Peak Atmosphere

There is plenty of oil in the ground. The statement, “No super giant oil fields have been discovered since 1968″, is oil company propaganda.

The following list of super giant oil fields (those believed to have 5 billion or more barrels or recoverable oil), discovered since 1968, is by no means exclusive. One super-giant field discovery proves the statement that no super giant fields have been discovered since 1968 false.

Exploration actually began in the South Viet Nam region in the 1970′s. Oil was discovered in the White Tiger oil field sometime between 1981 and 1986 however, the initial discovery did not qualify the field as a super giant. Oil in the granite basement rock, which gave White Tiger super giant status, was not discovered until 1996. To this date there is argument with respect to whether that oil is biotic or abiotic in origin. Many sources refer to this as a giant rather than super giant field, however, the estimated recoverable reserves are 700 million tons, 1 ton = 7.3 barrels, so by that math 5.11 billion barrels which is super giant status.

Recently, a huge coal discovery in Norway amounts to 3.5 times the total amount of coal previously known to exist in the Earth’s crust. A friend from South Africa mentioned that he thought it odd that we get so excited about oil here in the United States in that where he is from, South Africa, most petrol is made from coal, and the United States has huge coal reserves.

First, assuming oil is only biological in origin, this is wrong and there are many reasons to believe this, but for now, I’ll play into the oil industry hype and pretend oil is only of biotic origin. The first photosynthetic bacteria appeared on Earth somewhere between 3.5 billion years and 2.7 billion years ago, and spent the next 2 billion years converting carbon dioxide and water into free oxygen and hydrocarbons and they’ve continued to do so as animal lifeforms and natural processes have converted some of those hydrocarbons back into carbon dioxide and water. So far the biological oil we have tapped has been that which was produced from 360-270 million years ago. Also, most of the oil we have tapped has been biological in as much as we’ve only looked for oil where we would find biological sources, in sedimentary deposits.

What happened to the hydrocarbons produced during the two plus billion years that proceeded that when most of the carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere? In terms of sheer bulk that has to be much greater than that produced from 360-270 million years ago based both on the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and in terms of the time frame cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and other photosynthetic organisms have been reducing carbon dioxide and synthesizing hydrocarbons.

About 250 million years ago, the Permian mass extinction occurred where in something on the order of 92% of the species went extinct. We’re not really sure exactly what happened, but we know there were massive volcanic episodes with the release of huge amounts of magma, evidence for an impact of a Mt. Everest sized asteroid, world-wide fires, very low atmospheric oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels as well as hydrogen sulfide levels. We know that parts of the Earth’s mantle appears to have been spread across the crust. We know that most species went
extinct.

By 140 million years ago, plant life had again returned the atmosphere to one heavy in oxygen, actually around 35% oxygen at that time. So where are the hydrocarbons those critters should have formed?

Here is the thing, carbon is not created by life; it preexisted in the Earth’s crust. Same is true for oxygen, and for hydrogen. We also know that if we take limestone, calcium carbonate, iron oxide, and water, and we heat them to the temperature of the mantle at a depth of approximately 100km, and at the pressures present there, we get a mix of hydrocarbons identical to natural petroleum.

If we look at planetary bodies farther from the sun, we see that hydrocarbons are abundant on them in spite of the lack of the conditions conducive to photosynthetic life.

The bottom line is all the chemical components necessary for hydrocarbons were present during the Earth’s formation, and the heat and pressure present in the Earth’s mantle alone are sufficient to turn them into a mix of hydrocarbons identical to natural petroleum. We know this because we’ve reproduced these conditions in the laboratory and made oil.

Further, even if you want to assume all oil is of biological origin, there was enough biological hydrocarbon production to remove essentially all of the carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere which was at one time primarily carbon dioxide, and we’ve returned a fraction of a percentage of that carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

It’s not running out of oil that is the issue; it’s running out of atmosphere. We are already nearing the point where those with medical problems are beginning to feel the health effects of higher carbon dioxide levels. Healthy adults at sea-level may well survive much higher carbon dioxide levels, but as people age, their lungs ability to get rid of carbon dioxide declines. The ability to get rid of carbon dioxide also declines with altitude. From the standpoint of direct health consequences alone, before we even consider the fatal fart mass extinction, or rising oceans, or global warming; before we consider any of these options, just our own health is being hurt by the burning of so called fossil fuels.

