The mineral was first noted in 1969 in a core sample made by the Western Oil Shale Corporation in Uintah County, Utah. It was described in 1975 in the journal Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. The mineral was named after Philip H. Abelson a long-time editor of the journal Science for his work in organic geochemistry.
Chemically a nickel porphyrine derivative, classified as deoxophylloerythroetioporphyrin. Unique combination of elements; the only organonickel mineral known. Formed at depth. Abelsonite is accompanied by its structural norisomer; the surrounding shale contains other Ni porphyrins, which represent a series of more extended homologues.
methyl groups in the 2, 3, 7, 12, and 18 positions, ethyl group in the 8 and 17 positions. According to Milton et al. the molecules in abelsonite are not planar. The substitution pattern in the mineral is genetically related to a typical chlorophyll. The potential precursor to abelsonite is 17 desethyl, 17 propionic acid.
Worth of notice is an unnamed mineral coded as 'UM1984-14-CH:ClNOV', which is a natural vanadyl deoxophylloerythroetioporphyrin, the second known metalloporphyrin mineral, although not isostructural with abelsonite. There are also coal seams, oil-shales, and mineral deposits of economic significance; and of course famous fossil beds of Fossil Lake containing incredibly preserved fossil fish.