Abiotic Oil

I hate to harp on this subject because I really feel that for environmental reasons, we do need to shift from hydrocarbon fuels to clean and sustainable sources of energy.

However, the oil companies are doing everything in their power to suppress that transition and keeping the price of oil artificially high through various means such as wars in oil producing countries and pushing the “peak oil” hype.

Since the beginning there has been debate with respect to whether oil is of biological origin or not. Most geologists in the United States seem to be of the opinion that oil is of biological origin.

To anyone with any science knowledge, you know that biological entities do not create or destroy elements. You also know that hydrocarbons are compromised of hydrogen and carbon. All of the hydrocarbons that exist came from hydrogen and carbon that are primordial, whether or not they were cycled through biotic systems.

We also know from lab experiments that given carbon, water, and a few other ingredients present in the earth’s mantle and subject to the temperature and pressure present in the earth’s mantle that we get a mixture of hydrocarbons that agrees with what we pump out of the ground.

We know the raw ingredients are there. We know that subject to the conditions present in the mantle they combine into oil. So I’m hard pressed to understand the opposition to the abiotic oil theory other than vested economic interests wanting to keep supplies limited and by extension, prices high.

Another asinine argument I have heard is that the abiotic oil theory is based upon the fact that we see hydrocarbons on other planets in space. However, the argument is made, this doesn’t seem to be the case for the inner rocky planets. Understandably this is the case with mercury, it is so hot and so small that it would have had problems hanging onto it’s volatiles.

On Venus, while we may not be able to explore and drill for hydrocarbons, we do know that it has a CO2 atmosphere 100x as dense as Earth’s. Given that Earth’s presently got around 380 parts per million that means we’d need to burn about 30,000x as much hydrocarbons as we have so far to get as much CO2 in our atmosphere as Venus, or in other words plenty of reason to believe there are plenty of hydrocarbons left in the Earth. In short, hydrocarbons aren’t the problem, atmosphere is.

No doubt a portion of that carbon and hydrogen has been recycled through life forms and that’s why we do find oil when we drill into old sedimentary deposits, but that is secondary.

The Russians have proved it, by drilling through granite and basaltic capstone, below any sedimentary deposits, they have struck large quantities of oil and become the worlds second largest oil producer, and for a short while before the Yukos siezure, the worlds largest.

Now similar deposits have been tapped by the Russians in Viet Nam (White Tiger field) and Chinese in North Korea, and by a small company in Utah here in the United States.

Now I’ve got really mixed feelings about all of this because on the one hand, we’re not tapping any more atmospheric sources and we’re polluting those and altering our climate. On the other hand, as long as oil remains so highly profitable the oil companies are going to exert huge political influences and prevent alternative technologies from being implemented, however, I fear that if the price of oil fell to realistic levels people would also be reluctant to develop alternatives. Seems like catch-22 situation.

2 thoughts on “Abiotic Oil

  1. Anaconda

    Your essay encapulates the conflicts swirling around abiotic oil theory.

    My decision has been to concentrate on the science.

    The wisest political decisions are based on an accurate understanding of the best science currently available.

    The blog Oil is Mastery is devoted to abiotic oil theory, with links to scientific papers, newsarticles and tradepapers. The focus of Oil is Mastery is deep oil exploration off-shore. This is where the oil industry is actually drilling into the reality of abiotic oil.

    Fossil fuel theorists, maintain that there is an “oil window” that stops at 15,000 feet deep. Any deeper and oil doesn’t form and if present will breakdown into methane because of the heat.

    Already, in the Gulf of Mexico and 180 miles off the coast of Brazil oil has been found deeper than 15,000 feet below the ocean’s floor (23,000 feet in the Gulf, and 16,000 feet off Brazil).

    Google Oil is Mastery for facts and opinions on a blog exclusively dedicated for the purpose of information and discussion of abiotic oil.

  2. Nanook

    I have received e-mails from people in the industry that tell me this is well known inside in spite of their geologists publicly stating otherwise.

    But given the environmental consequences of burning oil, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t a good thing. Perhaps they will price themselves out of the market and we’ll get cleaner alternatives.

Leave a Reply