Debate about the Origin of Petroleum

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by spookz, Nov 12, 2002.

  1. spookz Banned Banned

    It is remarkable that in spite of its widespread occurrence, its great economic importance, and the immense amount of fine research devoted to it, there perhaps still remain more uncertainties concerning the origin of petroleum than that of any other commonly occurring natural substance. (H.D.Hedberg, 1964)

    Actually it cannot be too strongly emphasized that petroleum does not present the composition picture expected from modified biogenic products, and all the arguments from the constituents of ancient oils fit equally well, or better, with the conception of a primordial hydrocarbon mixture to which bio-products have been added. (Sir Robert Robinson, President, Royal Society, 1963)

    The capital fact to note is that petroleum was born in the depths of the Earth, and it is only there that we must seek its origin. (D. Mendeleev, 1877)

    biogenic origin of petroleum

    (1) Petroleum contains groups of molecules which are clearly identified as the breakdown products of complex, but common, organic molecules that occur in plants, and that could not have been built up in a non-biological process.

    (2) Petroleum frequently shows the phenomenon of optical activity, i.e. a rotation of the plane of polarization when polarized light is passed through it. This implies that molecules which can have either a right-handed or a left-handed symmetry are not equally represented, but that one symmetry is preferred. This is normally a characteristic of biological materials and absent in fluids of non-biological origin.

    (3) Some petroleums show a clear preference for molecules with an odd number of carbon atoms over those with an even number. Such an odd-even effect can be understood as arising from the breakdown of a class of molecules that are common in biological substances, and may be difficult to account for in other ways.

    (4) Petroleum is mostly found in sedimentary deposits and only rarely in the primary rocks of the crust below; even among the sediment, it favors those that are geologically young. In many cases such sediment appears to be rich in carbonaceous materials that were interpreted as of biological origin, and as source material for the petroleum deposit.

    abiogenic origins (non-biological, primeval origin)

    (1) Petroleum and methane are found frequently in geographic patterns of long lines or arcs, which are related more to deep-seated large-scale structural features of the crust, than to the smaller scale patchwork of the sedimentary deposits.

    (2) Hydrocarbon-rich areas tend to be hydrocarbon-rich at many different levels, corresponding to quite different geological epochs, and extending down to the crystalline basement that underlies the sediment. An invasion of an area by hydrocarbon fluids from below could better account for this than the chance of successive deposition.

    (3) Some petroleums from deeper and hotter levels lack almost completely the biological evidence . Optical activity and the odd-even carbon number effect are sometimes totally absent, and it would be difficult to suppose that such a thorough destruction of the biological molecules had occurred as would be required to account for this, yet leaving the bulk substance quite similar to other crude oils.

    (4) Methane is found in many locations where a biogenic origin is improbable or where biological deposits seem inadequate: in great ocean rifts in the absence of any substantial sediments; in fissures in igneous and metamorphic rocks, even at great depth; in active volcanic regions, evenwhere there is a minimum of sediments; and there are massive amounts of methane hydrates (methane-water ice combinations) in permafrost and ocean deposits, where it is doubtful that an adequate quantity and distribution of biological source material is present.

    (5) The hydrocarbon deposits of a large area often show common chemical or isotopic features, quite independent of the varied composition or the geological ages of the formations in which they are found. Such chemical signatures may be seen in the abundance ratios of some minor constituents such as traces of certain metals that are carried in petroleum; or a common tendency may be seen in the ratio of isotopes of some elements, or in the abundance ratio of some of the different molecules that make up petroleum. Thus a chemical analysis of a sample of petroleum could often allow the general area of its origin to be identified, even though quite different formations in that area may be producing petroleum. For example a crude oil from anywhere in the Middle East can be distinguished from an oil originating in any part of South America, or from the oils of West Africa; almost any of the oils from California can be distinguished from that of other regions by the carbon isotope ratio.

    (6) The regional association of hydrocarbons with the inert gas helium, and a higher level of natural helium seepage in petroleum-bearing regions, has no explanation in the theories of biological origin of peroleum.

    The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of the Earth - Thomas Gold
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  3. unbalanced Banned Banned

    A bazzilion years from now.

