - The Paly Parlour - in March.

"We have seen tropical flies and even found a dinosaur louse in one sample from India.

"I was just going through the routine pollen and algae samples when I spotted it and I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing.

"We sent it off to the Natural History Museum.

"Most of the time we find pollen and plant spores and algae which gives us clues about the possible oil sites."

It takes just three days for Dr Jones to extract and analyse samples from 16 lumps of rock - many of which come from sites all over the globe including Africa, the Middle East and Canada.

Thousands of tiny fossils can be recovered from a single gram of rock which are used to date and correlate the make-up of the rock and the potential for oil wells.

Dr Jones has worked on a number of projects including working for the world's largest rig, the Hibernia, and the North Sea's largest recent find, the Buzzard Field.

Fossils recovered from both these sites were identified as being around at the time of the dinosaurs.

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