Claim: Most of Earth's carbon may be hidden in the planet's inner core, new model suggests

From the University of Michigan, and the “department of models that can’t ever be verified”, comes this claim

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ANN ARBOR–As much as two-thirds of Earth’s carbon may be hidden in the inner core, making it the planet’s largest carbon reservoir, according to a new model that even its backers acknowledge is “provocative and speculative.”

In a paper scheduled for online publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues suggest that iron carbide, Fe7C3, provides a good match for the density and sound velocities of Earth’s inner core under the relevant conditions.

The model, if correct, could help resolve observations that have troubled researchers for decades, according to authors of the PNAS paper.

The first author is Bin Chen, who did much of the work at the University of Michigan before taking a faculty position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The principal investigator of the project, Jie Li, is an associate professor in U-M’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“The model of a carbide inner core is compatible with existing cosmochemical, geochemical and petrological constraints, but this provocative and speculative hypothesis still requires further testing,” Li said. “Should it hold up to various tests, the model would imply that as much as two-thirds of the planet’s carbon is hidden in its center sphere, making it the largest reservoir of carbon on Earth.”

It is now widely accepted that Earth’s inner core consists of crystalline iron alloyed with a small amount of nickel and some lighter elements. However, seismic waves called S waves travel through the inner core at about half the speed expected for most iron-rich alloys under relevant pressures.

Some researchers have attributed the S-wave velocities to the presence of liquid, calling into question the solidity of the inner core. In recent years, the presence of various light elements–including sulfur, carbon, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen–has been proposed to account for the density deficit of Earth’s core.

Iron carbide has recently emerged as a leading candidate component of the inner core. In the PNAS paper, the researchers conclude that the presence of iron carbide could explain the anomalously slow S waves, thus eliminating the need to invoke partial melting.

“This model challenges the conventional view that the Earth is highly depleted in carbon, and therefore bears on our understanding of Earth’s accretion and early differentiation,” the PNAS authors wrote.

In their study, the researchers used a variety of experimental techniques to obtain sound velocities for iron carbide up to core pressures. In addition, they detected the anomalous effect of spin transition of iron on sound velocities.

They used diamond-anvil cell techniques in combination with a suite of advanced synchrotron methods including nuclear resonant inelastic X-ray scattering, synchrotron Mössbauser spectroscopy and X-ray emission spectroscopy.

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178 thoughts on “Claim: Most of Earth's carbon may be hidden in the planet's inner core, new model suggests

  1. It may be heavily tied up with models, but at least they ran experiments to validate what they were proposing by using empirical data. Validating a model goes a long way towards having it accepted.

      • As the article stated, they used a diamond anvil to simulate the pressures and temperatures of the core.
        Check the last two paragraphs of the article.

      • MarkW
        That’s why I said a “physical model”. It was a physical system that tried to model the conditions in the core. It’s not the core but a model of the core!

    • forget it. it if you cant measure it directly you cant say anything about it. any time you use a model you are not doing science.
      since we can’t see or touch the core we dont know. it could be empty or filled with green cheese.
      models tell us nothing because they dont produce data.
      /sarc off

      • must you take facts as facts?
        look around, there are only three dimensions. it’s a fact.
        There is always an interplay between theory and fact and no sharp dividing line between the two.
        The belief that there is a dividing line is one of the dogmas of empiricism.

      • Mosh
        Yes but anyone with good scientific training knows measurements are themselves contrived metrics – ways of abstracting natural phenomena. Therefore abstraction, by its very definition can be remote or physical. Surely you know this.

      • Mosher, our criticism of climate models is valid because they are iterative models with finite precision of a system that is known to be nonlinear and chaotic.
        Furthermore, they have failed for 18 years and counting, so it looks like our criticism has been vindicated.
        Now, the climate scientists must scrap their models, come up with new ones, and make new predictions.

      • Dirk,
        IMO work on models should go on the back burner until the climate system is better understood & computers more powerful. The models have been a tool to push an agenda, not to discover how nature works.
        More data are needed & less modeling. As I’ve said before, the situation reminds me of the War on Cancer in the early ’70s. Massive amounts of money were wasted funding research before the science was ready. But at least then it was research & not GIGO modeling.

      • Mosher nonsense. I replied to this earlier. You make predictions based on a hypothesis these are tested by direct measurements or remote measurements (which BTW most large-scale physical science is validated) those are observations with known uncertainties. The physical model presented above is a good attempt (and used throughout the geological sciences dealing with extreme environments) but they are not observations. For example one could make predictions of observed S-wave propagation around the globe from tectonic events of differing magnitude based on the suggested hypothesis (or gravitational, geomagnitism). THAT IS HOW ALL EARTH STRUCTURAL MODELLING IS DONE!

      • Mosher nonsense. I replied to this earlier. You make predictions based on a hypothesis these are tested by direct measurements or remote measurements (which BTW most large-scale physical science is validated) those are observations with known uncertainties. The physical model presented above is a good attempt (and used throughout the geological sciences dealing with extreme environments) but they are not observations. For example one could make predictions of observed S-wave propagation around the globe from tectonic events of differing magnitude based on the suggested hypothesis (or gravitational, geomagnitism). THAT IS HOW ALL EARTH STRUCTURAL MODEL-VALIDATION IS DONE!

      • I’m with Mosh on this, I’m going out on a limb and saying it simply isn’t green cheese, although green cheese is high in carbon, too. (sarc,etc.) Look modeling is done very successfully in engineering and science. We drill holes in an ore body and then use a statistical model to calculate ore reserves and grades and to optimize mining geometry, even the scheduling of loading and trucking either to the waste pile or the concentrator depending on grade and wind up with estimating a cost for doing this ~+/-15% – we’ve been at it a long time and we do end up with a mined out ore body and very accurate costs to compare to our estimates… er ah, model validation.
        The difference with climate models is that they think they are doing the same thing. If your climate model isn’t within reasonable bounds of replicating observations, then your ‘experiments’ are not experiments with even simulated reality and the results can’t be called real data. With the geological model, we are careful to differentiate between data and model output – the data is from the drilling and other testing. In fact; in mining, it is against the law to not differentiate in this matter.
        In thinking about important things that climate models haven’t been including, and musing on geological models and Willis’s thunderstorm cells, it occurred to me that everything in climate IS LOCAL, like the building blocks of ore of different grades integrated into a whole model of the ore body. I think the nonlinear chaotic systems view could be the barrier to good modeling. Trying to tie all these interlocking, interacting systems together in a model that one expects to project climate forward with is attempting the impossible. The solution of going to ever more powerful computers is just wasteful nonsense.
        Maybe we should have separate models for the equatorial belt (20N/S?) over water and over land. This is really the earth’s central heating system/radiators. Take next the temperate zones either side with the main parameters acting there – largely horizontal circulatory system – air and water- mass and heat flow, etc. Then the polar areas north and south of 60 – these are a major part of the cooling system. Maybe separate models for summer and winter here. Separate models of natural variation to be added to the trends we get.
        Have a separate model of frequency and effects of volcanic eruptions (also mainly equatorial effects) to modify the models, another for oceanic currents, other aerosols, etc. etc. Then see how we can put them together.
        A simple example: if we want to model the firing of an artillery piece with muzzle velocity of V at an angle of 45 degrees, we can divide the motion into a constant horizontal component of Vcos45 for t seconds and the vertical component of (Vsin45t – 16t^2)*2 and determine how high the projectile goes, how far and how long it takes to land (assuming here level ground). We can add in atmospheric drag, wind vector and other things to get it closer to the real trajectory and time. Start with the simple. The system has limits – SSTs don’t go over 31, ice ages and interglacials seem to be capped as well, the overall temperature K varying a couple of percent.

      • But isn’t the real problem that these climate models are used to drive public policy? Not whether they are accurate.

      • Mosher’s lack of a proper computer science education is showing. This is why hacks should not comment on subjects they know nothing about.

      • Come on guys.
        Take it back to Newton.
        He came up with some mathematical models that work quite well to describe planetary bodies, ballistic motion, etc.
        They are still useful today.
        As further knowledge was gained in the area of space-time, the new mathematical models explained the inaccuracies in Newton’s equations.
        Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
        Just because folks in the climate science are clinging to ineffective models, doesn’t mean that models don’t have their place in science.
        As knowledge is gained, it either affirms or disproves previous thought.

