Oil – Where did it come from?

Guest post by David Middleton

Introduction

I am a petroleum geologist/geophysicist with about 36 years of experience in oil & gas exploration mostly in the Gulf of Mexico.   In light of Andy May’s recent post, Oil – Will we run out?, I thought I might post an essay on oil formation.

Over the past six years, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to write guest posts for Watts Up With That thanks to Anthony Watts.  Many of my posts have been about issues related to oil production and each of these posts usually triggers comments from Abiogenic Oil advocates.  So, this post’s main thrust will be to explain why the Abiogenic Oil hypothesis is not widely accepted and why we think that the original source of crude oil is organic matter.

It’s possible that oil forms in the mantle all the time. The chemical equations can be balanced.  So, as an olive branch to Abiogenic Oil aficionados, I will unequivocally state that their favored hypothesis is not impossible.

Biogenic vs abiogenic is really a poor way to characterize the issue. It implies that the formation of crude oil is either a biological or non-biological process. The process is thermogenic. The original source material is considered to be of organic origin because all of the evidence supports this.

The Generally Accepted Theory for Hydrocarbon Formation

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this.  OffshoreEngineering.com has a very good basic primer here.

The basic steps are:

  1. Algae, plankton and other marine and lacustrine photosynthesizers die and sink to the bottom of the ocean.
  2. They are buried in mud under anoxic conditions.
  3. As more sediment is deposited, they are buried deeper.
  4. The geothermal gradient gradually raises the temperature of the buried critters.
  5. Diagenesis and catagenesis lead to the formation of kerogen, then oil, then wet gas.
  6. Metagenesis leads to the formation of dry gas and then high temperature methane.
petroleum-maturation-kerogen-oil-gas

The depth scale is generalized. It can vary a great deal depending on the nature of the overburden. http://www.offshoreengineering.com/oil-and-gas/petroleum-geology/1-hydrocarbon-formation

Every phase of the process can be observed in nature it has been repeated under laboratory conditions.

Oil Does Not Come From Dinosaurs or Dead Vegetation

Irrespective of Sinclair Oil’s logo…

Or the old Conoco commercial which showed a Vibroseis crew hunting for a buried dinosaur, this has never been the theory of hydrocarbon formation.

Methane and Other Simple Hydrocarbons vs Crude Oil

What is a Hydrocarbon?

hydrocarbon

1. n. [Geology]

A naturally occurring organic compound comprising hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons can be as simple as methane [CH4], but many are highly complex molecules, and can occur as gases, liquids or solids. The molecules can have the shape of chains, branching chains, rings or other structures. Petroleum is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons. The most common hydrocarbons are natural gas, oil and coal.

It’s important to note that “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “related to life,” although it usually is.

Organic chemistry is the chemistry discipline that is concerned with the study of compounds containing carbon that is chemically bonded to hydrogen. Organic chemistry encompasses the synthesis, identification, modeling, and chemical reactions of such compounds.

Chemistry.About.com

Methane, ethane and other alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, cycloalkanes and alkadienes are simple hydrocarbons.  Inorganically sourced methane is massively abundant on Earth and elsewhere in our Solar System and probably throughout our Galaxy.  Other simple hydrocarbons are also often associated with inorganically sourced methane, usually in trace quantities.

The Saturnian moon, Titan, has seas of liquid methane and there is evidence of  polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Titan’s atmosphere. PAH’s are pollutants that occur naturally in crude oil and coal deposits and as the result of burning of carbon-based fuels.

The fact that Titan’s methane-rich atmosphere can generate PAH’s and trace amounts of heavier hydrocarbons has no relevancy to how petroleum and natural gas liquids form on Earth. Even if it was relevant to the formation of petroleum, it would be totally irrelevant to how oil and gas accumulate in the Earth’s crust.

Methane and simple hydrocarbons are not even remotely close to crude oil.

Oil is a mixture of complex hydrocarbons:

Petrowiki

Erroneously Cited as Evidence for Abiogenic Oil

There’s a fairly standard litany of Abiogenic Oil “evidence.”  I am sure that the following does not cover all of the erroneous “evidence.”

Dniepr–Donets Basin, Ukraine

This is usually cited as proof of Abiogneic Oil because some Russians said there were no source rocks.

Palaeozoic source rocks in the Dniepr–Donets Basin, Ukraine

Reinhard F. Sachsenhofer, Viacheslav A. Shymanovskyy, Achim Bechtel, Reinhard Gratzer, Brian Horsfield, Doris Reischenbacher
DOI: 10.1144/1354-079309-032 Published on November 2010, First Published on October 20, 2010
ArticleFiguresInfo & Metrics PDF
Abstract

ABSTRACT The Dniepr–Donets Basin (DDB) is a major petroleum province in Eastern Europe. In order to understand the regional and stratigraphic distribution of source rocks for the dominantly gas-prone petroleum system, 676 fine-grained rocks from 30 wells were analysed for bulk parameters (total organic carbon (TOC), carbonate, sulphur, RockEval). A subset of samples was selected for maceral and biomarker analysis, pyrolysis-gas chromatography and kinetic investigations. Organic-rich sediments occur in different intervals within the basin fill. Maximum TOC contents (5.0 ± 1.9%) occur in the Rudov Beds, several tens of metres thick. The oil-prone rocks (Type III–II kerogen) were deposited in basinal settings above an unconformity separating Lower and Upper Visean sections. While maximum TOC contents occur in the Rudov Beds, high TOC contents are observed in the entire Tournaisian and Visean section. However, these rocks are mainly gas condensate-prone. Highly oil-prone black shales with up to 16% TOC and hydrogen index values up to 550 mgHC g–1TOC occur in Serpukhovian intervals in the northwestern part of the DDB. Oil-prone Lower Serpukhovian and gas condensate-prone Middle Carboniferous coal is widespread in the southern and southeastern part of the basin. Although no source rocks with a Devonian age were detected, their presence cannot be excluded.

http://pg.geoscienceworld.org/content/16/4/377.abstract

The Dneiper-Donets Basin has clearly identifiable sedimentary source rocks.

Eugene Island 330 Field, Gulf of Mexico

The sudden, mysterious, inexplicable reversal of fortunes for the Eugene Island 330 field has often been cited as evidence for Abiogenic Oil…

Something mysterious is going on at Eugene Island 330. Production at the oil field, deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, was supposed to have declined years ago. And for a while, it behaved like any normal field: Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island 330’s output peaked at about 15,000 barrels per day (2,400 m3/d). By 1989, production had slowed to about 4,000 barrels per day (640 m3/d). Then suddenly — some say almost inexplicably — Eugene Island’s fortunes reversed. The field, operated by PennzEnergy Co., is now producing 13,000 barrels per day (2,100 m3/d), and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million.[5]

— Christopher Cooper, Wall Street Journal

http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB924151147795357823.djm Christopher Cooper, “Odd Reservoir Off Louisiana Prods Oil Experts to Seek a Deeper Meaning?”, Wall Street Journal, April 16, 1999

Via Wikipedia

Firstly, there is nothing unusual about EI 330’s production curve…

Eugene Island 330 is one of the largest oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico.  However, there is nothing unusual about its production curve.  The “bump” in the late 1990’s was largely due to drilling activities.  The field is still in decline.  From 1972 through 2016, the field has produced 452 million bbl of oil, 1.88 TCF of gas and 484 million barrels of salt water.  Last year, the field averaged about 11,500 BOPD, 14,400 MCFD and *28,400 BSWD*.  Most of the reservoirs are strong water drives.  These types of reservoirs can exhibit 50% or better primary recoveries.

The only odd thing about EI 330 has been relatively clear evidence (4d seismic) of oil migrating up a fault plane (which is how the oil got there in the first place).  The source rocks in the Gulf of Mexico are still generating hydrocarbons, which are still migrating into geologic traps.

 

Ultradeep Oil Accumulations Are Too Deep and Hot to be in the Oil Window

Oil comes from organic material, mostly algae,which was quickly buried in mud at the bottom of oceans and lakes – So, it never had a chance to fossilize. Pressure, heat and time converted the organic material into kerogen, oil and natural gas…

As the biomass is buried more deeply in the sedimentary column, increasing pressure compacts it, increasing temperature cooks it and over time, the hydrocarbons slowly migrate toward the surface because they are less dense than connate/formation water. The kerogen first cooks to heavy oil, then light oil, then wet thermogenic gas, then thermogenic light gas, then high temperature methane…

Crude oil cracks at temperatures above about 300°F. It generally can’t exist at depths anywhere close to the mantle.

Walker Ridge 758 Chevron #1 is the deepest  active oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico; drilled to a true vertical depth (TVD) of 28,497’ (8.7 km) in a water depth of 6,959’. It was completed in a Lower Tertiary Wilcox sandstone (26,831’ – 27,385’). The bottom hole temperature was 226°F. The oil migrated upward from deeper Mesozoic and Lower Tertiary source rocks. Even deeper oil reservoirs have been discovered in the oil window, many of these will be coming on production over the next few years.

There are no oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico with bottom hole temperatures outside of the oil window. The ultra-deepwater Lower Tertiary oil discoveries are well within the oil window. The shallow water Lower Tertiary gas discovery at Davy Jones is well out of the oil window, but in the gas window…

The depths on the chart are approximations based on a generalized geothermal gradient. The geothermal gradient is highly variable. Water and halite (salt) are less dense than most rocks. When the overburden consists of 8,000’ of seawater and 2,000’ of halite, 30,000’ of overburden weighs a lot less than it does when it’s all composed of more dense rocks.