    What would happen to a land fill with a city built on top of it that is swallowed up in a gigantic upheaval of the earths crust and engulfed with hot lava,this is no theory,but what would it become?,smash a bunch of organic material flat and cook it,sounds kinda like a hamburger,and what you have left is a bunch of greasy artery cloggin stuff,or oil after the passage of time maybe.....who knows,maybe they should start mining old landfills from before the recycling fad came to be,....the mind is just a wanderin off the edge of the earth today.
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  5. Porfiry Nomad Staff Member

    In essence, they <A HREF="">do</A>.
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  7. unbalanced Banned Banned

    There' s huile in that thar hole

    I thought about the possibility of oil being produced by upheaval and engulfment of surface objects when I read something a long time ago about a drilling company hit something metallic,and they couldnt explain it because it was pure steel,like the type that is refined,some other strange things I have heard about them running into very deep underground also.I do not remember where I read this though,time to do some diggin.
  8. Gifted World Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Can we make a landfill make gasoline?
  9. rbtoy Registered Member

    I know it has been a while since your original question was posted and no one is probably reading this thread now, but I just joined this motley group and thought a reply would be in order.

    The real answer (though not the most widely held opinion) is that oil is biological in origin but NOT from the commonly held theories of animal or photosynthesis processes.

    The key to the process is anerobic bacterial micro-organisms. They were re-discovered in the 80's in Pacific deep-sea vents. They created hydrocarbon material (bio-mass) in a similar way to plants, but using thermal energy rather than sunlight. The problem with thermal energy is that it does not have energy quanta that are as large as those of sunlight, thus cannot support the chemical process of hydrocarbon formation. EXCEPT UNDER CONDITION OF HIGH PRESSURE, where the temperatures of the water can be high enough to support a process best called "thermo-synthesis." It requires only high pressure, heat, water, CO2, hydrogen sulfide, and these little bacteria. On the floor of the ocean they make a slime-like hydrocarbon that is the first rung of the food chain at those hydro-thermal vents. Within the Earth's crust, however, there are no higher rungs on this food chain ladder so this stuff (bio-mass) simply accumulates, to be converted by geologic action into oil and gas.

    There are two question that, to my knowledge, no credible research has yet tried to answer.

    First, what is the period of time required to create (or re-stock) a reasonable size of oil field? Based upon the indications that some depleted oil fields are being oddly refilled, it would seem the answer is on the order of decades. We need to research the question with detailed studies.

    Second, can the process be "farmed?" That is to say, can we find areas that are lacking in one part of the process (let's say there is not enough water present) where we could intervene by adding the missing ingridient (injecting water into subterranean spaces, in this example), thus leading to more widespread regeneration of oil supplies.

    The bottom line is this: Though some oil may have originated from photosynthesis process on the Earth's surface in years past, oil is a RENEWABLE resource, not just a fossil fuel.
  10. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    unbalanced I read that... it was a alien space ship

    Anyways I believe oil comes from the underground biosphere! A amazing world miles below use filled with thousand of little critters that chew rock and make oil... this world has existed for billions of years but we have easily taped into it and have been sucking the life out of it! This is wrong and we should start a petition right NOW to stop mining the world of the lifeblood of these marvelous deep earth prokaryotes!
  11. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Depleted oil fields are not being "oddly refilled". One of the misconceptions that the average Joe has is that this is a pool of oil. Not so. Oil is usually found around a salt dome in oil bearing sands. While the oil is being removed from the ground, it is not uncommon for the surface level ground to sink lower. Especially, swampy ground. The oil seeps through porus sands to the oil well. There reaches a point where it is not economical feasible to continue to try to get oil from the same hole. It is not that they got it all. Those porus sands tend to clog with bits of trash, the closer they get to the well bore. Over time, the oil will seep back to the bore, as you never get it all out.

    Notice the term "economically feasible". Many old wells are reopened when the price is high enough. What was not profitable when gas sold a 25¢ a gallon may be profitable when it is selling at $1.25. (Taxes do not help this equation) Also technology enters into it. At the start of oil production, secondary means had not been developed to extend the life of producing time. As technology gets better so does the means of extending the life of that well. Many new things have been developed in the last 50 years to help make this possible, among them, gas lift, water flood, steam injection, chemical injection, ect.