      • Not trying to pile on, just want to point out that three dimensions describes a vacuum and people do not exist within a vacuum.

      • I guess this is an example of empirical thought process: If there are only three dimensions; how did all this other stuff get here?
        Something to think about.

  2. Interesting hypothesis, though considering the pressures involved I would favour the liquid hypothesis over this one.
    That said, the dead dinosaur theory of crude oil is also being challenged by an inner earth hydro-carbon hypothesis at the moment, so best not to dismiss out of hand.

    • Given the pressures involved solid iron at high temperature remains eminently possible. There is considerable leeway for error given that we can only estimate the exact core composition and conditions but an article published in Nature circa 1999 seemed to show that it was at least possible based on lab testing of iron under pressure at high temperature.
      http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~ucfbdxa/pubblicazioni/401462A0.pdf
      As for the origins of oil the reality is that petroleum geologists use the presence of fossils of certain species as key markers of oil bearing rock. The fossils are typically those of plants, plankton and algae rather than major fauna. It may be that abiotic oil sources exist but most oil inproduction comes from fossil bearing strata.

    • The C13 signature of Hydrocarbons clearly shows an organic source. Someone just wants to make a name for themselves.

      • In reply to ‘cd’

        cd
        December 2, 2014 at 2:30 am
        The C13 signature of Hydrocarbons clearly shows an organic source. Someone just wants to make a name for themselves.

        William:
        Your comment is incorrect. There are dozens and dozens of observations and analysis results (including observations concerning the C12/C13 ratio) that supports the assertion that deep earth CH4 (core of earth) is the source for the deposits of natural gas and most of the petroleum oil on the planet.
        There are multiple observations concerning the C13/C12 ratio that support the deep earth source for hydrocarbons. Plants of course preferentially use C12 in photo synthesis which explains why C13 is higher in the atmosphere. The C13/C12 ratio does not however increase with time in the sediment geological record which supports the assertion that there is a continuous deep carbon source of C12 (methane CH4) with low C13.
        The anomalies concerning the C13/C12 ratio in petroleum and natural gas is one of the reasons why Thomas Gold and Russia/Ukraine geologists assert that the source of the earth’s hydrocarbons is from a deep earth source.
        The Thomas Gold/Russia/Ukraine deep earth theory explains why: 70% of the planet is covered in water, provides the reason why there are massive concentration of hydrocarbon such as the 1.2 Trillion barrel heavy oil concentration in the Canadian province of Alberta (deep source of CH4 provides the pressure to push the CH4 through the mantel picking up heavy metals during the flowing process, the puzzle with the biological theory is why the massive concentration, what is source of the pressure and so on. Deep earth micro organisms eat the methane converting it to heavy oil and leaving biological residue), the reason why Saudi Arabia was 25% of the world’s oil and 50% of the Saudi Arabia oil is found in a single super, super, large oil field, explains why the solar wind has not stripped off water from the planet (i.e. CH4 is continually released from planet core which disassociates to form H2O and CO2), explains the composition of the atmosphere, explains why the atmosphere C12/C13 has remained constant with geological time (there is constant new source of high C12 from the core contained in CH4.)
        There are two theories to explain how water and hydrocarbons came onto the earth: the late veneer theory and the deep CH4 theory. Roughly 100 million years after the earth was formed a Mars sized object struck the earth. That event formed the moon and stripped the mantel of light elements. There are two theories to explain why there are light elements on now on the earth’s surface. The late veneer theory hypothesis: Comets struck the early earth after the big splat event covering the very hot earth with hydrocarbons. The late veneer hypothesis requires that the earth had a Venus like atmosphere (atmospheric pressure of say 60 atmospheres) for the early earth, except with methane.
        There are multiple problems with the later veneer hypothesis (See Thomas Gold’s Book Deep Hot Biosphere for details. One of the key problems is the observation that the percentage of heavy gaseous elements in the earth’s current atmosphere does not match that of comets (Comets are residues of the early solar systems. The comet elemental composition does match that of the sun). The late veneer theory’s explanation for the miss match of isotopes in the earth’s atmosphere to that of comets is that the early solar system had a close encounter with another solar system which temporary provided a limited source of comets to cover the earth but not significantly change the element composition of the sun.
        The second hypothesis is the deep earth hydrocarbon theory. This theory hypothesizes that massive amounts of hydrocarbons (5% of the total core mass) are located in the earth’s core. As the core cools these hydrocarbon (CH4) are released. At very high pressures the CH4 forms longer chain molecules.
        The release of CH4 is still occurring as the upper surface of the ocean is saturated with CH4 which indicates that CH4 is being released from some source.
        http://origeminorganicadopetroleo.blogspot.ca/2011/01/thomas-gold-professional-papers.html
        See Carnegie Institute of Sciences Deep Carbon Workshop presentations if you interested in this subject.
        https://www.gl.ciw.edu/workshops/sloan_deep_carbon_workshop_may_2008
        and…
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090910084259.htm
        http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo591.html

      • William
        I’ve seemed to have touched a nerve.
        I’m not saying that is beyond the realms of reason that there are inorganic sources of methane in petroleum reservoirs, in fact there is without doubt huge volumes of organic compounds throughout our solar system that are clearly not biogenic.
        All that being said there are many more lines of evidence for the biogenic origin of reservoir hydrocarbons than d13C values:-
        – We only get significant reservoirs of simple organic molecules in particular geological settings: principally carbonate/sandstone formations above organic rich source rocks with particular burial histories.
        – We can actually map and date hydrocarbon migration using mineral fluid inclusions. They come from organic rich source rocks – shales.
        – gas chromatography of crude oil have many complex molecules that map directly to source rock chemistry (chemical fingerprinting).
        – shale source rocks have “immature” hydrocarbons called kerogens with organic geochemistries that can only be explained by biological sources.
        There are more but I wont bore you.

      • Another line of evidence for organic source for petroleum is the rotation of polarized light due to the “left-handed” symmetry of organic molecules. Petroleum exhibits this “left-handed” rotation of polarized light while synthetic oils do not.
        But in fact, few scientists give serious consideration to any origin of petroleum other than organic.

      • The fact that biological processes show a preference for C12 does not mean that there are no non-biological processes that do the same. The statement that the C13 signature shows a biological origin (ie. the photosynthesis signature) is a claim based on only one process that we know of, nothing more.

      • mpainter, yes most oil (if not all, perhaps) is of biological origin. And abiotic oil hypothesis has no real world evidence and is of no practical use.
        But I’ve never found the chirality argument to be persuasive. Oil is food for bugs. The effect of microbes on oil will add chirality to the mix. It seems improbable to me that oil in the ground is sterile.
        The C13/C12 ratio is far more indicative – although I suppose a similar argument could be made there.
        Hmm. I’ve just managed to disagree with both sides of the debate. It’s nice to be back in the crazy zone. As though I ever left.

      • M Courtney,
        Do you posit microbes in a reservoir at, say, 200°F and 5,000 psi? Or do you posit microbes in the mantle?.
        Or do say as Mosher that the core could be green cheese (and microbes)?
        The rotation of polarized light by purified petroleum is a positive indication of its organic origin.

      • mpainter, yeah I guess I can conceive of microbes in a reservoir at 99°C and 5,000 psi? Extremophiles turn up everywhere you can look for them.
        As for microbes in the mantle – have we analysed oil straight from there?

    • I am open to alternative hypotheses but you’d need to explain where the pollen spores in the oil came from first. Until you’ve done this, I am firmly anchored to the “dead dinosaur theory” as you put it. Here’s one of many, many examples of articles describing what I am talking about: http://www.jipb.net/Abstract_old.aspx?id=2946

      • The Earth is not a tidy place. Crap moves. Lots of it. Expecting to find abiotic oil without life in it, or organic oil without some carbonate rock on hot iron synthesized oil in it, both are silly expectations. We know that hot minerals, like zeolites, in the presence of carbon sources and hydrogen sources (i.e. water) make hydrocarbons. We also know that life eats hydrocarbons and makes long chain fats. It’s all one big bowl of organic soup.
        The “hard bit”, IMHO, is explaining why so much oil comes from near subduction zones without looking at abiotic processes on subducting carbonates; and explaining all the oil found on the bottoms of the oceans, and under 4 miles of rocks, and the liquid methane seeps from near volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean, and life forms eveolved to be dependent on oil seeps that had to exist for millions of years, and….
        So why pollen? Because some of oil IS from algae sinking in ancient seas (such as North Sea oil). But why oil under miles of rock under the oceans? And why methane coming from volcanoes? And…. My answer is “some of each”. We just don’t know the ratios…
        https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/theres-oil-on-that-ocean-bottom/
        https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/did-crude-oil-rain-from-the-sky/
        https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-trouble-with-c12-c13-ratios/

    • The theory of abiogenic hydrocarbon origins has been around forever despite have been disproven multiple ways. Hydrocarbon source rocks are all biogenic-marine shale kerogens or coal precursor peat. And Sweden drilled deep below an igneous cap rock where there ‘should have been abiogenic hydrocarbons’ found nothing. They are called fossil fuels for a reason. But are not dinosaur remains. You might find essay Much Ado about Nothing in Blowing Smoke: essays on energy and climate to be somewhat enlightening.