The ultra-deepwater Lower Tertiary play in the Gulf of Mexico and the deep subsalt plays offshore Brazil are often cited as examples of abiotic oil because the reservoirs are supposedly too deep, too hot and/or too highly pressured to be in the oil window. This is simply wrong.

Tabular salt acts like a radiator. It conducts heat away from the substrata toward the surface. The combination of thick layers of salt and deep water depths enable oil to exist at depths previously unexpected. Salt and water are also less dense than most other overburden. This enables reservoir quality rocks to exist at deeper depths than previously expected.

I’ve drilled wells deeper than 20,000’ in the Gulf of Mexico. The bottom hole temperatures were in the range of 215°F (100°C). Ten wells in the Gulf of Mexico, drilled to true vertical depths greater than 20,000’ have each produced more than 20 million barrels of oil. The maximum bottom hole temperature (213°F) was encountered in the Mississippi Canyon (MC) 777 TF001 well, drilled by BP. The average bottom hole temperature of those ten 20 million barrel producers was 197°F.

For further reading about the geology and petroleum systems of the Gulf of Mexico, I recommend:

 The Prize Beneath the Salt by Dribus, Jackson and Kapoor

Hydrocarbon Systems Analysis of the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Delineation of Hydrocarbon Migration Pathways Using Seepsand Seismic Imaging by Hood, Wnger, Gross and Harrison

Gulf of Mexico by Galloway

 

Offshore Vietnam and other Fractured Basement Reservoirs

Some oilfields produce from fractured basement rocks, usually granitic rocks.  The Cuu Long Basin, offshore Vietnam is often cited as an example of Abiogenic Oil.

Petroleum Geology of Cuu Long Basin – Offshore Vietnam*

By Nguyen Du Hung and Hung Van Le
Search and Discovery Article #10062 (2004)

*Adapted from “extended abstract,” entitled “Hydrocarbon Geology of Cuu Long Basin – Offshore Vietnam,” for presentation at the AAPG International Conference, Barcelona, Spain, September 21-24, 2003.

[…]

Source Rocks

The effective source rocks are the Upper Oligocene shale that is present throughout the basin and the Lower Oligocene interbedded shale. They contain mostly kerogen type I/II generated from lacustrine sediments. The average TOC is from more than 1% up to nearly 10%; the hydrogen index ranges from 300 to more than 600 mg/gTOC (Figure 5).

Fractured Basement Reservoir

Fractured basement reservoirs are the unique characteristics of the Cuu Long basin, although there are other oil discoveries in clastics and volcanics plays. The first oil discovery in basement was made by Vietsopetro in the Bach Ho field in 1988. Oil was stored in macro-fractures, micro-fractures, and vuggy pores. The matrix porosity of the magmatic body is negligible. Fractures inside the basement may originate from one or a combination of the following factors:

1) The cooling of the magmatic body
2) Tectonic activity
3) Hydrothermal processes
4) Weathering and exfoliation.

AAPG Search and Discovery

Organic markers in the oil match the kerogen in the Oligocene shale. For the “abiotic theory” to work, the oil would have had to migrate out of the granite, leach the organic material from the shale and then migrate back into the granite.

There’s Not Enough Organic Matter Buried in the Oceans to Account for all of the Oil

Here’s the math…

  • The crust is ~1% of the Earth’s volume.
  • Sedimentary rocks comprise ~5% of the volume of the crust.
  • Total world crude production since 1900 has been ~1.3 trillion barrels.
  • If there are ~3.0 trillion barrels remaining to be found and produced, sedimentary rocks contain an average of 0.01 barrels of recoverable crude oil per acre*ft.
  • A typical oil reservoir has a recovery factor of ~300 barrels per acre*ft.
  • This means that only 0.003% of the Earth’s sedimentary rocks would have to be charged with crude oil to explain all of the crude oil ever likely to be produced on Earth.

The volume of organic carbon-rich sediment in the Earth’s crust is massively large. The Gulf of Mexico has accumulated more than 60,000′ of sedimentary column over the last 200 million years. The Cenozoic section, alone, is more than 40,000′ thick in places. The Quaternary can be more than 30,000′ thick in some locations. Most of the sedimentary column is composed of thick, organic-rich shale.

Oil is still being formed and migrating from source to reservoir rocks in the Gulf of Mexico. The Pleistocene reservoirs are less than 2.5 million years old and many have only been charged over the last 275,000 years. The reservoirs simply aren’t being charged as quickly as we are producing them.

Red areas indicate ~20,000 meter sediment thickness.

Oceanic Sedimentary Isopach Map

Marine black shales, deposited under anoxic conditions are loaded with the stuff that oil is made of…

Total organic carbon (TOC) averaged 10% by weight.

The Cretaceous, in particular, was a hydrocarbon “kitchen.” Marine conditions couldn’t have been more favorable for the deposition of source rocks even if they had been designed for such a purpose…

“DSDP sites at which Cretaceous sediments rich in organic matter were encountered. From Dean and Arthur, 1986.”

Cretaceous Proto-Atlantic

The Lower Tertiary Eocene was also a hydrocarbon kitchen (up to 21% TOC).

There is no shortage of organic matter in the sedimentary basins of the Earth’s crust.

The Siljan Ring

Proof of abiogenic oil would consist of the discovery of a significant volume of abiogenic oil.

So far, the closest thing to evidence has been the recovery of an “asphaltenic-type material removed from the drillstem at 5945 m [19,505 ft] in Well Gravberg-1 from the Precambrian granite, Siljan, Sweden.”

The chemical characterization showed that this material contains small amounts of hydrocarbons maximizing in the diesel range. No heavy hydrocarbons were identified, except for trace amounts of polycyclic aliphatics. From the chemical and stable isotopic characterizations, we concluded that the black gelatinous material is derived predominantly from the alteration of biodegradable nontoxic lubricant (BNTL) additives by caustic soda, admixed with diesel oil and trace amounts of polycyclic hydrocarbons from recirculating local lake water. No evidence for an indigenous or deep source for the hydrocarbons could be justified.

https://www.onepetro.org/journal-paper/SPE-19898-PA

Unfortunately, the “asphaltenic-type material” was most likely derived from the drilling fluid used in the well.

Other Odd Arguments

These arguments, supposedly from Thomas Gold’s book, demonstrate a total ignorance of the conventional theory of hydrocarbon formation and accumulation…

(8) 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.

Oil is generally trapped by structural features, commonly fault systems. Structural trends tend to follow linear and arc-like patterns…

 

The black blobs are salt bodies and the curvilinear line segments are major fault systems.  Source: U. of Idaho

 

(9) 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.

This is just plain ignorance. The conventional theory of oil formation and accumulation doesn’t state that oil forms in situ. It forms in deeper sedimentary rocks and migrates upwards to accumulate in structural and stratigraphic traps… In other words, “an invasion of an area by hydrocarbon fluids from below.”

“Hydrocarbon-rich areas tend to be hydrocarbon-rich at many different levels” because structural deformation creates traps at many levels and the oil migrates into them from below.

(10) 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.

Abject nonsense.

(11) 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.

The methane straw man. No one has argued against inorganically sourced methane.

(12) 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.

This is because the source rocks are “independent of the varied composition or the geological ages of the formations in which” the oil has been tapped.

This argument from Kenny et al., 2002 fundamentally misstates the conventional theory of hydrocarbon formation, migration and accumulation and then argues against a strawman of their own construction.:

The spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons that comprise natural petroleum have been analyzed by chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized.
http://www.pnas.org/content/99/17/10976.long

The conventional theory of hydrocarbon does not bear any resemblance to a “spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons” and the sources of energy are heat, pressure and chemical reaction resulting from heat and pressure.

Conclusions

One of the more inane criticisms of the generally accepted theory of hydrocarbon formation is the notion our adherence to an ancient theory prevents us from finding Abiogenic Oil.  This is abject nonsense.  We don’t look for oil using any theories about hydrocarbon formation. The theory was developed from the observations of hydrocarbon accumulations.  When exploring a new basin, we do look for total petroleum systems; however, when I am prospecting in the Gulf of Mexico, I’m not looking for the source rocks.

Geologists generally adhere to Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses and most of us have an open mind to the Abiogenic Oil hypothesis.  The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) has even hosted conferences on the subject…

ABSTRACTS

AAPG Research Conference

Origin of Petroleum

June 18, 2005, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Search and Discovery Article #90043 (2005)
Posted July 26, 2005

Note: Items preceded by asterisks(*) designate extended abstracts, most with illustrations.