    But the fields, are not growing back...
  12. rbtoy Registered Member

    Ah, but the point (which you must have missed) is that far from being a fossil fuel, we can now understand oil as a resource that is contunuously in natural production. Thanks to heretofore overlooked biological processes we now need to know not whether the oil will be there in the future, but how long the process of replenishment may take, and whether we can help it along.
  13. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Actually, I did not miss your point. Rather I dispute the speed at which it "might" replenish. Certainly it would not be as fast as our hunger for it (consumption) will consume the remaining reserves.

    We are finding that we must either:

    1. Go ever deeper while dealing with increasing pressures and temperatures.
    2. Or go to third world countries to get oil nearer the surface.

    There is the distinct (unproven as yet) possibility that the oil reserves may be from the early history of the earth when comet bombardment was at its heyday. That does not explain how it got so deep into the earth.

    One of the ideas that might support your claim that it is a natural renewable resource, is from deep meteor impacts. (not comets) It has been long known that deep meteor impacts are areas to find oil. The geography of fractured crust allows any seepage from oil to go from high pressure and hot temperatures to lower pressure and cooler areas. That it might be that as it comes closer to the surface it cools and falls out into oil. Biological componets tend to refute that.
  14. rbtoy Registered Member

    There are widely varying possibilities concerning the rate of replenishment for oil deposits (given the premise that it is an ongoing phemomenon) that depend upon the amount of raw materials and suitable conditions one may find within the depths of the Earth's crust. My opinion, and it is strictly an opinion, is that there may have been periods of history when the conditions were better than they are today, and that there are subterranean areas today that are lacking in a single factor needed to produce relatively large quantities of oil and gas. I believe (again, still opinion, because there has been no meaningful research) that by supplementing the natural elements, likely by injecting water, we can greatly enhance the production rate. A truly renewable supply of oil would drastically change the future prospects of the world population. It is only proper that we consider the possibility, since the actuality fo the thermo-senthesis phenomenon was shown to exist around the deep sea vents.
  15. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Having worked some time in the oil feilds, I do not speak from opinion but rather from experience. I have worked where fields have had 30-40 year life spans. I have also worked new fields being drilled as they came on line. From bleeding the "gas cap off" to water flood recovery (last stage of a feilds life). I have been on projects that looked back to see if early abandoned feilds had enough life remaining in them to see a come back. The speculation was that the technology had improved during the time the feild was closed, not that the feild had replentished itself.

    Some of the newer fields that were developed where a bit deeper than usual. These were so hot that when they were brought on line that "soaker hoses" had to be used to try and lower the temperature of the equipment, both for safety and for prolonging the life of the equipment. This gives you the idea that we have not caught up with where we need to be to deal with great depth/high temperature/high pressure. I could give you other incidents that also support this or you could just take my word on this one.

    As much is known, due to the search for oil over the last 50 years, more is being learned as time goes by. The development of newer scanning technologies brought about finding that we didn't know it all. Domestic oil pockets were found where none thought to look as oil typically was not found in those conditions. These findings have extended the life of many of our domestic oil producing facilities. It will not solve our demand for oil. It is not major finds. They augement the fields production, thus the extended life.
  16. rbtoy Registered Member

    First, let me say, that I do not disagree with any of the points you are making. However, your comments are still in a different direction than my basic argument (that there is a fundamental biological process at work here, making new oil). You you did throw some cold water on one of my suggestions that we could inject water in some areas to hasten the processes. I am sorry to learn that our capabilities are not up to that task.
  17. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    The reason I did not refute your claim that petroleum may be a renewable resource is that it may well be. The door is wide open on it. In other words, it is possible. As such, I will not throw the baby out with the dishwater until proven it belongs with it.

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  18. Rick Valued Senior Member


    How much does an Oilfield costs?...

    just curious...

  19. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    You would not believe the billions that go into the development of an oil field. Most are so expensive now a days that companies share and split the cost rather than wholely finiancing it all on their own.

    From million dollar compressors to power generation facilites, all are expensive. Not to mention the government requirements that drive the cost yet higher. Don't get me wrong, some of the requirements make good sense and are there for the people's protection. Others on the surface, don't make a lot of sense.

    For instance, a larger company gets a larger fine for the same infringement that a small company would. The idea is that it doesn't hurt the larger company to receive a small fine while it would a small company. The problem is that there are some small companies who think that the fine is so small that it doesn't pay to straighten the problem. It is cheaper to pay the fine. For large companies the opposite is true. It is cheaper to pay for revisions to the equipment to allow it to meet regulations than it is to pay the fine over and over.