      • Given the enormous abundance of hydrogen in the universe, and the high abundance of carbon in the universe, the idea that H and C are not being squeezed into hydrocarbons in the depths of planets seems almost unbelievable — seriously, how would it fail to happen?
        I don’t dispute biotic oil. But abiotic hydrocarbons clearly exist elsewhere where there is apparently no life; why not here?

  3. The obvious solution for CAGW disciples is, “change planets” PLEASE.
    We promise to keep your twit account open…

  4. Personally I think this is interesting, good science. The bit about measured S wave velocities shows they are trying to resolve defficiencies in existing geophysical models of the Eath. The mention of carbon I read as being proper – they are talking about the amount of carbon in the physical make up of the Eath, and how it got there during the creation of the Eath and solar and are not using the term as a sub-prime science term for Carbon Dioxide.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. Land owners will soon be paying a “carbon core tax” on the amount of carbon contained inside the solid angle their surface holdings intersect. Much more study needed since the higher the carbon amount, the higher the tax. (Expect people to buy a lot of steep hillsides to minimize their carbon core footprints.)

  5. Interesting. The abiotic oil hypothesis gets a new twist.
    True or not, but wouldn’t it be the joke of the century if Gaia delivered all that evil oil herself?
    If so, they would probably start accusing Cro Magnon humans in order to keep the manmade origin intact. lol

  6. It may not be able to be physically verified by taking samples (but technological surprises do happen). But the authors do admit that this is a speculative idea to solve a recognized question. Something is making the p waves move significantly slower than they should.
    This paper is so unlike climate obsessed science: the issue is well defined. The evidence of a problem is significant ( half speed ). The authors are open: This is a speculation. And it is based on experiments (the diamond anvil).

  7. Unlike climate models, this has the smack of possible reality.
    I found the article interesting, but could not see its relevance to anything.

      • Unless you bend it to fit a political agenda. Unfortunately for climate science that is the case most of the time.

    • That’s because it’s basic research. Basic research, by itself, rarely is “useful”. But basic research leads to applied research, and through applied research come useful products.
      Bob Cringely wrote the best definition (http://www.cringely.com/2013/02/20/accidental-empires-chapter-5-role-models/):
      “Basic research is something else—ostensibly the search for knowledge for its own sake. Basic research provides the scientific knowledge upon which R&D is later based. Sending telescopes into orbit or building superconducting supercolliders is basic research. There is no way, for example, that the $1.5 billion Hubble space telescope is going to lead directly to a new car or computer or method of solid waste disposal. That’s not what it’s for.
      If a product ever results from basic research, it usually does so fifteen to twenty years down the road, following a later period of research and development.”
      So you’re right: it’s interesting but not overly relevant to anything. But if they are onto something (see the other comments for stuff like abiotic oil), it’s going to be 2035 before we start to see the results.

    • I hesitate to speak for the moderators, but here is my take on the possible relevance of the article for WUWT. If carbon is not the main driver for global warming, then why not just pump and burn the oil as fast as we find it? Answer: because deep-Earth carbon is a finite non-renewable resource and we should leave some for the grandchildren. However if oil and gas come from the Earth’s core, it becomes a renewable resource and maybe the equation changes?
      Of course it would not be as simple as that. I presume that even if oil and gas come from deep-Earth carbon, the rate of upward flow may be very slow indeed in which case it is once again a non-renewable resource.

      • Even if oil were finite it would still be ethical to pump it as fast as needed. Future generations will have plenty of methane hydrates etc. Besides, why would future people have any more legitimate need than today’s poor?
        The fact is that with advancing technology the oil may not even be needed in the future.

  8. There’s certainly some carbon in the mantle at least. Diamonds form at depths of between 140km and 300km. Isotopes suggest the carbon is derived from both inorganic [original] and organic [brought down through subduction] sources.
    It would be interesting to know if there are figures on how much carbon makes it from the ocean trenches down into the mantle [effectively carbon “sequestration”].
    I wonder if it’s included in carbon cycle modelling ?

    • We know that there is a LOT of carbon in the mantle regardless of what is in the core since volcanic basalts contain up to 10% of carbonates.

    • Subduction is another myth that will not die. See chapter 13: The Subduction Myth in Theories of the Earth and Universe by S. Warren Carey, Stanford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8047-1364-2.
      Dan Kurt

    • Not only Icelandic volcanoes … most gases from volcanoes and ocean vents are high in CO2, another indicator that there is plenty of carbon and oxygen in the mantle.

  9. that even its backers acknowledge is “provocative and speculative.”
    So, haw many is that now. 52, 75, 105 ? Who the hell knows. Taxpayer’s money being thrown around like rice at a wedding in an attempt to convince the world of the CAGW même.

    • Stephen I have a bit of sympathy for your views. However, most benefits that come from physical science are due to trickle-down effects where small innovation and accumulation of knowledge lead to great breakthroughs – “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
      even the detested climate models have led to improvements in how we approach computational problems. Other fields that directly affect you such as economics, finance, and ironically enough, petroleum engineering (to name but a few) will benefit from these in time.
      When extended to the social sciences, in the main you’re probably correct.

  10. Look, we all know that Carbon warms things up yea?
    Well the centre of the earth is extremely hot, so it stands to reason that there must be a heap of Carbon there.

    • You might be on to something there! I’ve also heard that the interior of the earth is extremely hot, “several million degrees” if I recall correctly?
      But it wasn’t clear if Al measured that in Celsius or Fahrenheit?

  11. Does this explain why shale gas and oil is found by Fracking at depths down to 20,000 feet? I am a coal power engineer, not a geologist. When I was in the southern Utah area and learned of Fracking to depths of about 20,000 ft. the thought occurred to me, how did four miles of dirt and rock cover these ancient plants and forests? Carbon originating for the earth’s core would seem to be one explanation for the shale gas and oil at such depths. Question, where would the hydrogen come from?

    • You can not begin to conceive of the geological time scales involved. Think of it this way: your entire lifespan represented by the first micron of a trip from New York to Sydney.

      • Be fair now…
        Let’s call a human lifetime 45 years, and the age of the earth 4.5 billion years (just to get to convenient powers of ten) – so the earth is about 100,000,000 human lifetimes. A trip from New York to Sydney is on the order of 10,000 km, or 10 Mm. So 1/100,000,000 of the trip from New York to Sydney is 0.1 m.
        Pretty big difference between 10 cm and a micron…

    • That depth is still well within the earth’s crust.
      Continental crust is mostly 25 to 70 km thick, while the average oceanic crust is only around 7–10 km.
      Assume just for the sake of argument an average deposition rate of merely a foot per millennium. That means the hydrocarbons found 20,000 feet down might be “only” 20 million years old. If they’re 200 million years old, then from the Triassic or Jurassic Period. That’s well after the coal-eponymous Carboniferous, separated by the Permian.
      OTOH, can’t rule out hydrocarbons migrating upward from below the crust, either.