 

*Two Models of the Middle Devonian Petroleum System in the Volgograd Region: the Pros and Cons
by Leonid Anissimov and Stanislav Chizhov

The Complementary Roles of Kinetics and Thermodynamics in the Generation and Preservation of Oil and Gas
by Colin Barker

Origin of High Helium Concentrations in Dry Gas by Water Fractionation
by Alton A. Brown

Abiogenic Petroleum Generated by Serpentinization of Oceanic Mantellic Rocks
by J. L. Charlou, J. P. Donval, P. Jean-Baptiste, D. Levaché, Y. Fouquet, J. P. Foucher, and P. Cochonat

*The Petroleum System Paradigm and the Biogenic Origin of Oil and Gas
by Wallace G. Dow

Hydrocarbons in Deep Water: A Brief Review of Some DSDP/ODP/IODP Results
by Martin Hovland, Barry Katz, and George Claypool

*Hydrides and Anhydrides
by C. Warren Hunt

From Source to Reservoir – the Generation and Migration Process
by Barry J. Katz

*Hydrothermal Hydrocarbons
by Stanley B. Keith and Monte M. Swan

*Juvenile Petroleum Pathway: From Fluid Inclusions via Tectonic Pathways to Oil Fields
by Alexander A. Kitchka

*Petroleum: To Be Or Not To Be Abiogenic
by M. R. Mello and J. M. Moldowan

*Isotopic and Chemical Composition of Natural Gas from the Potato Hills Field, Southeastern Oklahoma: Evidence for an Abiogenic Origin?
Jeffrey Seewald and Jean Whelan

Trace Element Evidence for Major Contribution to Commercial Oils by Serpentinizing Mantle Peridotites
by Peter Szatmari, Tereza Cristina Oliveira Da Fonseca, and Norbert Fritz Miekeley

*Conceptions and Indicators of the Abiogenic Oil and Gas Origin and Its Significance
by B. M. Valyaev, S. A. Leonov, G. A. Titkov, and M. Yu. Chudetsky

http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/documents/abstracts/2005research_calgary/index.htm?q=%252Btext%253Agas

It boils down to two things:

  1. The conventional theory explains all of the observations.
  2. It wouldn’t affect the process of oil & gas exploration.

The process of hydrocarbon formation is very organized, has been observed at all stages in nature, can be quantified in a rigorous scientific theory and can be largely simulated under laboratory conditions. The only part of the process that cannot be directly repeated in the laboratory is time.

Petroleum generation by laboratory-scale pyrolysis over six years simulating conditions in a subsiding basin

J. D. SAXBY & K. W. RILEY

CSIRO Division of Fossil Fuels, PO Box 136, North Ryde, New South Wales 2113, Australia

[…]

Consequently, we have heated potential source material from 100 to 400 °C over six years, increasing the temperature by 1 °C per week. This was done in an attempt to simulate the thermal history of a sample being buried in a continuously subsiding basin with a constant geothermal gradient. After four years, a product indistinguishable from a paraffinic crude oil was generated from a torbanite, while a brown coal gave a product distribution that could be related to a wet natural gas. Of great significance is the absence of olefins and carbon monoxide in all products. We believe the present experiments, which are possibly as slow as can be realistically planned within a human time scale, have for the first time successfully duplicated hydrocarbon generation in a continuously subsiding sedimentary basin.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v308/n5955/abs/308177a0.html

While it is possible for oil to form through mantle serpentinization or the Fischer–Tropsch process, there simply isn’t any evidence that any crude oil has ever naturally formed through these processes on Earth. If oil was forming in the mantle, it would be flowing out of mid-ocean ridges (methane flowing out of mid-ocean ridges is not oil).

There are very few crude oil accumulations that are even consistent with the abiogenic hypotheses and no significant accumulations inconsistent with the generally accepted theory of hydrocarbon formation.

Ultimately, the entire debate is academic. “Oil is where you find it.” However it originally formed, it has to be found in economic accumulations.  Igneous and metamorphic rocks are rarely porous and permeable… And rarely contain crude oil. Even if oil was commonly formed inorganically… It wouldn’t alter how and where oil companies look for oil. It still has to be trapped in porous and permeable reservoirs – Sandstones, limestones, shales and other sedimentary rocks. Even the oil that’s trapped in fractured granites and other basement rocks, had to migrate through and be trapped by sedimentary rocks.

Featured Image Source

Much of the material in this post was adapted from the comments section of:

Peak Oil Indefinitely Postponed.

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399 thoughts on “Oil – Where did it come from?

    • Oil is derived from organic matter. It can be manufactured. Still working on the commercialization, so no I am not telling anyone how. So don’t bother asking. I will say it is not complex.

      • A lot of things are simple. Just too expensive for commercial use.

        For instance, I know the very simple process for extracting gold from common seawater. Anyone feel like paying about $3 million a gram? (That was about ten years ago, come to think of it…)

      • Tar sands derived oil is being extracted commercially in Utah using solvents at under US$50/ BOE now. It will last about 200 years at current consumption. See MCWEnergy.com

        Oil can be extracted from suitable plant derived material for under US20/ BOE. This works as a pre-commercial process now. It will last several thousand years at current consumption.

        Oil can be manufactured in small quantities at about US$60/ BOE. Its renewable. it will last forever.

        If you know how to use satellites to find oil it is of note that all existing reserves match certain parameters mapped by the satellite exactly. This makes finding ALL the other reserve locations a lot easier.

      • Within the collapse alcove of the giant Hebes Mensa salt dome on Mars, there is a feature called the “Oil Spill” (Adams et al., 2009). According to these researchers the fluid consists of liquid brines that have been coloured black by dark dust particles. However, – this cannot be true.

        http://oilonmars.blogspot.no/

        Yes it can be true.

        Hebes Chasma is not a salt dome. It is a collapsed regolith… A Karst-like feature. Adams et al conclude that the substrata was a mixture of “salts, water ice, and basaltic tephra.” The diapiric nature of the structure was not interpreted to be analogous to salt domes on Earth. Jackon’s model of the collapse of the regolith was based on salt tectonic principles.

        the “Oil Spill” (Fig. 4C), was interpretedby Ori et al. (2005) as a low-viscosity
        lava flow; however, a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera image shows that the braided channels are smooth ridges and that the terminal deposit has a feather edge that grades into the surrounding, paler surface. We interpret the Oil Spill as particulates (basaltic tephra?) derived from LHF and entrained in aqueous springs along fracture zones. Dark material may
        have accumulated in the Oil Spill channels as water evaporated.

        http://geomorphology.sese.asu.edu/Papers/Adams_etal_hebes_chasma_salt_tectonics_geol.pdf

        One of Adams’ coauthors is Martin Jackson, one of the top experts on salt tectonics.

        From Ori et al., 2005…

        The same area has been imaged during the Viking mission nearly 25 years before (Figure 4). The dark feature appears not to have undergone any noticeable changes from the Viking era in term of both albedo and morphology…

        This rules out an active oil seep or any other active process.

        More from Ori…

        The overall morphology of the dark feature clearly indicates that some material has been
        removed from the area upslope, carried along the slope and deposited on an inclined bottom. However,
        the morphology also suggests that the despositional process was a near viscous flow…

        […]

        Based on the morphology of the dark feature, its location on a slope, and its resistance
        to exogenic modification we think it is more probable that it has been emplaced by a low-viscosity lava flow.

        http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/1648.pdf

        Regarding Titan, methane and PAH’s aren’t oil.

      • @Martin Hovland – Review the definition of organic in the article. While the idea of surface oil on Mars is intriguing it is only a theory that most here will feel is far fetched.

    • Thanks for presenting this. I have a question. There is a lot of oil north of Barrow, Alaska. Was this area a tropical swamp at the time the organic matter was deposited, or was that tectonic plate nearer the equator, or something else? I guess I’m asking if the climate was warmer then.

      • The number one thing I learned in Geology about Ice Ages is that the Ice Age we are in currently is NOT the normal state of the planet.

        Ice Ages are exceedingly rare relative to the age of the planet.

        “Ice ages are rare in Earth’s history; ice age cycles are even rarer. In the past 2 billion years, ice ages occurred in only three of the 21 geological periods prior to our own (Quaternary) and those ice ages were relatively brief, with each one briefer than the last. The Quaternary is the only other geological period of the past 2 billion years during which ice sheets persisted. For the past 2.59 million years, thick sheets of ice have covered at least 10 percent, and as much as 23 percent, of the continents…. …..The present glacial age is also cyclical. Ice coverage of the continents oscillates rhythmically from 10–23 percent within either a 41,000- or 100,000-year period. Only during the last 0.00057 part of its history has Earth manifested an ice age cycle. Only during the last 0.00017 part of Earth’s history has the ice age cycle encompassed a 100,000-year period.”

        From this page: http://www.reasons.org/articles/unique-ice-age-cycle-is-ideal-for-humanity

    • This is an excellent presentation of the downstream chemistry which is initiated by daughter reactions of nuclear core initiation. And know we won’t go away because we are right.

      • So, you are saying that even though the oil is produced from heating of dead life-forms deep below the sea-bed, it is still abiogenic because the heat came from radioactivity deep within earth’s core, correct?

    • I’ll 2nd that!!
      Many Thanks (!!!) to David Middleton for this most excellent ‘Petroleum Primer’ and source documents!

  1. Thank you for an informative easy to read post. I’m not an expert in the field and I’ve wondered about some of the things you explained.

    • Not necessarily. You have to extract it at some cost, at a rate determined by the geophysics. And you cannot extract all the OIP even with tertiary recovery methods. Remember, conventional oil is about 75% discovered based on basin creaming curves. That is all the best, lowest cost, highest recovery stuff. The ability to horizontally drill and frack source rock shales opened up new potential that has transitionally imballanced supply and demand. That is not a stable or permanent situation.

      • The concept of conventional or unconventional is quite contrived. from the first drilled well there has been a sold continuous stream of technical development.
        What drives GDP is falling costs or prices relative incomes and Oil and Gas are just two parts of that, big parts at this time.
        Technology has extended the life of oil massively past the expected lifespan of the product, as a member of the industry I can tell you there are as many surprised people in the industry as outside as the production continues to expand.
        Standing and looking at a major oil discovery of say 100mmbbl then considering that it is but one day in the life of the world is humbling.