There is no need for this. If we, here in the US, had spent the money we spent during the first year on the Iraq war, we could have fully replaced all the energy Iraq produces with renewable energy, forever. One years Iraq war capital invested in renewable energy production instead of killing and maiming human beings, would have given us the Iraq energy production in clean renewable energy indefinitely. How terribly stupid we’ve been to squander this money.

If we’d spent all the money we’ve spent on Iraq War to date; we could have obtained complete energy independence by now. We went the route we did because of the financial interests of the oil companies and the international banking community that invests and finances them as well as the interests of the military industrial complex.

We could have had energy independence; far less pollution, been admired by the world for solving our energy problems and showing the world how to do the same, enjoyed prosperity that cheap abundant energy would bring; instead we killed and maimed a bunch of people and made ourselves the enemy of most of the civilized world. And still Bush, Cheney, and company try to drum up a war with Iran, and if you look at the above list of super-giant oil field discoveries, the reason for doing so is clear, more profits for the oil companies, banks, and military industrial complex.

I have to wonder what the likes of Rupert Murdock gets from this? Owning a large percentage of the worlds print media; and all they seem to print is pro-war, pro-greed, pro-stupidity. So how does a rich Australian benefit from all of this mayhem? How about Fox News? They seem pretty intent on trying to push a war with Iran as well. Why do these bastards want to kill and maim millions of humans and keep us dependent upon a dirty polluting source of energy when clean abundant alternatives not requiring the mutilation of human beings, are readily available?

What I find most disturbing is that the same group of people who own the republican party today have made a big investment in the democratic party; clearly they wish to portray this whole situation as a republican-democrat thing; but they wouldn’t be supporting the democrats now unless they had their claws just as deeply in them and are planning business as usual.

Ron Paul is one candidate that I don’t think they control; so instead, they’re trying to shut him out of the process entirely, never mind that he has raised the third largest campaign fund without major corporate contributions, he’s not going to play ball so he’s out of the game. I haven’t heard one other candidate commit to getting us out of Iraq, unless I do, Ron Paul’s going to get my write-in vote.

I don’t agree with a lot of things Ron Paul believes in, I do believe that not everything should be privatized. Prisons for example, the privatization of them gives the corporations running them every incentive to keep inmates in as long as possible, to encourage those that are released to recommit and come back, because that’s how they make their money. I’m of the opinion that locking someone up in a cage is reasonable only if they are violent and need to be isolated from the community; other crimes I believe should be handled through restitution, drug treatment, etc. But the majority of society seems to think that civil vengeance is a good thing and turning it over to a corporation a good practice.

I also think our nations highway system, power grid, and a number of other large infrastructure items are best kept public. The behavior of Enron, and the behavior of the oil companies have also lead me to believe that perhaps nations which have nationalized their energy companies didn’t have such a bad idea. I also believe everyone should be entitled to an education, health-care, and at least minimal housing.

So there are things I can’t agree with Ron Paul on, but we need to get out of Iraq, we need to quit pretending Israel is our friend because clearly they will gladly bring this country to ruins so they can continue bulldozing the homes of their neighbors, bombing them, shooting their kids, etc. And I’m not attacking Jews in general here, I am criticizing the government of Israel, and those Israeli’s that support those kind of human abuses. Israel keeps saying, “Never again”, and yet they treat their neighbors the same was Nazi Germany treated them. “Never again” should mean these things should never be done to ANY human being again anywhere ever. The sooner we stop supporting these actions, the sooner they will end.

I wish that Hillary would have the moral courage to say that we are wrong staying in Iraq and she will get us out of there, or Obama would say that, so I could then endorse a candidate I otherwise felt comfortable with but as long as neither of them will commit to that they won’t get my vote.

We really need a leader that will tackle this energy situation head on, not make modest improvements twenty years down the road. We put a man on the moon in seven years; and we had to develop much of the technology to do that from scratch. But we have all the resources and technology we need to conquer our energy issues and we could put Americans back to work and rebuild our manufacturing infrastructure while doing so.