  12. There are dozens and dozens of observations and analysis results that support the assertion that the source of petroleum oil and natural gas deposits on the planet is deep earth CH4. The most fundamental problem with the biogenic theory of oil formation is there is no viable natural physical process to convert plant residue to petroleum oil even for even very small amounts. The conversion of plant residue to petroleum oil hypothesis cannot explain the super, super, large petroleum oil deposits for multiple reasons.
    What is the source of the biological material? There are massive deposits of light petroleum in sandstone and no nearby organic fossil residue. (This is the so called source problem that is not explained by the biogenic theory of oil formation.) There is no natural reaction in the conditions where the oil is found to convert plant residue to petroleum oil.
    The deep earth hypothesis can explain why Saudi Arabia has 25% of the planet’s oil reserves half of which is contained in only eight fields. Half of Saudi Arabia production comes from a single field the Ghawar.
    Excerpt from this wikipedia article on Oil Reserves
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves

    Saudi Arabia reports it has 262 gigabarrels of proven oil reserves (65 years of future production), around a quarter of proven, conventional world oil reserves. Although Saudi Arabia has around 80 oil and gas fields, more than half of its oil reserves are contained in only eight fields, and more than half its production comes from one field, the Ghawar field.

    The following is an excerpt from Thomas Gold’s book the Deep Hot Biosphere which that outlines some of the observations which supports an abiogenic origin (non-biological, primeval origin), for petroleum and natural gas.

    (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 petroleum from deeper and hotter levels almost completely lack 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, even where 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.

    • For example, I personally have observed methane and CO2 bubbling out of a coal seam and kerosene dripping from the carbonaceous shales in the roof of the seam.
      I have also observed electron microscopy showing pollen spores from crude oil.

      • No-one doubts the reality of oil from biological sources.
        It’s whether it can be produced abiotically that is questioned.
        Me, I find it reasonable.
        But there is no reason to think it would be produced at a layer that it is economical to extract from. As such the theory may be right but even if it is – it is of no practical use for prospecting.

      • M Courtney
        Of course it can be produced abiotically. The Saturn moon Titan has oceans of methane and ethane.
        But all the evidence, for sources of large reservoirs of simple organic compounds, points to biogenic origins. See post above.

      • How does the pollen prove anything? It might have been in the crude when it formed or it might have been picked up as the crude came up. Serious question. This has been an area of interest to me for a while and I’d like to know.
        There is also the question of how did the spore survive? Billions of tonnes of organic matter dissolved and converted into thick, black gunk but not the spores? I’d have to ask “Why not?”.
        A fascinating topic and any hints for further reading accepted.
        And the Russians completed the experiment some years ago. Using Calcium Carbonate, Iron and triple distilled water and subjecting it to heat and pressure conditions that might be found in the mantle they produced organic hydrocarbons.

      • AP As far as the pollen, what happens to limestone when seduction underneath the earth crust. If you calcium carbonate saturated with seawater heat it up under pressure would you not get oil. would that oil not have pollen in it. By the way where does all that limestone end up we know most of it will never makes back to the surface.
        Rud Istvan What I read the swedes did find oil in igneous rock, it was by crack igneous from a meteor. I don’t know where you get you information but it conflicts with mine. Here is what I found, the rest is behind a paywall:
        “01/14/1991
        Thomas Gold Ithaca, N.Y. The final results are in from the first major drilling operation undertaken to explore the deeper levels of the Siljan ring impact crater in Central Sweden. The results demonstrate that hydrocarbon gases from methane to pentane-as well as a light, largely saturated oil-are present deep in the granitic rock. The impact crater, generated 360 million years ago by a major meteorite, is now a circular area about 44 km across. EARLY INVESTIGATIONS Investigation of this area as a possible oil and gas prospect began in 1982 on the basis that the fracturing caused by the impact may h…”
        Funny according to you they found nothing yet here it states they found something where something was not supposed to exist.

      • CD,
        Yes, the presence of hydrocarbons on other planets & bodies in space presumably without life shows that abiotic production is not only possible but common. I agree that the issue is whether abiotic production can & does occur below or within Earth’s crust.

    • The most fundamental problem with the biogenic theory of oil formation is there is no viable natural physical process to convert plant residue to petroleum oil even for even very small amounts.
      Look up thermal cracking. You can even do it in a lab with an oven filled with inert gas (nitrogen would probably do: anoxic environment).
      The conversion of plant residue to petroleum oil hypothesis cannot explain the super, super, large petroleum oil deposits for multiple reasons.
      Well plant tissue does not form petroleum liquids – that is true. It forms lignite and coal (lignin). While non-plant biological material such as animal proteins and fats produce short chain hydrocarbons when heated under anoxic conditions: thermal cracking. When buried rocks undergo similar processes and the lipids (e.g. fats) undergo cracking and due to elevated buoyancy pressure migrate upwards until they hit a seal => reservoir.

      • Are you seriously suggesting that the vast amounts of petroleum discovered underground were created by cracking animal fats? Masses of plants clearly have existed, but it is hard to imagine huge quantities of fatty animals piled up over the eons.
        But if “plant tissue does not form petroleum liquids,” then the simplest explanation would seem to be abiotic. The presence of plant spores in petroleum, and even petroleum seeping out of coal beds (mentioned by AP above) do not demonstrate a biological origin; abiotic liquids from below could simply have infiltrated strata bearing remnants of life.
        /Mr Lynn

      • Many algae produce lots of oil when nitrogen starved. They die and are preserved when they sink into dark anoxic bottom waters. Some single cell algae get up to 50% fats once they use up the Nitrogen. (This is done in algae to oil growing operations – then it is easy to convert it to petroleum like products.)
        During the early phases of life on earth, there was a lot of algae growing and not much eating it all… So, for example, North Sea oil is likely from just such a stagnant sea of pond scum.
        But that does not explain the other more problematic places….
        In short, it is easy to get SOME oil from plants (mostly algae). It is almost as easy to get it from F.T. like processes using natural mineral catalysts, carbonate rocks, and deep hot iron rich environment with subduction zones. It is hard to sort out which process might have made what oil a few million (billion?) years later…

      • M Courtney – but what is the fat content of a jellyfish of sponge? Unlike you (presumably) and me, these poor suckers don’t get to sit all day at a desk, after all.
        I’ve always wondered what should have become of all the other elements during the conversion of formerly living matter to oil. C-N bonds or C-O bonds don’t break all that easily, and both N and O are quite abundant in living matter. If there is any plausible, detailed mechanism for such a conversion, I have not seen it.

      • Asks Michael Palmer:

        M Courtney – but what is the fat content of a jellyfish of sponge? Unlike you (presumably) and me, these poor suckers don’t get to sit all day at a desk, after all.”

        That was my question, too. Plankton might be a better bet. As for plants, E. M. Smith is correct that petroleum can be made from algae, but AFAIK it’s a complex and/or energy-intensive process. Could it be accomplished more easily over lots of time? Ocean bottoms are cold, which is not conducive to chemical reactions. I’d still lean toward abiotic origins.
        /Mr Lynn

      • Are you seriously suggesting that the vast amounts of petroleum discovered underground were created by cracking animal fats?
        Where did I say it had to be animal fat? Lipids can be synthesized and accumulate in microorganisms including plankton. I didn’t think I’d have had to have stated that.

  13. iron carbide, Fe7C3, provides a good match for the density and sound velocities of Earth’s inner core under the relevant conditions

    Sounds reasonable. Iron and Carbon are hardly rare. They took measurements and found that the hypothesis is consistent with observations. Sounds like good science.
    They haven’t even over-egged the pudding by claiming too much certainty.
    But for all the abiotic oil fans – this paper is irrelevant.
    Whether you are right or not, extracting oil from the Earth’s core will not be economic and nor for the foreseeable future will it be technically feasible.
    And if you could do that why not use geothermal anyway?

    • Sounds reasonable
      It does but they need to make predictions using this hypothesis then test it. Unfortunately trying to model it in a lab isn’t good enough they’ll need to do it remotely somehow.
      As for C being abundant. It is but all the accepted models of how rocky planets form would suggest that very little carbon relative to heavier elements would be found in the core. I guess this is were the main issues are likely to lie.

  14. forgotten Occam’s razor.
    just complicated.
    just useless.
    As the geomorphialist’s in Italys L’Aquila:
    1st – no nead to pretend people are safe from earthquakes.
    2nd – 3 to 5 years imprisonment for scientists solely responding to politic pressure. Berlusconi.
    ‘too complicated, too volatile. move on, nothings foreseeable happnin here.’

  15. AP, What is to prevent crude originating from near the core from picking up your spores on there way up through the strata? Just because my socks pick up burrs and such from the field, does not mean that is where I originated.

  16. In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna,
    “It’s always something – if it ain’t one thing it’s another.”