      • Bill, often asserted but not true. Conventional oil is precisely defined as API>10 (viscosity), in a reservoir with porosity >5% and permeability > 10 millidarcies. Oil never originated in that resevoir, it migrated there from some underlying source rock high TOC shale (with some exceptions loke Norway’s Haltenbanken. Viscosity is important because lower viscosities flow more slowly even if enhanced by heat or CO2, both extra expense and lower annual production.. Lower porosity and permeability is important because it flows much more slowly (by definition) and less is recoverable (by definition).

    • First I want to congratulate David for a most excellent article. Second I want to answer Stephen’s question: the answer is no. As of 2017 it’s looking fairly grim. We already picked off most of the easy reservoirs, so what’s left is mostly in OPEC nations, Russia, Canada, Venezuela and/or really expensive areas.

      The only way we can get the oil to increase production to meet demand is with higher prices. And eventually prices will rise so much poorer nations won’t be able to afford buying oil. I would like to add that “fracking” is overhyped, and at current prices the only really decent wells are being drilled in Texas.

      David: I did see oil wells with reservoir temperatures about 290 degree F. The big ones flow so hot we have to run the crude through coolers before we take out the gas.

      • Fernando, if oil prices rise to the extent poor nations can’t afford it, they can simply use coal, the price of which is pretty good. In the unlikely event renewables take over our energy grids, it should be even cheaper still.

  2. Nice article. I guess the only relevant question is how fast we extract c/f how fast it is produced, and the proponents of abiogenesis presumably think that their theory means that more is being produced now than would otherwise be possible.

  3. It might be worth adding a few words about why the Cretaceous was such a good “oil kitchen”. Essentially it was due to two factors.

    1. There were several OAE:s (ocean anoxic events), i. e. intervals when ocean thermohaline circulation more or less came to a stop and the deep ocean became anoxic and dead. This mean that the organic material that is always raining down from the photic zone near the surface accumulated on the deep ocean floor as organics-rich shales instead of being eaten by deep sea organisms as is usually the case.

    2. The world continent Pangaea was breaking up. This meant that there were many and long rift valleys that were gradually changing, first into narrow seas, then wider seas and finally oceans. During the early stages of this process there were frequent switches back and forth in the various parts of the rifts between saline lakes, salt playas and narrow seas with restricted circulation and often anoxic bottom water. Such conditions are ideal for creating both source rocks and extensive salt deposits. Most of both the eastern and western Atlantic seaboards are “half rift-valleys”

    • The same processes also explain the Lower Tertiary hydrocarbon kitchen. I could have expounded a lot more on the role that the opening of the Atlantic Ocean played… And also on the deposition and subsequent mobilization of massive salt formations. Salt tectonics are wild.

      • Have You ever been to the Dead Sea Rift? The climate there is so dry that there is a salt dome that has actually penetrated 700 feet above ground level (Mount Sedom). There is even caves and karst topography in the salt (halokarst).

      • I haven’t been there. In The Prize Beneath the Salt, there are some cool images of salt glaciers in Iran.

      • Well done, David! You even worked The Field Of Streams into the presentation. However, I’m commenting on tty’s comment to also mention the OAEs – which I yammer about to anyone willing to let me bend their ear. In the case of the Eagle Ford, the circulation cutoff is thought to be due to a slight lowering of the sea level. The Edwards Reef trend, essentially a large reef wall roughly parallel to the Texas coast line, choked any connection to the rest of the Gulf, leaving a fifty kilometer wide “back bay” filled with fetid sea water. In other words, for a while, the Texas coast smelled like parts of Louisiana.

      • I worked the East Texas Salt Basin from 1981-88 and have worked the offshore Gulf of Mexico since 1988. The geologic history of the the region is fascinating, particularly the role of the Louann Salt.

      • tty February 18, 2017 at 11:56 am
        Have You ever been to the Dead Sea Rift? The climate there is so dry that there is a salt dome that has actually penetrated 700 feet above ground level (Mount Sedom). There is even caves and karst topography in the salt (halokarst).
        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        No I haven’t. But just did a wiki picture tour and visited:

        http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/en/section/geophysical-deep-sounding/projects/past-projects/desert/

        to get a feel for the tectonics of the region to help me understand what you said.

        Figure 2
        Landsat TM Mosaic of the Dead Sea, the Arava Valley, and the surrounding area (see also Figure 1).The coverage shows Israel and the Palestine Territories on the left and Jordan on the right. The white arrows indicate the left-lateral motion along the DST.Present-day motion is approximately 4 +/- 2 mm/yr (Klinger et al. 2000a,b) between the African plate (left) and the Arabian plate (right). The linear structure indicated by the red arrows, striking at 15 deg N in the Arava Valley, is the Arava Fault (image courtesy of M. Munier, GFZ).

        Looking for some subsidence maps for mesopotamia and surrounding regions, related to water and oil extraction over thousands of years. How this might affect the acceleration of the actively subducting African, Saudi Arabian and Indian plates.

        Large portions the region look like a dead sea of land.

  4. Very well researched and presented summary, Mr. Middleton.

    A question for you – would the notion of abiogenic oil, should its existence ever be demonstrated, still be relevant to determining the ultimate reserve of oil in our crust, the infamous “peak oil” notion?

    • Reserves? No. Reserves are economically recoverable accumulations of oil. A fundamental shift in hydrocarbon formation would make no difference. However oil forms, we produce it at a much higher rate than it forms.

    • Peak oil isn’t a notion. The only issues we debate is the timing, how high will be the peak, what price range will we have when it happens, is there any new technology we can use to increase recovery factor, drill lower cost wells, etc. I tend to think peak oil will happen before say 2035. And it may be as close as 2020.

      • FL, I spent from 2009 researching this. Best guess is a peak in all oil 2023-2025. Remarkably insensitive to production function (gamma gives same ppeak answer as logistic, just a different tsil.) And classical conventional provably peaked in ~2008. Essays IEA Facts and Fictions and Peeking at Peaks lay out the autopsy details, repleate with creaming curve analysis of oil yet to be discovered.

      • Classical conventional oil peaked in 2008, but that fact has been swept under the rug by adding natural gas liquids to the conventional crude and condensates. NGLs production has continued to increase as a byproduct of increasing shale and tight formation gas. The problem is that NGLs are not as easily refined into gasoline and diesel transportation fuels. But by serving as petrochemical feedstocks, they do relieve some of the pressure on use of conventional oils.

      • NGL’s are higher grade refinery feedstock than most crude oils. Natural gas condensate is referred to as “drip gas” because it can be used as a motor fuel.

      • Fernando – thanks for your response, but the notion of “peak oil” is not whether there is such a thing (there obviously is because humans are extracting HC faster than they are created in the crust) but whether it is anything we will encounter within the foreseeable future. If peak oil indeed takes place within the next generation – 20 years plus or minus – then it is indeed imminent and of major concern But just as nobody foresaw the fracking revolution of the 2000s, it is equally possible, if not probable, that additional reserves will be discovered and exploited that will greatly extend the timeframe until peak oil arrives.

        After all, we suffered peak oil 40 some years ago, if peak oil were defined as the volume of oil available at a price of $2 a barrel. If oil sold for $200 vs. where it sells today, or even $300 a barrel or more, then peak oil is much further down the pike.

        Peak oil is as much about economics as it is geology and technology.

      • Duane – Peak oil may have already occurred or it may not occur for decades. There’s no way to forecast or even hind-cast it without knowing the ultimate volume of total recoverable resource. Hubbert’s peak oil prediction was based on the assumption that the total US recoverable resource was 150-200 billion barrels. Peak oil production was predicted to occur when half of that resource had been recovered.

        Hubbert’s prediction failed because the total recoverable resource was much larger than his estimate…

        If the sum total of recoverable resource is equal to cumulative production + proved reserves + undiscovered recoverable resource, then peak oil occurred in 2004, assuming you smooth the curve with a Gaussian filter…

        However proved reserves increase year after year and the undiscovered resource has been continuously revised upwards.

        The idea behind Hubbert’s Peak is that the rate of oil extraction from a field tends to follow a Gaussian or “bell” curve. There is no intrinsic reason why it should be so, and political, economic, and technological changes can in principle change the curve. But Hubbert observed that it seemed to work in small fields that had been tapped out.

        Hubbert applied the method, in about 1956, to the time evolution of oil extraction from the continental U.S. (top option on the page). The other piece of information he needed was an estimate of the total amount of oil that would ever be extracted. With this, he predicted using the data up that time (1956) that the U.S. would reach peak oil production in the early 1970’s. Alter the curve by changing the parameters, and see how much wiggle room Hubbert had to make this prediction.

        Today, with respect to World oil production, we are in a position not unlike Hubbert’s, where uncertainty in the total extractable inventory of oil have some impact on how well can pin down the year of global peak oil.

        http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/hubbert/hubbert.doc.html

        Peak oil really isn’t something to be concerned about. It’s just a function of resource extraction. Doomsday scenarios like the the “Olduvai theory” are the epitome of Malthusian nonsense.

  5. Think about vegetable oil, the same stuff that is in your kitchen, the same stuff you can run your diesel car on. Where did it come from? How long did it take nature to make it? (Hint: about 3 months…)

    If we didn’t make plants into vegetable oil, what would happen to the oil molecules? Especially way back when, when the CO2 levels were very high and plants grew like crazy and generated huge amounts of dead plant material that piled up over millions of years…

  6. “Even if oil was commonly formed inorganically… It wouldn’t alter how and where oil companies look for oil.”

    No, but it would give a welcome break from alarmists.