    I will tell you this, it is expensive. I didn't understand how gas could be so expensive till I went to the oil patch. Now I can not understand how it is so cheap.
  20. Edufer Tired warrior Registered Senior Member

    Oil origin is abiogenic. For sure.

    Read this article and then tell us what's your opinion:

    It's about a book on the subject written by Dr. Thomas Gold, and astrophysicist from Cornell University, whose theories have been proved write --all of them!

    Enjoy the reading.
  21. orbie Registered Senior Member

    HAHAH! that article made me laugh.. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy won a darwin award in the near future.

    "Gold contends that hydrocarbon sources can be found at great depths below the surface, not a few miles, but a few hundred miles." - quoted from that webpage.

    A few hundred miles eh? The earth's crust is at most 50 miles thick, and I'm being generous. Going deeper than that we start to hit molten metal... I'm betting we'd find soooooo many hydrocarbon deposists down there. I'm currently on the road to becoming a petroleum engineer. I'm a student at the Colorado School of Mines, which is #1 or 2 in the nation for petroleum engineering. Our profs know their stuff. In all the talk of where our oil comes from, never has the possibility of a magical "deep-Earth source" of petroleum ever come up. It's always been that they are formed by the decay of organic life. That sure as hell makes sense. All organic life is made of carbon + other elements, carbon is a must. The earth's core is made out of nickel and iron and other metals, not a magical carbon land. So the guy has some theories "proved", whoaaa, proved by whom?

    "The existing petroleum reservoirs are refilling themselves - from the bottom! Gold ex-plains"

    No, they're not. This guy is an idiot.

    "Curiously, helium is not found in meaningful quantities in areas that are not producing oil or methane. When the constituents of oil wells are examined for mixing ratios of helium, the data patterns are consistent throughout the world."

    He speaks of areas not producing oil not having any meaning full composistion of helium. In the next sentence he says that world wide the constituents of oil wells read the same data, HE GAVE US NO DATA FOR THEM! he's dumb.

    "The temperatures and pressures required to form diamonds begin at depths of 70 miles."

    That's a helluva a long way down there. I think it's even past the Moho region. And that is a long way for diamonds to be pushed up to the surface, a few thousand feet is understandable, but not 70 miles.

    "Because the location is so far north, it is not considered a site where one would find an abundance of "fossil fuels"" - Sweden

    What about the huge oil reserves in northen alaska? That's pretty far north. Siberia too. Wow, they are extreme northern areas. "I'm big professor theory guy, I'm dumb."

    "In 1906, Gold and his Swedish and American colleagues drilled holes reaching nearly 5 miles down from the impact interior. The idea was to penetrate the lower crust, and possibly the upper mantle."

    Whoa, I thought he said that a couple hundred miles down was a good place for hydrocarbons, and yet here he's drilling down 5 miles into the upper mantle. Holy shit those are some super-combustion proof hydrocarbons that chill in molten metal.
  22. orbie Registered Senior Member

    I was being very generous to make a point. That the "professor" who wrote that paper was so incredibly far off that it's just ridiculus.

    And my apoligies for saying we'd hit molten metal. I was just trying to say that it's highly unlikely any petroleum resevoirs would be found that deep in the earth.

    Andre you seem to know something, if not a lot, about this stuff. So am I not the only one who thinks that professor is quite wrong in the ideas of his paper?
  23. Edufer Tired warrior Registered Senior Member

    Let's be serious

    So it makes sense, sure as Hell? I wonder if you read the review of Dr. Gold’s book in its entirety, and with the open mind needed. I would suggest you to read it again, this time more carefully. Better yet, go to your local public library and ask for the book (perhaps they have it) and read all what Dr. Gold has to say about his theory. Some angry and skeptical people didn’t believe in Galileo theories too, and they just sent him to jail. They also sent Giordano Bruno to the fire pile for being “too original”. The scientific establishment laughed at the work of Heinrich Schlieman in 1870-90 that based his theory for looking for the city of Troy in ancient mythological accounts, or the work of Champollion because he was not an academician in cryptology. On the other hand, the same establishment swallowed completely the fraud of the Man of Piltdown, as is swallowing today the fraud of global warming, ozone hole, etc.