  17. One of very few known substances in which elemental carbon (coal, graphite, diamond) will dissolve is molten iron. There is a LOT of molten iron in the earth’s core, and it has been molten ever since the planet first formed from a cloud of plasma including elements from hydrogen to uranium in avrious proportions. While there are no known samples of the earth’s core to analyze, there is absolutely no reason to suspect that there is NOT a significant amount of carbon dissolved in the molten iron-nickel core of the planet.

    • And, Earth’s magnetic field and its periodic reversals prove that an appreciable part of the mostly iron core must be molten rather than some crystalline solid.
      As to the S wave speed carbide core hypothetical explanation, the ‘conventional’ alternative explanation is a layer of super hydrated mineral (stored water, in effect) in a core/mantle boundary layer. There is seismic data from major earthquakes that strongly suggests such a layer exists. The Tohoku quake ( which produced Japans recent tsunami and Fukushima) is the most recent to provide such evidence. Which is why this paper says it is providing a speculative but experimentally plausible alternative.
      What the speculation does not address is iron carbide in relation to Earth’s magnetic field. I could not find any literature suggesting iron carbide would be magnetic under these temperature and pressure conditions. And the conventional explanation for bulk magnetic propeeties suggests it would not be. Nor is there a proposed mechanism segragating a solid carbide core from a liquid iron core shell, since carbon is soluble in iron–cast iron and high carbon steels being familiar examples.

      • You mention pole reversals. To me it suggests that the material of the Earth core is NOT magnetic; that the Earth magnetic field is generated via a motion of molted conductive material.

  18. Our solar system is incredibly rich in hydrocarbons (look at the outer planets). There is no reason to believe the Earth did not get to keep a miniscule amount (relatively speaking) buried in her core. That theory is much more believable than dead dinosaurs piling up and forming pools of liquid.

  19. Matt you need to read the discussion above. As AP pointed out earlier this study doesn’t lend credence to the nonsense, that despite all the geological evidence, abiotic sources of petroleum are in anyway significant.

  20. M Courtney
    December 2, 2014 at 4:17 am
    “No-one doubts the reality of oil from biological sources.
    It’s whether it can be produced abiotically that is questioned.
    Me, I find it reasonable.
    But there is no reason to think it would be produced at a layer that it is economical to extract from. As such the theory may be right but even if it is – it is of no practical use for prospecting.
    ____________________________
    We live in the present, the predicted “future”, in which the doomsayer pundits told us there would be no cheap, abundant oil. The endless parade of exotic iron around the nearby hot rod shop is just one indicator that the fun continues and won’t likely end, as long as we have the will and insight to make it happen.

    • Alan Robertson, I am not a pessimist about man’s ability to adapt.
      It has been obvious that the Peak Oil alarm was folly for years. We have run out so often now without anyone but the greens noticing. And now OPEC are currently having to open the taps to try and kill off innovation before the innovation kills them.
      But that does not apply to abiotic oil.
      Abiotic oil (if it exists, and I suspect it does) has the same flaw as wind or solar power. It is not concentrated in a convenient place. Abiotic oil will be created all over the place at all levels and so needs to be foraged not hunted. That won’t be economic, ever.
      As I say, if we have the ability to get at oil at the edge of the mantle, why not use the geothermal energy that’s there? We’ would have solved our energy needs already by the time we can get the abiotic oil.
      Apart from the abiotic oil we’ve already found that is indistinguishable from normal oil because it is where we expected to find oil anyway.

      • I don’t want to get heavily involved in the discussion over the source of most petroleum on the planet, but I will note that Gold’s ideas that oil was produced without the presence of plants did not require that it be abiotic. In fact, his ideas, which were supported by the results of at least one deep drill hole (in Sweden, I think) were essentially that methane interacted with bacteria in the upper few km of the crust to produce liquid hydrocarbons. Thus, the oil was not really abiotic.
        That said, there is no substantive evidence that most of the oil we know about is derived from such a process, which is not to say it was not, just that there’s little evidence of such.

  21. A carbon core isn’t as absurd as it may seem at first glance. Carbon is one of the most abundant heavy elements fused in the centers of stars during their lifetimes. After supernovae distributes it into space, all that carbon has to go somewhere. From that perspective it’s far more likely the earth should have a carbon core than an iron one, as we’ve always been taught. Iron is produced in much less abundance.

    • Carbon-12 is not a heavy element unless you are talking about hydrogen fusion. It’s density (2.6 for graphite at STP) is far lower than iron or nickel (7.8 and 8.9). I think the authors could do a check calculation on the rate of light carbon buoyancy-driven escape from the core to higher strata. How much carbon or iron carbide is left after 4 billion years?

      • In stellar evolution every element other than helium that is fused within stars is considered a heavy element. The relative abundance of fused heavy elements is the point, not its density. Far more carbon is produced in stars than iron. That’s what makes a carbon core for earth a reasonable concept. You’d also expect a lot of hydrocarbons around because hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.

    • LOL Don’t you know it’s not nice to lob a “funny bomb” into the middle of a p___ing contest. You could bruise egos. You also owe me a new keyboard.

    • That’s funny.
      I was a planetarium director in Eugene, Oregon many years ago. One day, a hollow-earther came in and started talking about it. I had the naive thought that I could easily correct the error of his ways. After all, I reasoned, I had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and physics. Should be a piece of cake, I thought.
      That day I learned never to confront a person who has spent a lifetime rationalizing a crazy belief when you aren’t fully prepared. You will lose.
      It’s exactly how AGW alarmists think about skeptics of their theory.

    • Now hold on there.
      I’ve got a globe on my desk, one of those big spinning ones. I took it out of the bracket, and sure enough, you are right! There’s a hole in the top and the bottom and you can see clear through the thing. It absolutely is hollow!
      But I can’t see any flying things in there. I even held up a flash light at one end while looking through the other. It is COMPLETELY hollow, there’s nothing flying around in there at all. So the UFO’s must come from somewhere else.
      Oh wait… unless they only come home at night? I’ll check again when it gets dark.

      • According to what I was told, inside earth there is a mini-sun at the center and all the hollow earth inhabitants, plants and animals live on the surface of the inner shell. It has its own weather systems. That explains why you couldn’t see them when looking in your globe, but not why your weren’t blinded by brilliant sunlight. Perhaps human-caused global warming within the hollow earth has already killed everything off and blotted out its tiny sun. Gasp!

  22. Hydrocarbons seep up all around the earth. The dispersion is mediated by faults, the distance down to the shield, and subduction zones.
    The amount held in a region is related to the path the Hydrocarbons follow as they rise and the resistance they hit as they near the surface.
    In the deserts along the Mediterranean, the sedimentary layers are very tight, allowing very little of the rising hydrocarbons to escape. Lying along one of the most prolific routes which the deeply formed hydrocarbons rise along with the tight sedimentary layer gives the desert states massive stores of hydrocarbons which are continuously being supplemented.
    The Saudis do not disclose, or they may not even be sure of the rate of replenishment, but they have a massive reserve which they can profitably produce for $10.00 per barrel.
    As they did in the ’80’s, they can bankrupt any attempt to take their market share.
    Carter’s attempt at solar, wind, and processed food (corn) were shut down. The current bout will be also.
    Areas that do not have a tight cap,such as the Canadian tar sands allow the lighter ends of hydrocarbons to evaporate, leaving only the heavy products.
    Think of the earth as a large petroleum distillery.
    Natural gas seeps up all around the earth, as mapped by the us government. where the shield is deep and
    and the sedimentary layer is fractured and there is adequate moisture, microbes convert most of it to topsoil. as seen in the Midwest of the US.

    • There is a simple ‘fix’ to the Saudi monopoly practices ( predatory pricing).
      Put a tarriff on imported oil (perhaps even just oil from outside N. America so Mexico and Canada are ‘inside’) such that the “landed price” can not be below $80 / bbl. At any price over $80, the tarriff is zero, so has not effect on price of fuels. At any price below $80 (for example, $65 ) the tarriff raises the price to $80 (so a $15 / bbl tax on $65 oil) and prices hold about where they are now (i.e. not much happens).
      Yet the oil PRODUCERS domesitcally and the alternatives (i.e. synthetic oils and shale oils and…) are all safe from a Saudi driven shake out with predatory priceing.
      No, it will never be done. Too much Saudi money funding congress critters and PACS and “green movments” and…

    • Jerry,
      Canada doesn’t have tar sand, it has oil sand. Tar is the end product of distillation, oil is the feedstock. Oil is found in your fuel tank and your crankcase, tar is found in the asphalt under your car. The difference between tar and oil is important and not trivial.