      • Cannot resist when asked so nicely. Already the ancient romans had legitimate warnings about man-made resource depletion. Looking at the ancient Egyptian architecture, perhaps they had them even for rocks.

        Peak oil surely existed before 1970’s, although that’s when I remember first hearing about it. While some over here act as if they discovered it now, you pick me for your advise?

  7. The thing I’m missing is what the solar system / galaxy / universe is full of planets full of hydrocarbons? You also left out Thomas Gold’s thoughts on Abiogenic Oil, many are quite convincing.

    • I specifically mentioned extraterrestrial hydrocarbons and Gold makes no case at all for the existence inorganically sourced crude oil. He makes a reasonably good case for the possibility of such a process.

      • Of things that crack me up: “Dawn’s measurements aren’t precise enough to nail down exactly what the newfound organics are, but their signatures are consistent with tar-like substances such as kerite and asphaltite, study team members said.” https://goo.gl/0iRqNB
        So Ceres has life, building source rocks, and been working on it for billions of years.
        Can we get a rig out there?

      • Excellent article. A challenge to read, but we’ll worth the effort. I was willing to believe the abiogenic theory for oil creation, but I knew that I did not know enough to have a worthwhile opinion.

        I remember listening to a radio interview with Gold about this a long time ago and wishing I knew enough so that I could believe or disbelieve him.This article gave me enough information to be very sceptical of Gold`s abiogenic theories. Thank you.

    • Good point. Hydrogen and carbon are currently considered to be among the six most abundant chemical elements in the universe. Seems likely chemical compounds containing them, including quite complex molecules like PAH, are likely to be more common in the universe than life.

      • Fernando writes

        We are working on a supertanker starship to go suck up Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes. My favorite design uses an antimatter drive.

        You’re thinking too small, Fernando. I think Titan would make an excellent second moon for Earth. All we’d need to do is something like Space 1999’s “far side of the moon” explosion to knock it out of Saturn’s orbit towards Earth where we capture it. What could go wrong?

    • Dr. JK Kenney, or JF Kenney, called Thomas Gold (who could read Russian) a plagiarist, and entirely unequipped by reason of education in the sciences to make any intelligible assertions about abiotic oil. Kenney claims that Gold exploited the Cold War taboo regarding USSR science, and made ridiculous assertions about the discoveries of the Russian geologists recorded in 4,000 untranslated (to this day) scientific papers and monographs.

  8. Watching a man who has mastered his trade distill a mountain of blather down to a precious stream of truth is glorious to behold!

  9. An explanation closer to my level of understanding than I’ve read before. Only had to use the dictionary a couple of times. Still holding out slim hope for Abiogenic oil though :) Thanks.

  10. Thank you sir. As Texan I appreciate reading a well written discussion of the oil bidness. Yours was exceptionally well written.

  11. Gold’s abiotic theory of Petroleum formation is astrophysical support for the Soviet Abiotic theory of Petroleum formation which has formulated in the early 1950s.

    The Soviets naturally accused Gold of plagiarism.

    http://www.gasresources.net/VAKreplytBriggs.htm

    It should be recognized that Gold’s priority [related to the subject of the modern Soviet theory of abiotic petroleum origins] must be set at 1979 when he published his article:
     
    1.)      Gold, T, 1979, Terrestrial sources of carbon and earthquake outgassing, J. Petrol. Geol., Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 3-19.
     
    Concerning this article, one must pay particular attention to the following fact:  The references given in that article do not contain even one of the works of any of the Soviet scientists.  The well-known key leaders of the problem of abiogenic petroleum origins had already published their ideas and theory on that subject in many books and articles, beginning in the year 1951.  The quantity of such publications exceeds a thousand, and for short I shall limit myself with the list of several key sources following below:

    Answer 1. [to the question: “Are there key Soviet papers and Soviet ideas Prof. Gold fails to cite ?] by Vladilen A. Krayushkin,

    Yes, there are many Soviet papers, articles, books and ideas of key significance dealing with the subject of the deep petroleum (i.e., oil and gas) theory which Prof. Gold fails to cite correctly or adequately.

    It should be recognized that Gold’s priority [related to the subject of the modern Soviet theory of abiotic petroleum origins] must be set at 1979 when he published his article: Gold, T, 1979, Terrestrial sources of carbon and earthquake outgassing, J. Petrol. Geol., Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 3-19.

    Concerning this article, one must pay particular attention to the following fact: The references given in that article do not contain even one of the works of any of the Soviet scientists. The well-known key leaders of the problem of abiogenic petroleum origins had already published their ideas and theory on that subject in many books and articles, beginning in the year 1951. The quantity of such publications exceeds a thousand, and for short I shall limit myself with the list of several key sources following below:

    2.) Kravtsov A. I., 1967, Geochemical scheme of the formation of methane and liquid hydrocarbons in magmatic processes, and the basic criteria of prospects for oil and gas deposits, in Genesis of Oil and Gas, Nedra Press, Moscow, p. 314-325. (In Russian).

    3.) Kropotkin P. N. and K. A. Shakhvarstova, 1959, Solid bitumens, oil and fuel gas in ultrabasic intrusions, trap brilliants and volcanic pipes, in The Problem of Oil Migration and the Formation of Oil and Gas Accumulations, The State Fuel Technical Press, Moscow, p. 151-164. (In Russian).

    4.) Kudryavstev N. A., 1951, Against the organic hypothesis of petroleum origins, Petroleum Economy, No. 9, Moscow, p. 17. (In Russian).

    5.) – “-, 1955, The modern state of the problem of petroleum origin, in “Colloquium on Problems of the Origin and Migration of Petroleum”, Ukrainian Acad. Sci. Press, Kiev, p. 38-81. (In Russian).

    6.) – “-, 1959, Geological Evidence of Deep Petroleum Origins, Trans. of the All-Union Research, Geol. Exploration Petroleum Inst., State Technical Press, Leningrad, 210 p. (In Russian).

    7.) – “-, 1959, Oil, Gas and Solid Bitumens in Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks, State Technical Press, Leningrad, 230 p. (In Russian).

    8.) – “-, 1967, The state of the question on genesis of oil in the year 1966, in Genesis of Oil and Gas, Nedra Press, Moscow, p. 262-291. (In Russian).

    9.) – “-, 1973, The Genesis of Oil and Gas, Trans. of the All-Union Research, Geol. Exploration Petroleum Inst., Nedra Press Leningrad, 216 p. (In Russian).

    10.) Porfir’yev, V. B., 1960, On the nature of petroleum, in Problems of Oil and Gas Origin and Conditions of the Formation of Their Deposits, The State Fuel Technical Press, Moscow, p. 26-40. (In Russian).

    11.) – “-, 1967, The present state of the problem of petroleum formation, in Genesis of Oil and Gas, Nedra Press, Moscow, p. 292-324. (In Russian).

    12.) – “-, 1971, On a criticism of the theory of the inorganic origin of petroleum, in “Colloquium on the Inorganic Origin of Petroleum”, Scientific Thought Press, Kiev, p. 34-54. (In Russian).

    13.) – “-, 1971, Experience of geological analyses of questions of petroleum content, Ibid., p. 3-34. (In Russian).

    14.) – “-, 1974, Inorganic origin of petroleum, Bull. Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol., Vol. 58, No. 1, p. 3-33.

    15.) – “-, 1975, Significance of theoretical complex of petroleum geology in the solution of the problem of commercial oil content, in Regularities of Formation and Distribution of Commercial Oil and Gas Fields, Scientific Thought Press, Kiev, p. 17-27. (In Russian).

    16.) Porfir’yev, V. B., V. A. Krayushkin, V. P. Klochko, V. B. Sollogub, A. V. Chekunov, G. N. Ladyzhenskiy and V. I . Sozanskii, 1977, Geological criteria of prospects for new oil and gas reserves in the territory of Ukraine, Scientific Thought Press, Kiev, 150 p. (In Russian).

    17.) Porfir’yev, V. B., V. A. Krayushkin, N. S. Erofeev, G. P. Ovanesov, N. A. Eremenko, I. M. Mikhailov, V. A. Moskvich, I. Ye. Kotelnikov, Z. V. Ulybabov and P. M. Zozula, 1977, Perspectives of prospects for oil deposits in the crystalline basement of the Pripyat’ Basin, Geological Journal, Vol. 37, No. 5, p. 7-25. (In Russian).

    These Soviet publications and the ideas contained in them cannot be considered peripheral to the subject of deep gas and the abiotic origin of petroleum in any fashion such that one might conclude, – or claim, – that the key ideas are Gold’s. On the contrary, the ideas published in the references 1-16 given in the answer to question 1 are the key ideas and consist essentially of the whole of the basic but multi-faceted aspect of the modern abiotic theory of deep gas and petroleum origins. None of the key ideas are Gold’s. Please read, for example, Porfir’yev’s article of 1974 in the Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; and you will recognize that my opinion is correct upon this subject.

    • Middleton does make the point, however, that abiotic models for oil have proved useless for actually finding oil, whether they are valid or not.

      • Yeah… A couple of things drive me bonkers.

        1. The continuous argument that oil is abiogenic because the process is possible.
        2. The totally clueless argument that the adoption of the abiogenic hypothesis would fundamentally transform oil exploration and instantly refill every depleted oilfield on Earth.

      • Yes, Middleton hammered it loud and clear. If anything is left unclear, a fresh reminder received at the gas stations and shops regularly. This is one reason I’ve understood cAGW clergy to a certain point and to feel uneasy about Trump.