As far as global warming goes, we’re already past the tipping point; we’re in for one hell of a ride now no matter what we do, but solving our energy problems rapidly would at least position us to better adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. If we have energy we can desalinate water if we don’t have enough water; with desalinated water, we can make arid land productive and solve any potential food shortages.

If we stay on the path we’re on we’re going to see a repeat of the Permian extinction. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.

Category: Future

5 comments on “Peak Atmosphere

  1. biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard to be perfectly honest. yes there is always speculation about oil fields, yet all the articles you have linked when you check up the companies evolved there is no official statement by them. In fact look at the first one 40 million barrels? sorry go to the Petrobras web page, they don’t even mention it, funney when it’s such a significant find. The White Tiger oil field is a large oil field developed in the 1980′s and produces around the 180,000 barrels per day, 820,000 off super giant (the definition for super giant is a field which can produce one million plus barrels per day at its peek)

    second your arguments about ancient oil are geologically flawed. First oil is destroyed when it gets too hot, there are very few places in the world where it can exist below 10km beneath the surface. Second, biological material must be buried below a depth of between two and five kilometres to be turned into oil, then before it migrates it has to be trapped by a non porous unit.

    Your assumption that all carbon dioxide must have been removed from the atmosphere by now is flawed as you are assuming all biological matter has been buried for good, erosion and plate tectonics make this a flawed argument, i have seen enough natural oil seeps in my life to know this for a fact. Also you mentioned volcanic activity relating to the Permian extinction, this is called Volcanic degassing and is another way CO2 gets into our atmosphere.

    Your point about Iraq is bullshit, to produce renewable energy is extremely expensive, it also requires a investment of energy, your average wind farm or solar panel takes between 5 and 10 years to make up the energy it took to produce it.

    I’m not saying global warming isn’t happening, i defiantly agree it is, but this article is misinformed about all the geological facts.

    I have to ask, why did you go for the Permian extinction? i would think a far more relevant one would have been the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, which has in common a release of green house gasses, this one from methane hydrate deposits in the ocean.

    Although it is a smaller extinction it is similar to what’s happening now, and depending if we act or not it is on a bigger scale then what we have now.

    Also what would you suggest we do towards global warming? stop using oil? that would have even worse results. you are likely to kill off 2/3 of the earth’s population through not being able to provide food, clean water, medicine, there is no quick solution, to a problem as big as this.

    I find it strange that almsot everyone who speaks against peak oil, or against global warming or anything along those lines is usually written by people with no geological knowledge, or by people ignoring a huge pile of geological knowledge. My advice for anyone reading up on peek oil to know a bit about the requirements for oil generation/migration/trapping. If you are going to quote other websites, double check your facts first on the companies own website, then on something along the lines of wikipedia you may still by writing crap occasionally, but at least not many people will be able to point it out to you.

  2. Of coarse you are entitled to your opinion.

    However, I would suggest that you do a bit more research, particularly with respect to chemistry.

    What is true at one atmosphere in an oxidizing environment is not true at 1000 atmospheres in a reducing environment.

    The mantle conditions have been replicated in the laboratory and a mixture of hydrocarbons closely matching natural crude is created.

    The point is really moot; whether we burn up all the oil or ruin our environment, the end result is the same.

    Either way we need to go to renewables. And they aren’t all expensive as you claim. Wind in particular is now less expensive than the least expensive fossil fuel, coal.

  3. “The mantle conditions have been replicated in the laboratory and a mixture of hydrocarbons closely matching natural crude is created.”
    This theory has existed for years, and in fact the only evidence for it in the real world is the fact that the most simple form of hydrocarbon (methane) can be produce by inorganic processes.
    Part of the study of different oils from different fields is to match different molecules to different forms of bacterial/plant life. for example New Zealand oils are long chained oils (50+ carbons per molecule) which can be linked to their source coals) this is done for most oil fields to identify source rocks and thus possible areas for future exploration.
    The theory you are going by has been tested countless times in the past, and many countries and companies have been bankrupted due to someone trying to get them to drill into granite or other igneous bodies.
    You present an argument which has very little scientific backing. It is very easy in a lab to reproduce oil production to a small degree, to greater degrees takes lots of time (millions of years)

    Our atmosphere is an oxidizing environment, and it has been for the last 3.9 billion years. Global warming is not going to change this.
    Yes global warming may make things warmer, the flow on from this will probably throw us into a climate similar to the Eocene, which was 10 degrees warmer. It will mean a mass extinction, we may have palm trees in Antarctica again, but that was one of the worlds most oxidizing environments which can be seen by the size of insects like dragon flies during that time.