  23. M. Courtney, we expect to find oil under sedimentary layers (as I describe above) because that is where man first encountered it and where the largest and easiest to tap were produced.
    In Pennsylvania, oil was running out of the ground and into the rivers. In the Middle East, springs of petroleum have been burning for thousands of years
    As oil is searched for in deeper formations, it has been found and produced.
    The Russians have found natural gas at 40,000 ft.
    The first shortage of oil was ~1856. Increased financial incentive and technology have solved every hydro carbon shortage since.
    The people who proclaimed peak oil did not study history, or they would not have made their unfortunate proclamation.

    • Peak oil is not about whale oil. Nor is it about how much is left and ‘running out’. It is about annual rate of extraction. The question is when, not whether, an eventual peak including unconventional oil sources (primarily Orinoco tar sands, Athabascan bitumen sands, source rock shales) is reached. The conventional ool production peak (API>10 from reservoir rock not source rock) was reached in 2008, just as predicted in 1971. An important question in terms of lead time for adaptation to liquid tranportation fuel alternatives. A number of such questions areexpressly addressed in the energy essays portion of Blowing Smoke. Whether you agree with the conclusions or not, it appears you would be well served by familiarizing yourself with the underlying facts and geophysics.

  24. E.M. Smith, create an artificially high price for a something and the market will give you a surplus, as we found out when Nixon and Carter tried to control the price of oil in the ’70’s.
    Reagan freed the price and after a short, steep rise, the price fell like a stone.
    The current surplus was allowed by Opec’s artificilaly high price, not market forces.
    The distortion in the market has been caused by Opec and big oil and the greenies wanting the world to believe that hydrocarbons are rarer and more valuable than they actually are and calling them fossil fuels
    means that they are finite rather than renewable (on natures schedule).

    • Jerry,
      Please note that this is an adaptive tariff that does not create an artificially high price. In fact, it does nothing to prices inside the defined source oil boundary (either USA or N.America as you like it). There is a fully competitive market inside the bounds. (That is why it only applies to imports from outside the bounds…)
      Furthermore, it does nothing to increase price above what it has been for most of the last decade (or two?). Most of the time the tariff does absolutely nothing. Even for OPEC imports. So it will not and can not create an over supply via a price control (as it is not a price control). That is why it only is applied once a price threshold is reached. Nixon and Carter were not doing flexible import tariffs, they were doing domestic price limits / controls. Very different beasts with very different effects. A price control breaks market signals. The import tariff (and one that is rarely imposed at all) leaves market price signals intact (other than removing the ‘die now’ signal from OPEC feeding an oil glut).
      What it does do is provide a “countervailing force” to the OPEC monopoly when they decide to try predatory pricing strategies to destroy competitive supply. Only when they drop prices (from the excessive monopoly price they desire) via high production rates and those prices reach levels destructive to our domestic producers; only then would a price floor via that tariff be imposed. (And even that only applies to imported oil from outside the bounds – USA or NAFTA). It is a very focused tool that does little to the domestic market but thwarts the ability to create a price crash by OPEC.
      What it does do is assure minor players inside the boundary that they can not be run out of business via the giant monopoly of OPEC artificially pushing prices down. (IF you think they are not artificially pushed down, see the recent OPEC announcement that they were “defending their market share” via continued pumping. That is an explicit statement that ‘price be damned’ they are going to drive someone else out of business. Then they can put the price back up later. This has been done before…)

  25. There are dozens and dozens of observations and analysis results that support the assertion that the abiotic theory for the ‘formation’ of ‘natural’ gas and oil is correct and that we are not going to run out of liquid petroleum or ‘natural’ gas.
    I would welcome a debate concerning this subject and can defend Thomas Gold’s hypothesis with observations and analysis. (Note there are dozens and dozens of Russian peer reviewed papers to support Gold’s hypothesis. Gold’s hypothesis is not new (a number of senior Russian scientists formally criticized Gold for not not giving Russian and Ukrainian scientists create for the deep earth CH4 hypothesis). Note the deep earth CH4 hypothesis is used by the Russians to find ‘natural’ gas. The Russians have developed specialized equipment for very, very deep drilling. Note the major oil companies have found massive ‘natural’ gas deposits in very, very deep locations.
    Please explain why there is the same ratio of heavy metals in disconnected fields in a region (for example the Alberta fields and the Saskatchewan fields). Why is there heavy metals in the oil? The deep earth CH4 source of petroleum hypothesis provides and explanation for those observations. The deep earth hypothesis provides a pressure source to force the oil through deep mantel rock were it picks up the heavy metals and then moves to the disconnected local field reservoirs.
    The deep earth CH4 hypothesis explains why the fraction of noble gases in the atmosphere does not match that found in comets. The big splat removed the light elements from the upper regions of the earth’s mantel and most of the gas (noble gases in particular) in the primitive atmosphere. The fact that the earth is 70% covered with water and the amount of water has increased not decreased with time is explained by the deep CH4 source for liquid petroleum and ‘natural’ gas. The solar wind strips hydrogen from the atmosphere (dissociated H2O). If there was not a continual new source of hydrogen into the atmosphere the earth would be a dry lifeless planet. The CH4 from the deep earth source dissociates in the atmosphere forming H2O and CO2.
    The oceans are saturated with very, very, low ratio C12/C13 methane which indicates CH4 continues to be released in the ocean.
    As I noted above the alternative to the deep earth CH4 hypothesis is the late veneer hypothesis where comets from a different source than the comets that formed the sun provides the source material for hte earth’s atmosphere and light elements for the atmosphere. The late veneer hypothesis requires the early earth to have a atmosphere density similar to Venus. The geological record does not support the assertion that the early earth had atmosphere of similar density to Venus (under very high pressure chemical reactions are different so there would be geological evidence if there was a very high early earth atmosphere pressure.)
    The late veneer hypothesis requires a weird different comet source (there is no observational evidence for the different comet source) to try to explain the why earth’s atmosphere is anomalously low in noble gases as compared to comets or the sun. The late veneer hypothesis requires two independent sources of comets to form the earth (one the comets which now rain on the earth and match the solar composition) and a second comet source that fortuitously provides the late veneer atmosphere of the earth and moves away so it is no longer observed.
    The deep earth CH4 hypothesis explains the composition of elements in the earth’s atmosphere. I notice there is no one here or in the peer reviewed literature attempting to defend the late veneer hypothesis in a holistically manner (i.e. acknowledging that a different source of comets is required and the problem of explaining why the different source of comets disappeared), The late veneer hypothesis is not correct (people trying to defend the conversion of plant residue to massive deposits of ‘natural’ gas or liquid petroleum skip the problems of trying to explain the formation and composition of the atmosphere. Note Thomas Gold was a Nobel winning astrophysicist who specialized in planetary formation. There must be a physical explanation for all observations.
    There is the fact some major oil fields are refilling which indicates the fields in question are fed by massive lower reservoirs of liquid petroleum. That makes sense as more oil seeps naturally into the ocean each year than is carried by tankers on the surface of the ocean. The liquid petroleum fields in question are still being filled if there is are still connections to their deep earth CH4 source. That is true for some reservoirs and not for others.
    In the high latitudes of the planet there is evidence of massive ‘natural’ gas deposits which have not been tapped. We are not going to run out of petroleum or natural gas.
    http://www.rense.com/general63/refil.htm

    Deep underwater, and deeper underground, scientists see surprising hints that gas and oil deposits can be replenished, filling up again, sometimes rapidly.
    Although it sounds too good to be true, increasing evidence from the Gulf of Mexico suggests that some old oil fields are being refilled by petroleum surging up from deep below, scientists report. That may mean that current estimates of oil and gas abundance are far too low.
    Recent measurements in a major oil field show “that the fluids were changing over time; that very light oil and gas were being injected from below, even as the producing [oil pumping] was going on,” said chemical oceanographer Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt. “They are refilling as we speak. But whether this is a worldwide phenomenon, we don’t know.”
    Kennicutt, a faculty member at Texas A&M University, said it is now clear that gas and oil are coming into the known reservoirs very rapidly in terms of geologic time. The inflow of new gas, and some oil, has been detectable in as little as three to 10 years. In the past, it was not suspected that oil fields can refill because it was assumed the oil formed in place, or nearby, rather than far below.

    http://www.wnd.com/2005/12/33676/

    Oil in bedrock granite off Vietnam’s shores
    As a result, seven production oilfields were discovered, the largest of which is known as White Tiger, which is on the continental shelf of Vietnam. The main reserve of the White Tiger oilfield is “concentrated in fractured granite basement that is unique in the world oil and gas production practice.” Western oil companies typically expect to find oil only in sedimentary rock. Generally, Western oil companies refuse to drill unless they find “source rock” – sedimentary rock that contains oil the petro-geologists believe derived from decaying ancient biological debris, dead dinosaurs and pre-historic forests. That the Soviets and the Vietnamese have found oil in granite structures is revolutionary, unless, of course, you think from the perspective of the deep, abiotic theory.
    he White Tiger oilfield is at a depth of 5,000 meters (approximately 3 miles), of which 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles) is fractured granite basement. How can the “Fossil-Fuel” theory possibly explain finding oil at these deep levels in granite rock?