      • Mr. Middleton, you complain that the following drives you bonkers:

        1. The continuous argument that oil is abiogenic because the process is possible.

        Have you read the 4,000 Russian papers and monographs in the original (since they were never translated into English)? I am IN NO WAY contradicting your excellent post above, but just curious why you disagree with the Russian reporting of the science as they discovered, or uncovered, it.

        My understanding is that the Russians used Wegner’s explanation to arrive at their conclusions in the late 40s and early 50s. For decades, earth scientists had discredited Wegner’s ideas about continental drift only to discover the movement of tectonic plates (using his early 20th C insights) in the 1960s.

      • MRW,

        4,000 papers explaining how the process is possible isn’t evidence of a significant accumulation of inorganically, abiogenic, or abiotic sourced oil.

      • The totally clueless argument
        ==================
        Wouldn’t the abiotic hypothesis tend to favor the idea that oil/gas can be found both deep and shallow, while the organic hypothesis would tend to favor shallow oil/gas over deep oil/gas? Is there any preference re: statistical vertical distribution of oil/gas?

        maybe there are 3 hypothesis about how oil can form?

        1. organic
        2. plate tectonics (reduction of limestone via iron)
        3. primordial from planet formation.

      • ferdberple,

        “Wouldn’t the abiotic hypothesis tend to favor the idea that oil/gas can be found both deep and shallow, while the organic hypothesis would tend to favor shallow oil/gas over deep oil/gas?”

        No.

    • William
      I have explored the Russian conclusions also and keep an open mind. I guess at this point the subject is a bit like the CO2 debate? Conclusions from both sides.

      • Not really. I’ve worked in the oil business for four decades and made a ton of money. The Abiogenic oil crowd barely gets by writing books for naive and wishful thinkers. Ask them how much crude oil they put in a tank. The answer is zero.

      • Ozone bust, I read the Russian stuff available in English. Worse than Mann’s hockey stick. Geological Lysenkoism. The purported Ukraine example is worse thsn bad geology. There were uderkying standard sedimentary source rocks that had been overthrust.

      • I had a slightly opened mind to abiotic oil, but thanks to Mr. Middleton, that door is NAILED shut.

        If something is POSSIBLE, theoretically, that is the realm of SPECULATION. Only evidence can move speculation into the world of reality, and evidence is a precious thing that supports real world activities, such as oil discoveries and production…

        How many miles to the gallon will speculation get you?

  12. step 1and 2. how do the dead things that fall to the bottom get burried in mud, they fall on top, where does the mud on top of them come from, how can mud cover them fast enough before they decompose. where did the oxygen go?

    • Sediment is always dropping out of the ocean and falling to the seafloor. The further away from shore, the higher the clay content and lower the sand content. There is a steady stream of clay particles and dead foram’s, algae plankton and other critters falling to the sea floor. As new sediment falls, it buries the older sediment.

      Deepwater environments (bathyal, abyssal and hadal zones) start out with low levels of dissolved oxygen. This why metal in shipwrecks is better preserve in deepwater; there is very little oxidation (rust). Redox reactions render the deepwater sediments anoxic.

      This allows much of the organic matter to be buried with little decomposition.

      • Great post. Always wondered how methane on Titan correlated with biogenic oil.

        Why is Peak Oil not a concern? It does seem that we will need to replace oil with some other energy source at some point – possibly soonish, considering eroi declines. Doesn’t that constitute a legitimate civilizational concern? (sorry for any made-up words.)

    • Back when CO2 levels were very high, e.g. as high as 7,000 ppm perhaps, plants would have grown like crazy (think Amazon rain forest, perhaps a few orders of magnitude greater…) and piled up on top of each other, thus burying the slightly older stuff quickly. This virtually unlimited food explains the size of dinosaurs and other huge living things.

      Of course the plants would have increased the O2 levels eventually too. Just imagine the global firestorms that would eventually resulted…

  13. A really informative article that is a pleasure to read, thank you. I would only ask what asphalt is in relation to all this – is that organic or inorganic in origin?

    • Most asphalt used on roadways and for other construction purposes is produced from petroleum; although naturally occurring asphalt is quite common. Natural asphalt is often “overcooked” oil.

  14. This essay should be part of science curricula at the High-School level and above. Thanks David, for a copious infusion of comprehension on the subject of crude oil.

  15. The circumstantial evidence is that oil has an organic signal, which gives rise to a popular hypothesis of its unique origin, which may actually be caused through contamination.

    As for what is known about oil with certainty, is that it is a finitely available and accessible resource, which does not remark on its origins or chaotic distribution.

    • For the sake of argument…

      Let’s assume that the biochemical markers in oil were leached out of organic rich shale as the oil migrated from the mantle to geologic traps in sedimentary rocks…

      How would this alter oil exploration and production?

      • How would this alter oil exploration and production?
        ================
        could the method by which oil forms could affect the vertical distribution of deposits? I would think that organic oil would favor shallower deposits, while abiotic would favor deeper deposits. Taking into consideration the need for a barrier to prevent the oil from simply working its way to the surface and being consumed for energy by microorganisms.

  16. I’m not sure I’ve got the right name in my question above: I mean the bituminous like stuff seeping up in places like Trinidad.

    • The Trinidad asphalt deposits comes from seeps. The oil comes from below, as it approaches the surface the light hydrocarbons evaporate or get eaten by bacteria (Trinidad crudes are waxy coming out of the source rock, but as they arrive at say 6000 feet the wax is mostly gone, leaving a medium to heavy crude). As the crude seeps it just loses the good stuff. I assume you mean the Tar lake over by Point Lisas and San Fernando, where the road tends to have those large bumps?

  17. If it “never was the theory that dinosaurs made oil”, why did every single school science class teach that???

      • It was a cheap shot at teachers…

        “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach become guidance counselors.”

        Personally, I don’t recall any of my grade school or high school teachers teaching anything about oil, much less it coming from dinosaurs.

        So, I can’t explain why some schools taught this in science classes. Ignorance of the subject matter is the only logical reason I can come up with.

        Where did oil come from? We will cover that subject much more thoroughly in the next section, but for now, we need to take a quick look at where it did not come from.
        Many people, think that the oil we use today came from dinosaurs of long ago. In fact, that is what was taught in some schools for a long time. People were taught that dinosaurs, either through natural death or some calamity — like an earthquake or landslide — were buried and eventually turned into oil.

        There is no doubt that some dinosaurs probably became the source of some oil — but actually very little of it. One of the reasons is simply this: when a dinosaur died, as land dwelling animal, it was exposed to an oxygen rich environment which would lead to rapid decay and prevent the processes necessary to convert something to oil from taking place. Not only that, but dead dinosaurs were food for many scavengers — again preventing the necessary natural processes from converting the animal to oil.

        […]

        http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/assets/TAD/education/BGBB/2/mis_formation.html

      • I have very clear memories of being taught oil came from dinosaurs and so do many people my age (60). We have discussed how the theory was flawed and why. Not sure what school didn’t teach about oil, but mine was one that did.

        Ignorance by thousands of teachers. I’m not buying it. This is to me rewriting of history to serve the current theory, just as we see in climate science. Maybe I can find a textbook and prove this. Guess I will have to do so since just like climate science, apparently some fields of science are entirely dependent on complete memory loss by society. It’s really quite terrifying.

      • It is.

        Although this is the first time I have encountered this particular bizarre conspiracy theory. I have encountered idiots who assert that petroleum geologists are intentionally refusing to adopt the abiogenic theory in order to prop up oil prices and I have encountered the truly idiotic conspiracy theory that the oil industry bought and hid the formula to make gasoline out of water. But this is the first time that I have encountered the amazingly idiotic notion that we have rewritten history to get rid of the Dino theory.

      • Thank you for showing how scientific you are by labeling the rewriting of history as idiotic. I must then assume there was indeed no Little Ice Age, no Midieval Warming period and that all of that was just ignorant people thinking such a period existed. Now that EXPERTS have told us that never existed, we MUST believe. Therefore, I am joining the millions who do not believe in said periods so I won’t have an “idiotic” theory. Thank you for enlightening me. Your endorsement of the accuracy of science is much appreciated.

      • The original version is actually:

        “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach, those who can’t teach, administrate”

      • Yes, before your explanation, that made sense. And is very amusing. YOur explanations are very informative, and your writing style is easy and enjoyable. Thanks for the lesson. If every teacher was as good as you, Johnny would be reading! But then your joke would not be true if you were a teacher.

      • I am 57. I don’t think any of my science teachers tought that dinosaurs were the source of oil. However it is possible that some of my classmates may believe that they were together this…probably just inaccurate memories.

      • I guess some grade school and high school teachers must have taught this somewhere. I don’t ever recall being taught this. But, I do recall my 5th grade science teacher explaining the relationship between heat and pressure using piles of blankets as an analogy.

        I got my BS from 1976-1980 and we were definitely not taught that oil came from dinosaurs.

      • Sheri,

        Clearly the wide-spread urban legend of oil-from-dinosaurs has some basis in the educational system. However, I can assure you that this has not been part of a petroleum geology curriculum since at least 1976. And I’m 99% certain that it never has been.

      • Sure, back in the late ’50s I was taught the dinosaurs theory as well. But, by the time I got to college in the early ’60s geologist had discovered organic chemistry and were rewriting one heck of a lot of their theories.

      • I suppose that there must be a (very) small proportion of oil that originates from marine reptiles like plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mosasaurs, but none from dinosaurs, since there never was any marine dinosaurs (birds excepted).