    The cost of most renewable energies is cheeper in the long run, but that is not the problem, the problem is the energy required to switch over and the materials required.
    Investment for return is basic economics and if the investment is too high, the returns aren’t as viable. solar farms may produce lots of energy, but remember again, this is scaring the landscape, energy which some of it normally gets reflected back out of the atmosphere. And it requires oil to create solar panels.
    Wind farms require lots of metal, plastic and scar our landscape in other ways, in open pit mines, in huge factories, nothing has no flow on effect unless if you want to go back to living in a cave and hunting for food.
    And quite frankly i like it how you haven’t mentioned the humanitarian side of the argument at all, should we keep exploiting oil for fertilizers or should we let the population starve? should we stop making medicines? how about plastic insulators for cables? power switches? etc
    Should we stop using oil to pump and purify water for those in third world countries which can’t afford the investment to change?
    Maybe we should go nuclear but again, that is a bigger investment and cant be started on a small scale.

    No pretty much we are screwed, either way, when peek oil hits, people will forget about global warming. Global warming is only something people will care about when they have food on the table.

    I will leave you with this fact, Every calorie of food you buy, has required between 5 and 500 calories of oil to get it there. Whether in transport, fertilizer,
    or what ever. The large range is due to over seas imports, packaging, and all sorts of small details things.

    Also can you cite a scientific paper to back up “The mantle conditions have been replicated in the laboratory and a mixture of hydrocarbons closely matching natural crude is created.” because the closest i can find is one about methane which has been well known for decades, in fact methane has been found in meteorites too, but any crude oil contains a far vaster range then one molecule, usually around 50,000+.
    Also why don’t we get vast quantities of Ar (argon) He (helium) which are other gasses often formed in the mantle from the decay of radioactive isotopes which are enriched in the mantle in larger abundance’s in the hydrocarbon reservers? since these are released in any other system which releases gasses from the mantle (volcanic degassing etc)

  4. You may want to take a look at this article:

    http://www.gasresources.net/Mafoud-91.htm

    This details a case in which solid hydrocarbons were produced in the upper mantle abiotically.

    And you are incorrect regarding the atmosphere always being oxidizing, in fact the early atmosphere was a reducing atmosphere, but that wasn’t the context I was referring to.

    I was referring to the mantle conditions, not the atmospheric conditions.

    You may also want to see this article:

    http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/oil_origin.pdf

    It explains some of the issues with plants being the source of hydrocarbons.

    There are many reasons for differences in oil besides differences in biological feedstock.

    In the case of mantle created abiotic oil, that oil which is capped by non-porous capstone will contain a mixture with many light hydrocarbons, where as oil capped by more porous material will contain heavier hydrocarbons. The difference has nothing to do with feedstock, it has to do with the lighter smaller molecules being able to get through the porous material and evaporate leaving behind only longer heavier molecules.

    While it’s true that many a dry well has been drilled, it’s also true there have been some real successes, such as in Russia, Viet Nam, and China, as well as here in the United States, Wolverine Oil drilling deep in land that Exxon-Mobile had given up on. Certainly many dry wells have been sunk looking for oil in conventional places too.

    Oh, here is another excellent article:

    https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/mragheb/www/NPRE%20402%20ME%20405%20Nuclear%20Power%20Engineering/Biogenic%20and%20Abiogenic%20Petroleum.pdf

    One thing worth noting, oil has been found as deep as 30,000 feet, but no fossil has been recovered past 16,000 feet.

    All in all though, if people want to believe you that is ok because I’d just as soon see the oil companies price their product out of the market and dirty oil be replaced with clean renewables.

    And in all fairness, it is expensive to drill down deep enough to tap oil closer to the mantle.

    • You are of course right with regards to the early earth; I had in mind the time frame during which plants were converted into oil, or other hydrocarbons. And yes, it is expensive,
      but there are places where the Earth’s crust is relatively thin, like the Gulf of Mexico for example, and look at what fun you can have when you have all that pressure from the weight of
      the water above.

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