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Are-Oil-Wells-Recharging-Themselves.html
    Are Oil Wells Recharging Themselves?

  26. Great. All that nice black carbon. But how to get it out? After all, the Earth’s core is millions of degrees hot, according to….who?

  27. Steven Mosher December 2, 2014 at 11:18 am
    must you take facts as facts?
    look around, there are only three dimensions. it’s a fact.
    Oh really? Somebody better call Sheldon and Leonard to let them know!

  28. At one time or another, many different elements have been suggested to reside in the Earth’s core.
    For those who advocate a non-biologic origin of fossil fuels, know that living organisms strongly fractionate the carbon isotopes, a fractionation also found in fossil fuels. Besides, where else would all that past plant life have gone?

  29. Well, wherever our coal and oil came (comes?) from, I’m all for not calling them “fossil fuels” but rather our “core” energy fuels.

    • Coal might with warrant be called fossil, & probably some oil & gas, too. Actual fossils of living things are found within coal seams. Its relation to peat is well established.
      The issue is whether oil & gas are also produced abiotically as well as via the remains of once living things.

      • Sorry. I forgot the “8-)”.
        Along with nuclear, they are the reliable core of our practical energy supplies.

      • Maybe I’m just fossilized myself to have need of the symbol. I also just wanted to mention coal as clearly of biological origin, which fact may have colored scientific thinking about liquid & gaseous hydrocarbons, although they all are clearly associated often.

      • Coal, oil, and gas form a continuum of size and complexity of organic molecules, and all are the result of decomposition of complex living molecules by heat, pressure, and possibly micro-organisms. Oil and gas can and do migrate away from the point of origin. Oil pools when its movement is blocked by an impenetrable rock layer; gas moves easier and farther, but moves little in shale (why fracking is used).
        Here is an interesting connection. About 300 million years ago, plants developed the ability to make cellulose and lignin, the largest organic molecules that make tall sturdy structures possible. But no existing micro-organisms at that time could break down such molecules. So they accumulated in sediments. Much of the world’s coal and oil were deposited during this period, the late Carboniferous and early Permian (e.g., Permian Basin). When micro-organisms and fungi evolved that could break down such molecules, the rate of fossil fuel deposition greatly lessened.

  30. P.S. Sediments deposit deepest in basins that are sinking. The deepest know sediments today are >15 kilometers in thickness and located in the southern Caspian Sea and in the western Gulf of Mexico. But sediments don’t stay where they are placed. Tectonic activity can move them up (into mountains) or way down into the deeper crust, and may even intrude igneous rock like granite partially over them.

  31. milodoharlain
    The fossils found in coal are formed the same way the fossils in the petrified forest were, just with different chemicals.
    Studies of Titan by satellite instruments show coal fields in addition to the lakes of hydrocarbons.
    I have not been to Ireland to measure them, but I hypothesize that peat grows so well because of fertilization of the bogs by natural gas flows.

    • I have been to Ireland. It is almost a perfect place for plant growth — not too hot, not too cold, abundant moisture. You never saw so many shades of green. There is a reason it’s called the Emerald Isle.

      • Where the “Coal Measures” which served to define the Carboniferous Period were laid down, it was like that only much more so. For starters, it was tropical:
        http://www.scotese.com/newpage4.htm
        And there were not the plethora of fungi we have today rapidly to break down woody matter.

  32. I am glad there are people discussing the Gold hypothesis. You may believe it or otherwise but Gold has some extremely intriguing ideas in his very readable ‘The Deep Hot Biosphere’.

    • I’m agnostic at this point, but would great if the Russian & Ukrainian scientists & Gold prove correct. I don’t discount the hypothesis & it has always appealed to me as at least plausible, but would like to see more evidence.

  33. Isn’t there an obvious connection between biotic and abiotic hydrocarbons? During the Carboniferous, there was possibly lots of abiotic carbon being emitted from the mantle as CO2, methane, etc.
    A basic principle of life is to consume all available resources. During the Carboniferous, plants went crazy sucking up all that carbon and creating the huge deposits of biotic fossil fuels we see today.
    After emissions backed off, so did plant growth and here we are today. We see the immediate and measurable increase in vegetation due to CO2 additions. Why is is so hard to figure out? Unless you don’t want to.

    • The standard, if not “consensus”, view is that the spread of large land plants during the Devonian & Carboniferous (originally called the “coal measures”) drew down the high levels of atmospheric CO2 which existed earlier in the Phanerozoic (the “Welsh” Cambrian, Ordovician & Silurian Periods). The lack of fungi meant that this vegetation lay in coal swamps.

  34. All that dreadful carbon! We must get rid of it somehow, or we’ll be even more totally doomed than than we already are. (Which is totally.)

  35. On the other hand, Sir Fred Hoyle has been arguing that all the methane in the solar system is biotic. I was there when he was questioned on this and he responded with “Yes, the CH4 on the outer planets was created biologically” Personally, I’d like to see more evidence.

    • Well, microbial life is not only possible but highly likely throughout the universe. It is now thought that it can survive travel in the interior of meteors etc. Drillers have found it at every depth they have gone and it was recently discovered buried deep under the Antarctic ice sheet.

      • Panspermia remains an attractive hypothesis. Among other advantages, it gets around the surprisingly (to some) rapid appearance of life on earth so shortly after its surface cooled to temperatures at which organisms could survive. It also allows ten billion years for living things to develop on comets or asteroids throughout not just the galaxy but the universe.
        However, life on Titan would need to be a lot different from life on earth or any watery planet.

  36. Interestingly, there is carbon known in the upper mantle in the form of diamonds. Diamonds occur in stable thick comparatively cool crustal rocks of the Precambrian shields around the world. Diamond pipes are carrot-shaped violent explosive intrusions that have transported diamonds and kimberlite from their source a distance of 150km below the surface in the matter of a couple of hours. It is interesting to speculate that there is a comparatively continuous bed of diamondiferous rock at this depth and that the diamond pipes are just samples of this layer. Also, in fluorite veins mined in Newfoundland and in Kentucky/southern Illinois, and possibly elsewhere, there is some petroleum – a small amount. A ship transporting fluorite from Newfoundland eventually noticed some accumulation of unrefined petroleum in the bilge.

  37. The upshot:
    There is so much unsettled science that bears on climatology that any so-called “scientist” who ever voiced the “settled science” lie should be forever barred from receiving grant money.

  38. Current climate theory is:
    Solar energy in = Energy out.
    Perhaps it is:
    Solar energy in = Storage + energy out
    If all that coal and oil ultimately came from organic life on the surface of the planet, requiring energy from the sun, then someone needs to explain things differently.