      • There could be some from dinosaurs. It’s just highly unlikely that they could be transported to the deep oceans without having been eaten my marine reptiles, fish and scavengers and then buried in anoxic sediment before they decomposed.

      • David: I didn’t say any petroleum geology curriculum ever contained this. I got my BS in 1978 and I don’t remember any of this being taught in chemistry or biology. However, I remember very well being taught this in grade school or thereabouts and I have found many references to the teaching thereof. I am still searching for a copy of a textbook from the 60’s that will show this, since many people now seem to insist this never actually happened. Only a textbook is going to clarify the matter, I guess. I note there are others that do remember this being taught, so I’m not alone in that.

        Joe: I realize scientists revise theories all the time. That’s science. I do not object to that—only to people attempting to say a theory “never” existed when people have clear memories of its existence. The theory may have been wrong—or at least superceded by a different theory. That’s fine.

      • David,

        I’m a little older than you, having graduated from high school in 1960. I can assure you and Sheri that oil from dinosaurs was never a part of my curriculum at any point in time. It was always just a metaphor for something that was not known in as much detail as it is now.

        Incidentally, a version of the old saw that I prefer is that “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers. Those who can’t even teach teachers become politicians.”

      • Ditto – it’s pretty common in my circle to refer to non-synthetic motor oil as “Dino Blend” but no one actually thinks that. It comes with a wink and a smile. (I’m in my mid-forties.)

        Question though – and I have been under this impression – that ancient swamps were the source of much of the vegetable matter that eventually produced oil. It sounds as though I have been mistaken about that. Am I?

      • ” It’s just highly unlikely that they could be transported to the deep oceans without having been eaten my marine reptiles, fish and scavengers and then buried in anoxic sediment before they decomposed.”

        Dinosaur carcasses were occasionally carried out to sea and buried in (fairly) deep sea sediments, bur it is very rare. The “Talkeetna dinosaur” from the Wrangelia terrane in Alaska is probably the best known case, but there are others:

        http://pubs.dggsalaskagov.us/webpubs/dggs/pr/text/pr118.pdf

      • However, I remember very well being taught this in grade school or thereabouts and I have found many references to the teaching thereof.

        I seem to remember the oil dinosaur although don’t recall if it was in any textbook. In 1964 Richard Feynman was invited to review text books on the State Curriculum Commission for the state of California. The results weren’t pretty.

        http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm

        Applying Occam’s razor, I would suggest that the poor quality of text books is a better explanation than geologist changing history.

    • I wonder if someone told the teachers “much oil came from the AGE of the dinosaurs” and they ran with a misunderstanding of that? My teachers in NZ certainly never said anything about dinosaurs.

      • I meant that they never said anything about Dinosaurs and *OIL*. Does any reader have (access to) a copy of the “How and Why Wonder Book” about oil? (UK number 6598 according to the Wikipedia catalogue.) I don’t have physical access to the encylopaedia I had as a child (born in 1955), but a recent edition says “Oil and gas formed when organic material (land plants and marine plankton) was laid down in peat swamps, estuaries and shallow seas. Sediments buried this material, preserving it from decay” and I’m pretty sure the edition I used said something similar. Remember when encyclopaedia salesmen were a thing? There must be lots of encyclopaedias from the 50s and 60s that could be checked.

      • Richard, I still have the 1929 edition of Enc. Britannica that I grew up with (along with 4 other encyclopedias no longer in our hands). Anything you’d like me to look up? (I also have our “new” copy, the Britannica ’62 edition.)

      • “I wonder if someone told the teachers “much oil came from the AGE of the dinosaurs” and they ran with a misunderstanding of that?”

        That was always my understanding when I heard something along those lines.

      • “Several famous chemists devoted themselves to the study of petroleum, among them Mendeleeff, Sir Boverton Redwood, Lissenko, Engler, Beilstein. They are not yet agreed as to its precise origin. …Engler maintains that it must be due to the liquefaction of animal remains; he has actually exhibited products, exactly similar to those of petroleum, which he had made from animal fats. Another chemist, C.M. Warren, has obtained synthetic oil through distillation of fish and other organic matter.” The Book of Popular Science (Edison Memorial Edition), edited by Dexter S Kimball, LLD, (Cornell University, Dean of the College of Engineering), Vol I: Article ” Life in the great Oil Fields”, p 118. Published by The Grolier Society, New York, in 1924 (the edition from which this is quoted is the 1931 edition).

    • Sheri, where did you grow up? I am 64, grew up in Ohio and was not taught that dinosaurs ‘made oil’. My daughters are 28 & 30, grew up in Houston and were not taught that dinosaurs ‘made oil’. Sampling bias?

      I’ve been a professional Geoscientist for more than 40 years, worked E&P in a super major oil company and agree with everything David has posted. He has, in no way, posted revisionist history on this matter.

      • I am 62, a professional Geo who grew up in Ohio, and was indeed taught that oil came from dinosaurs. It was however, from a history teacher, who was just there to coach basketball.

      • Had to kick in. We were taught in grade school by nuns that oil came from buried dinosaurs and vegetative matter. I was always by nature a skeptic (Irish and German) so I always thought that’s a whole lotta dinosaurs.
        It is very refreshing to see Mr. Middleton’s review of oil – well written fro us non-professionals – and it prompts me to see why some are pursuing hydrogen cars.Much thanks to a solid exposition by a true professional with a wealth of knowledge.

      • In Iowa. My husband is from Missouri. Both of us were taught that oil came from dinosaurs. I was very surprised to find that had been changed to krill and plankton. (I would note that this was remembered in part because both of us thought it was a problematic theory and questioned it. That was a no-no and there were consequences.)

        Again, I have to find a text because people simply do not believe that this was done. I can find many, many references on the internet, but a hard copy of a school text is harder to come by.

        As for the old encyclopedias, that may be difficult in this digital age. LIbrary book sales couldn’t even unload them. Paper and ink are fast becoming dinosaurs themselves.

    • In one respect it is common sense dinosaurs did not make oil. What happens when something dies? The carcass is quickly devoured by other animals, or maggots do the job. Decomposition happens quickly.

    • Never heard of anyone teaching that. Certainly I wasn’t taught that. Of course, I went to school in Australia.

    • Not my school. I think this is more a TV Cartoon idea than anything else. I had a Earth Sciences teacher who asserted that most crude oil was formed from the accumulation of dead forams on the sea floor, but there is a lot more to it than just that. Plate subduction over eons of time shoves the (foram & organics laden) deep ocean floor sediments down into the upper mantle. It is my understanding that this is where the ‘cooking’ at high pressures and high temperatures takes place. As David said, the factor of time is seldom referred to in many of these discussions.

      One thing I am curious about with reference to Thomas Gold: In “Deep Hot Biosphere” he suggests that Gas, Oil, and Coal are often found superposed vertically. In some places this is true, but I suspect some of these findings may be merely coincidental and not the general case.

    • Sheri, I was taught an enormous amount of ahistorical and just plain wrong nonsense in public (and to some extent private) schools. And so were you. I learned early on to distrust pat pronouncements from legally mandated babysitters.

      I think the larger part of the error here is assuming that any of these errors were made at a “higher level” than a schoolteacher or a textbook editor. Or TV scriptwriter, just as likely.

  18. Once the carbon gets to the right depth/pressure/temperature, how long does it take to make it oil?

    • Firstly, Professor McDonald should stick to economics.

      Secondly, the “oil-rich” rocks of Campeche probably weren’t oil-rich in the Cretaceous. So, I doubt the Chicxulub impact required a hydrocarbon assist, particularly since the Deccan Traps super-eruptions probably doomed Dino before the impact.

      Thirdly, these dinosaurs are made from oil…

      • The Nature article actually makes sense…

        The mass extinction of life 66 million years ago at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary, marked by the extinctions of dinosaurs and shallow marine organisms, is important because it led to the macroevolution of mammals and appearance of humans. The current hypothesis for the extinction is that an asteroid impact in present-day Mexico formed condensed aerosols in the stratosphere, which caused the cessation of photosynthesis and global near-freezing conditions. Here, we show that the stratospheric aerosols did not induce darkness that resulted in milder cooling than previously thought. We propose a new hypothesis that latitude-dependent climate changes caused by massive stratospheric soot explain the known mortality and survival on land and in oceans at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary. The stratospheric soot was ejected from the oil-rich area by the asteroid impact and was spread globally. The soot aerosols caused sufficiently colder climates at mid–high latitudes and drought with milder cooling at low latitudes on land, in addition to causing limited cessation of photosynthesis in global oceans within a few months to two years after the impact, followed by surface-water cooling in global oceans in a few years. The rapid climate change induced terrestrial extinctions followed by marine extinctions over several years.

        Although the Deccan Traps may have already doomed the dinosaurs before the impact…

        Deccan Traps Volcanism May Have Contributed to Dinosaur Extinction

        Dec 15, 2014

        A massive volcanic eruption in what is now India about 250,000 years before the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid impact may have played a role in the extinction of dinosaurs, say scientists who have dated rocks from the Deccan Traps, east of Mumbai.

        […]

        http://www.sci-news.com/geology/science-deccan-traps-volcanism-dinosaur-extinction-02345.html

    • As a matter of fact it is the impact layer from Chicxulub that forms the seal over the oil in the Cantarell oilfield, in Yucatan so it most definitely didn’t exist before the impact.

  19. David, very interesting dissection. What, in your opinion, is the psychology behind the need to invent an abiotic origin? Is it merely misguided peak-oilism?

