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In order to set limits on the time frame of formation of hydrothermal petroleum, we have obtained 14C ages on samples from three diverse regions; Gulf of California (Guaymas Basin), Northeast Pacific Ocean (Escanaba Trough and Middle Valley), and the East African Rift (Tanganyika Trough). The results date the source of carbon and therefore provide maximum ages for the formation and emplacement of the hydrothermal petroleums. The youngest petroleum occurs iin the Souther Trough of Guaymas Basin (3200-6600 yr, mean 4692 yr); in the Northern Trough the petroleum is slightly older (7400 yr). Significantly older hydrothermal petroleum occurs in Escanaba Trough (17,000 yr) and Middle Valley (29,000 yr). A continental example from the East African Rift has an age of 25,000 yr, comparable to the ages observed in the oceanic samples from the Northeast Pacific Ocean. These ages affirm that hydrothermal petroleum formation is a very rapid process and took place some time between the latest Pleistocene and the present in these active hydrothermal systems. ?? 1994.