  39. It is of course possible to determine using chemical thermal dynamic analysis to determine whether a chemical reaction will or will not occur, at a specific temperature and pressure (see this attached peer reviewed paper for the analysis). Plant residue will not change to liquid petroleum at the temperature and pressures where the liquid petroleum is found. The fact there is no natural reaction that will convert biological residue to liquid petroleum in the conditions where the liquid petroleum is found is show stopper number one for the biogenic hypothesis for the origin of oil.
    The biogenic supporters will not discuss biogenic show stopper number 1 as there is no solution. Perhaps show stopper number 2 would be trying to explain the super, super, large middle east, Alberta, and Venezuela petroleum deposits. (See my above comments for other observations and logic that supports the assertion that natural gas deposits and liquid petroleum are created from deep earth CH4 that is extruded from the core as it solidifies. The high pressure of the core provides the energy to push the CH4 through the mantel. At very high pressure specific metals are picked up and concentrated by the CH4 movement which explains why gold deposits are often found near petroleum deposits and explains why there are heavy metals in some liquid petroleum and explains why there is more heavy metals in ‘heavy’ oil.
    As this paper notes chemical thermal dynamic analysis shows that long chain carbon molecules will not spontaneously be formed, except at great pressures (at pressures that occur at roughly 100 km below the surface of the earth.). To support their assertion they perform an experiment that produces long chain hydrocarbons from CH4 using a diamond anvil that can recreate the pressure at great depths.
    The following are excerpts from this paper.
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/99/17/10976

    The evolution of multi-component systems at high pressures: VI. The thermodynamic stability of the hydrogen–carbon system: The genesis of hydrocarbons and the origin of petroleum, By Kenney, Kutcherov, Bendeliani, and Alekseev
    The scientific problem of the genesis of hydrocarbons of natural petroleum, and consequentially of the origin of natural petroleum deposits, regrettably has been one too much neglected by competent physicists and chemists; the subject has been obscured by diverse, unscientific hypotheses, typically connected with the rococo hypothesis (1) that highly reduced hydrocarbon molecules of high chemical potentials might somehow evolve from highly oxidized biotic molecules of low chemical potential. The scientific problem of the spontaneous evolution of the hydrocarbon molecules comprising natural petroleum is one of chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. This problem does not involve the properties of rocks where petroleum might be found or of microorganisms observed in crude oil.

    Natural petroleum is a hydrogen–carbon (H–C) system, in distinctly nonequilibrium states, composed of mixtures of highly reduced hydrocarbon molecules, all of very high chemical potential and most in the liquid phase. As such, the phenomenon of the terrestrial existence of natural petroleum in the near-surface crust of the Earth has presented several challenges, most of which have remained unresolved until recently. The primary scientific problem of petroleum has been the existence and genesis of the individual hydrocarbon molecules themselves: how, and under what thermodynamic conditions, can such highly reduced molecules of high chemical potential evolve?

    The expression in the second line of Eq. 2 states further that for any circumstance for which the Affinity does not vanish, there exists a generalized thermodynamic force that drives the system toward equilibrium. The constraints of this expression assure that an apple, having disconnected from its bough, does not fall, say, half way to the ground and there stop (a phenomenon not prohibited by the first law) but must continue to fall until the ground. These constraints force a chemically reactive system to evolve always toward the state of lowest thermodynamic Affinity.

    These constraints force a chemically reactive system to evolve always toward the state of lowest thermodynamic Affinity. Thus, the evolution of a chemically reactive, multicomponent system may be determined at any temperature, pressure, or composition whenever the chemical potentials of its components are known. To ascertain the thermodynamic regime of the spontaneous evolution of hydrocarbons, their chemical potentials must be determined.

  40. Maybe I missed it, but I did not see any references to gas hydrates seen in a lot of places offshore just below the ocean floor. Sometimes they are (were?) called bottom simulating reflections because they have the same topography as the sea floor, but lie a short distance below it. Pretty hard to come up with an organic source if the sea floor is basalt or something similar. We do live in a most curious place and we are quite fortunate to have Anthony and WUWT to offer such exquisite brain food.
    Tom Bakewell, retired geophysicist

    • IMO the hydrates are found in the seafloor sediments overlying the bedrock.
      http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/hydrates/primer.html
      How to Find Gas Hydrate
      Researchers lack a fully reliable method for locating gas hydrate in marine sediments or the sediments of permafrost regions. Ideally, the existence and saturation of gas hydrate can be inferred without direct sampling (drilling). In marine settings, seismic reflection techniques have long been used to determine the minimum areal extent of gas hydrates. A bottom simulating reflector (BSR) is a negative polarity (seismically-faster material like hydrate-charged sediments over seismically-slower material like gas-charged sediments) “interface” found in some marine sedimentary sections. The BSR is widely interpreted as the base of the gas hydrate stability zone and derives its name from the fact that it often mimics the gross morphology of the sea floor. Because of BSRs represent a phase transition, they often cross-cut the layering of sediments. The existence of a BSR means that gas hydrate almost assuredly occurs in the overlying sedimentary section. However, gas hydrate has been sampled at many locations lacking a BSR. Thus, BSR distribution provides only a minimum estimate of the area in which gas hydrate might occur. To date, BSRs have not been found in areas with permafrost-associated gas hydrates.
      A disadvantage of seismic methods for locating gas hydrate is that the saturation of methane hydrate in pore space must generally exceed about 40% for the most common measure of seismic velocity to be significantly altered. This means that some seismic techniques may miss a significant amount of methane hydrate in areas where the saturation is less than ~40%. Laboratory studies show that electrical methods are more sensitive to lower saturations of gas hydrate. This has fueled interest in the application of electromagnetic (EM) methods for regional characterization of gas hydrate deposits or the joint application of EM and seismic techniques. The sensitivity of electrical properties to a wide range of hydrate saturations is also manifest by the widespread reliance of borehole resistivity logging to identify hydrate-bearing sediments in both marine and permafrost-associated settings.

    • Tom
      The bottom simulating reflection as much as 500 ft above the layer of methane hydrates which is as much as 500 meters thick off the coasts of the US.
      The amount of gas contained therein equals thousands of years of energy for the US when the market discovers a safe way to recover it.
      The answer is likely to be simple, but dangerous to ascertain. The best candidate I have read about to date is using CO2 to free the methane from the clathrate cage.
      The source of the gas is the upwelling from below.
      No biological mass from above is allowed to accumulate.
      As seen in the huge BP spill of gas and oil in the Gulf, the massive plume which greenies expected to last for years, was eaten by a massive microbe bloom within three months of the cessation of the spill.
      Give the microbes hydrocarbons to eat, and they bloom to the limit of the food.
      The methane could be cat cracked into much more portable and more stable fuel such as diesel or ethenal with a modest expense of BTU’s to convert

  41. Thanks for the above comments. The point I wanted to make is that clathrates are found in areas where no reasonable biogenic source can be found. That seems to add evidence to the aboigenic model as proposed by Gold. It may not be the only source for hydrocarbons, but it may be one of several sourcing mechanisms.

  42. Vladimir Larin hypothesized, with a great deal of data analysis, the concept that the Earth (and other terrestrial planets) congealed from an interplanetary medium that was mostly hydrogen (plausible). This means the planetary cores were composed of metallic hydrides, which are far more compressible than elemental metals. Under energetic stimulus (e.g., radioactivity) the hydrides break down into hydrogen and elemental metal. The hydrogen diffuses out of the core toward the surface, reducing available carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen into methane, ammonia, and water and driving them upwards out of the crust. (Incidentally, the increasing metalization of the core causes it to expand, leading to a steadily increasing Earth radius.) It is a very interesting theory, worth reading about.
    J. Marvin Herndon has a somewhat competing theory in which the Earth formed with an initial overburden of gas giant atmosphere, later blown away by solar wind. (He bases his model on an analysis of the chemical composition of meteorites.) The overburden compressed the earth and infused methane into the crust (also leading to planetary expansion on the rebound). Planetary mass segregation also formed a natural fission reactor in the core, which drives the planetary magnetic field.
    Larin and Herndon would probably argue with each other all night long, but what is interesting is that their theories are not necessarily exclusive. It goes to show that alternatives to the conventional view are available if you are willing to look for them and consider them.
    (By the way, don’t argue with me over their views. Argue with them. Read their books first to understand what evidence they can bring to the subject. Uninformed argument is, well,…nothing commendable.)

  43. But I thought the generally accepted theory was that the entire Solar System was formed from the accretion of junk dumped by early space travellers. (In contrast to the wild claim that the Earth was constructed by the Magratheans.)

    • Dare I point out that “generally accepted theory” = “consensus science”? And what website is this, again? There are prevailing theories, based on King of the Mountain strategies for selecting supporting evidence, but, sadly, astrophysics is almost as badly compromised as “climate science” and Darwinism: lots of pompous claims of settled science and a complete lack of discussion of the evidence that does not fit. Were you aware that Edwin Hubble did not agree with the hypothesis (named after him, ironically) that interstellar redshift was due to the Doppler effect of recession velocity? (“It’s assumptions, all the way down.”)

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