    But Dr. Gold <b>IS</b> an academician, and a respected one for that matter. The trouble is, as with many unorthodox theories, the ones that comes shattering older beliefs, they are hard to accept. It is what happens when a missionary goes to a Jivaro village in the Amazon jungle and tells them that the Earth is a chunk of dirt floating in space, that the sun does not orbits around the Earth, but is our planet who spins around its axis creating the illusion that the sun rises in the morning and sets before the night. The first and natural reaction is to shrink the heretic’s head and keep believing in their old beliefs. So please don’t act as a Jivaro indian.

    We’ve come a long way since then, and I have as my guide a rule expressed back in the 60s by British astronomer Arthur Clark, that goes like this: <font color=blue><I>“If a renown and aging scientist say something is <b>possible</b>, he may be probably right. If another renown and aging scientist say something is <b>impossible</b> it is very likely he is wrong”.</i></font>

    But think a little: another kind of fossil fuels found at very shallow depths is <b>coal</b>, (hills and mountains of it) and everybody accepts the theory that it was formed by ancient forests and jungles covered by sediments. Another very old geological formations is limestone, also found in the surface, doing as deep as 300 meters. I worked for 30 years at our family limestone quarry, so I learned in the way “something” about geology. Coal is found, as you know, quite near from the surface, covered by sediments and rocks formed during a process that took some millions years. Just make a projection: how many millions years took to form a sedimentary layer over those coal-forming prehistoric jungles that goes not deeper than <b>1000 meters</b>. As dinosaurs and other fossils (from 500 to 65 million years old, as trilobites for instance) are normally found at depths of mere meters (1 to 10, - perhaps 100?) it seems that sedimentary layers grew at an average rate of: <b>100 million years = 10 meters = 1 meter of sediment for each 10 million years.</b> You and me (as many others do) know this is an oversimplification of the issue of sedimentary formation, as it is not uniform all over the world. But it serves to trying to make my point.

    As oil was found by Dr. Thomas Gold in his Siljan experiment in Sweden at depths of 8,000 meters, we must multiply <b>8,000 by 10.000.000</b> and will get the time needed to form the sediments covering Dr. Gold’s oil. The result is <font color=red><b> years</b></font>, that is <b>80 billion years</B>, a figure out of the question as Earth’s life is no older than 4,500 billion years, and the Universe age has been recently (a week ago) calculated at <b>13,400 billion years</b>.

    Do the same calculation with other units, (oil found at 3,000 meters, and sediments growing at a faster rate of 1 meter each 1 million years: 3,000 x 1.000.000 = <b>3,000,000,000</b> years, a figure that also is out of the question as 3 billion years ago, Earth still was a fireball, (or close to it, with no life at all).

    But then, the other fundamental question that remains unanswered is: <b>where did the amount of material that form sediments come from?</b> Because the sedimentary layer that cover oil wells is quite uniform all over the world, with some unique exceptions of quite shallow oil found near the surface –due to upwelling from deeper deposits. Earth had to be half its size then, <b>if sediments came from outer space</b> to cover those alleged ancient jungles. Then, what about the actual size of Earth’s inner and outer core? What size was then? Nonsense. Make another calculation and you’ll find that the amount of jungle mass (biomass) needed to form oil after decaying is staggering – beyond our imagination.

    Just ask these questions to your “professors” and see what they have to say. Do not let them dismiss you with a simple answer as <b>“He´s a lunatic”</b>. Demand serious, well based scientific answers. You might be surprised to know your professors have no answer for this. If you find an honest man, he wil just say: “I don´t know”. But “scientists” are well known for their elliptical responses just to avoid showing their ignorance.

    By the way: many oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico have replenished from the bottom (nobody is pouring oil from the top, of course), as did many oil wells in the south of Argentina (my country) and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (where I lived for years), and saw them producing again. Update your info. Sometimes is useful.

    <b><font color=blue><b>I strongly recommend you to read this web page, written by Dr. Gold himself, about his book and his theory, where you’ll find anything you want to debunk him. Then come back and tell us what is your new opinion</b></font>.

    <b>Message to André:</b> (that I have the hunch he takes Dr. Gold’s theory more seriously): I have not forgotten your plea for information on the <b>Medieval Little Ice Age</B> proofs (or studies about it) in Patagonia and the Pampas. This time of the year is summer vacations, so Universities are closed and everybody went to the beaches. But I will try to get the info as soon as some of my friends return home.

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