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About Our Founder



About Our Founder

Our Founder

Frank D. Mango received his Ph.D. in 1963 in physical organic chemistry at Stanford University, working on the molecular rearrangements of free radicals under Prof. William A. Bonner.  He joined Shell Development Company that same year at their Emeryville laboratory in California, working in transition metal catalysis, petroleum processing and polymer chemistry. 

Mango is the inventor of four issued U.S. patents and the author of 54 scientific publications, including two in the journal Nature and one in Science.   The Geochemical Society awarded his 1990 Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. article Best Paper.   His 2007 American Association Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Long Beach talk, “Catalytic Gas in Deltaic Basins,” received the “Top 10” Oral Presentations Award. 

He introduced a new theory on the removal of orbital symmetry restrictions to forbidden catalytic reactions in 1967 (J. Americal Chemical Society, 89, 2488 (1967)), and published 16 papers on catalysis of symmetry-forbidden Woodword-Hoffman reactions. 

His interests then shifted to organic geochemistry in 1975 at the Bellaire Research Center, in Houston, TX.  There he discovered a peculiar invariance in four hydrocarbons in crude oils.  No matter what the crude oil, its origin, composition, or properties (light condensates or tars), a ratio of sums of isoheptanes was remarkably close to one.  In oils from a common source, the ratio was constant within analytical error.  Because there was no rational explanation for how thermal cracking could generate invariance, Frank proposed transition metal catalysis and steady-state theory as the source light hydrocarbons.  The work was published in 1987 (An Invariance in the Isoheptanes of Petroleum, Science, 237, 514 (1987)).  Contradicting conventional thinking on the origin of oil and gas, it quickly generated intense controversy that continues to this day.  However, the paper, now 30 years old, has been exhaustively verified in petroleum basins throughout the world, and catalytic generation under steady-state conditions as its source, although still controversial, remains unchallenged by alternative possibilities.  There may exist some set of circumstances that could produce Invariance through thermal cracking, but organic geochemists have yet to find it.  Additional contradictions to thermal cracking soon surfaced.  Mango knew from his earlier work at Stanford that methane is a minor product of thermal cracking, and that ethane and propane were too stable to crack at reservoir temperatures.  So-called thermogenic natural gas, however, is typically 90% methane, and could not be a product of thermal cracking.  Thermal cracking could not generate gas with 90+ % methane at subsurface temperatures, and published his first of several papers on the subject (The Role of Transition Metal Catalysis in the Formation of Natural GasNature, 368, 536 (1994)). 

He retired from Shell in 1991 and continued his activities in organic geochemistry as Adjunct Professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Rice University.  He was a Research Scientist and Principle Investigator on consecutive Department of Energy (DOE) grants (Transition Metal Catalysis in the Generation of Oil and Natural Gas) in the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1992 to 2002.  

He next founded Petroleum Habitats to develop the science and technology associated with the role of transitional metals in the generation of oil and gas. 

Publications: The Origin of Natural Gas

Mango, F.D. (2013) Methane and carbon at equilibrium in source rocks Geochemical Transactions 14: 5

Mango, F.D., Jarvie, D., and Herriman, E. (2010) Natural catalytic activity in a marine shale for generating natural gas. Proceedings Royal Soc. A, 466 3527-3537

Mango, F.D,  “Distinguishing gases derived from oil cracking and kerogen maturation: Insights from laboratory pyrolysis experiments.” Guo Liguo, Xiao Xianming, Tian Hui, Song Zhiguang, 2009, Organic Geochemistry 40, 1074-1084. Org. Geochem. (2010), doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2010.02.012

Mango, F.D. and Jarvie, D. (2010) Metathesis in the generation of low-temperature gas in marine shales. Geochemical Transactions 11:1

Mango, F.D. and Jarvie, D (2009) Low-temperature gas from marine shales: wet gas to dry gas over experimental time. Geochemical Transactions 10:10

Mango, F.D., Jarvie, D., and Herriman, E. (2009) Natural gas at thermodynamic equilibrium: Implications for the origin of natural gas.  Geochemical Transactions 10:6

Mango, F.D. and Jarvie, D. (2009)  Low-temperature gas generated from marine shales. Geochemical Transactions 10:3

Mango, F. D. (2002) Comment on “Natural gas composition in a geological environment and the implications for the processes of generation and preservation,” Lloyd R. Snowdon, 2001, Org. Geochem. 32, 913, Org. Geochem. 33, 81-83.

Mango, F. D. (2001) Methane concentrations in natural gas: the genetic implications. Org. Geochem. 32, 1283-1287.

Mango, F. D. (2000) Carbon isotopic evidence for the catalytic origin of light hydrocarbons. Geochem. Trans,. 6. 

Mango, F. D. (2000) The origin of light hydrocarbons. Geochimica. Cosmochim. Acta 64, 1265-1277.

Mango, F. D., and Elrod, L. W. (1999) The carbon isotopic composition of catalytic gas: A comparative analysis of natural gas. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 63, 1097-1106.

Mango, F. D., and Hightower (1997) The catalytic decomposition of petroleum into natural gas. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 24, 5347-5350.

Mango, F. D. (1997) The light hydrocarbons in petroleum: A critical review. Org. Geochem. 26, 417-440.

Mango, F. D. (1996) Transition metal catalysis in the generation of natural gas. Org. Geochem. 24, 977-984. 

Mango, F. D., Hightower, J. W., and James, A. T. (1994) Role of transition-metal catalysis in the formation of natural gas. Nature, 368, 536-538. 

Mango, F. D. (1994) The origin of light hydrocarbons in petroleum: Ring preference in the closure of carbocyclic rings. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 58, 895-901.

Mango, F. D. (1992) Transition metal catalysis in the generation of petroleum: A genetic anomaly in Ordovician oils. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 56, 3851-3854.

Mango, F. D. (1992) Transition metal catalysis in the generation of petroleum and natural gas. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 56, 553-555.

Mango, F. D. (1991) The stability of hydrocarbons under the time-temperature conditions of petroleum genesis. Nature 352, 146-148.

Mango, F. D. (1990) The origin of light hydrocarbons in petroleum: A kinetic test of the steady-state catalytic hypothesis. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 54, 1315-1323. Awarded Best Paper by the Geochemical Society (Organic Geochemistry) for 1990.

Mango, F. D. (1990) The origin of light cycloalkanes in petroleum. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 54, 23-27

Mango, F. D. (1989) Pre-steady-state kinetics at the onset of petroleum generation. Org. Geochem. 16, 41-48

Mango, F. D. (1987) An invariance in the isoheptanes of petroleum. Science 237, 514-517

Mango, F. D. (1983) The diagenesis of carbohydrates by hydrogen sulfide. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta. 47, 1433-1441