    • I find both sides to be zealots. I think the Abiogenic Oilers think that the adoption of this hypothesis would suddenly create a limitless supply of cheap oil. While many of the Peak Oilers seem to think that the acceptance of Peak Oil will suddenly force us to adopt alternative energy.

      • I am a ‘weak’ peak oiler. It won’t be abrupt, and has little to do with alternative energy schemes. But it will take decades to adjust to and has the potential for serious societal disruption. By maybe 2040 the shoe really starts to pinch if my estimates are halfway decent, with a shallow peak ~2023-2025. The only real problem is liquid transportation fuels. Biofuels are insufficient in quantity to sufficiently substitute, EV’s arent there in range and cost, and you cannot electrify most ships, ag and construction machinery, heavy trucks, or airplanes. Wrote a scenario about this as the last chapter in Gaia’s Limits. There are several obvious partial solutions with sufficient lead time. But waiting til post peak to start with a strongly rising price signal (World Bank modeling says $200/bbl) means a very short adaptation runway. 15 years isn’t a lot of adaptation time when the vehicle fleet average age is 10 years.

      • Rud,

        Peak oil is a real thing. At some point we will have consumed half of the total recoverable resource. So, you can count me as a luke warmer, weak peak oiler… ;)

      • DM, we agree to agree. Your post was terrific. BTW, my grandfather was an early petroleum geologist who among other things helped develop Kern River and Williston Basin conventional. My sister still gets residual royalties from both.

      • Yeah. I’m a weak peak oiler. Oil will cease to be commercially viable at some point: that its not already is down to improving extraction techniques and the artificially high price of nuclear power.

        At some point synthetic fuels d will be as cheap as drilled/mined fuels, and that will be peak oil.

      • jaakkokateenkorva,

        Fossil fuels: Combustible hydrocarbon based fuels formed from the remains of living organisms in the geologic past.

      • David, we ARE running out of places to look for oil. Therefore decision makers do need to take into account this fact. This is extremely important for energy security, because the bulk of remaining reserves are located in OPEC nations and Russia. The extra heavy oil in Canada and Venezuela requires high prices, and Venezuela is a narcostate ruled by a nutty communist with tangible help from the Castro Mafia and “moral support” from the extreme left in USA, Latinamerica and Europe.
        This means we do need to figure out a way out of a looming crisis. Also, this problem has to be treated considering what happens in poor countries. An energy crisis triggered by oil scarcity will drive nations like Pakistan, Mexico, and Egypt into highly unstable states. And we really don’t need that.

  20. Thanks for the excellent overview. I wish I’d had it 35 to 40 years ago while working on a geophysical imaging research project. The geologist we had at the time, hell-of-a nice guy, seemed to know his business but couldn’t explain his way out of a paper bag.

      • The first GPS I bought didn’t have any map data in it. It was basically a GPS-guided pace and compass traverse. I spent many hours making traverse maps with it.

    • While at Mot late 1990’s , my guys worked for years on the first hand held GPS units. Given the then microprocessor clock rstes, a minor miracle they could get GPS to work at all. Now, we take unbelievale precision for granted in smartphones with more procesding capability than main frame computers of that mid 1990’s era.

  21. Excellent post! Very informative. Thanks!
    I have worked in the Permian Basin for the last 16+yrs. In all that time I can say that not once has the abiotic theory ever come up in any discussion. IIRC the abiotic theory did come up in my course work when I was in school. It was in the “wacky ideas” section.

    • I’m gonna guess that the oil-from-dinosaurs “theory” never gained traction in the Permian Basin either… Since dinosaurs evolved after the Permian… ;)

    • The Permian Basin is the only place I’ve been (up near Andrews) where at night you can see the street lights on a highway overpass 20 miles away. I guess pumping all that oil actually leveled it… :<)

  22. On balance I believe in the existence of abiotic oil.
    However, I don’t believe in the existence of economically extractable abiotic oil. There’s no reason for abiotic oil to be where it can be extracted from.
    And there’s no reason to look everywhere on the off chance that it will be there. That costs too much anyway.

  23. I am a retired petroleum geologist, and I want to congratulate the author for a truly excellent summary on the sedimentary habitat of oil and gas.

  24. Excellent. Nothing significant to argue with. A couple of nitpicks.

    1. You didn’t address oil shales. I think the petroleum in formations like the Marcellus and Utica is probably indigenous, not migrated. My understanding is that the porosity of the unfracked Utica is about zero. And in many areas the Utica contains numerous periodic thin carbonate intervals that are probably even less permeable.

    2. I have no doubt about your point that we are using petroleum far faster than nature is producing it. But you might add coal to the list of petroleum source rocks. Coal To Liquid is a bit pricey compared to current petroleum pricing. But it certainly works. The South Africans have been doing it for decades. OTOH, if we used coal to produce liquid fuels for the transportation of 7 billion or so people, there’s little doubt we’d be burning through it way faster than it’s being created also.

    • Oops. I think I probably meant permeability, not porosity. Apologies. I’m a computer guy, not an oil guy.

    • Since shales are generally also the source rocks for conventional reservoirs in their respective basins, the shale oil probably did form in situ.

    • Coal isn’t a source rock. We can take coal, old furniture, sticks, and dead horses, feed them to a high pressure high temperature vessel, burn it to make carbon monoxide, feed steam, and push that mess through a catalyst bed and get crude oil. It takes about $100 per barrel sale price and/or a very friendly government.

      • Predecessor to coal is in fact a source rock in special situations. Norway’s western offshore Haltebanken is a specific example. Not the usual, granted.

      • IIRR, that’s Occidental’s “Garboil” process. The reactor product is very acidic, and you have to make everything of special alloys.

    • It is worth noting that the shales are of such low permeability that they serve as caprocks on some underlying oil and gas sand reservoirs.

      • I would say shale is the most common caprock in the world… Of course my world mostly consists of the Central Gulf of Mexico.

  25. 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.

    The deep earth CH4 provides the force, the deep earth core extruded CH4 is pushed by the enormous core pressure to drive tectonic plate movement. As the deep earth CH4 moves through the earth’s crust it picks ups heavy metals in solution. At specific pressures portions of the heavy metals are released which explains why there are super concentration of heavy metals (million times concentrated in the crust).

    Massive concentrations of heavy metals in the crust require a fluid which dissolves the metals at high pressure and a force that moves that liquid through the earth’s crust.

    This movement of the liquid CH4 through the crust explains why there is heavy metals in crude oil and why geological separate regions (from the standpoint of the fossil theory that has no mechanism to move the oil about) have the same characteristic amounts of heavy metals. i.e. the liquid CH4 that forms the oil moves feeds geologically separate regions.

    It should be noted that what drives plate tectonics is an unsolved problem. The deep earth CH4 hypothesis proves the force to drive plate tectonics.

    The earth’s core started to solidify roughly a 1 billion years ago. At that time, there would be a large increase in CH4 pushed to the surface which explains why there was a dramatic increase in life at that time. The CH4 raises the continents above the shallow oceans, there is a great deal of CO2 for plants to eat to create the sudden increase in O2 for animal life, and so on.

    http://www.newgeology.us/Plate%20Tectonics.pdf

     

    Plate Tectonics: too weak to build mountains 
    For this discussion, the assumptions and ideas of plate tectonics are used unchallenged to show their internal problems regarding mountain building (orogeny). Quotes are from professional journals. 

    What drives the plates? 
    Study of the motions of plates is called kinematics, while study of the driving forces is called dynamics. “A key to the simplicity of plate tectonics is that the strength of lithospheric plates enables the analysis of their kinematics to be isolated and treated separately from the dynamic processes controlling plate motions; relative velocities of plates can be analysed without reference to the forces that give rise to them”34. 

    Around the end of the first decade of dominance by plate tectonics, in 1975, the situation was described this way: “In recent years, the kinematics of continental drift and sea-floor spreading have been successfully described by the theory of plate tectonics. However, rather little is known about the driving mechanisms of plate tectonics, although various types of forces have been suggested”14. Seven years later, in 1982, the assessment was: “At the present time the geometry of plate movements is largely understood, but the driving mechanism of plate tectonics remains elusive”3.

    By 1995 we find that: “In spite of all the mysteries this picture of moving tectonic plates has solved, it has a central, unsolved mystery of its own: What drives the plates in the first place? ‘[That] has got to be one of the more fundamental problems in plate tectonics,’ notes geodynamicist Richard O’Connell of Harvard University. ‘It’s interesting it has stayed around so long’ “25. In 2002 it could be said that: “Although the concept of plates moving on Earth’s surface is universally accepted, it is less clear which forces cause that motion. Understanding the mechanism of plate tectonics is one of the most important problems in the geosciences”8. A 2004 paper noted that “considerable debate remains about the driving forces of the tectonic plates and their relative contribution”40.

    “Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift died in 1926, primarily because no one could suggest an acceptable driving mechanism. In an ironical twist, continental drift (now generalized to plate tectonics) is almost universally accepted, but we still do not understand the driving mechanism in anything other than the most general terms”2. 

    The problem has always been that it is hard to discern what is going on deep in the Earth, motion is almost imperceptably slow, and different combinations of forces, perhaps varying over time, could apply to particular areas. “When the concepts of convection and plate tectonics were first developing, many thought of mantle convection as a process heated from below, which in turn exerts driving tractions on the base of a relatively stagnant ‘crust’ (later, ‘lithosphere’) to cause continental drift. In the early 1970s, more sophisticated understanding of convection led to the opposite view. It was realized that only a fraction of the Earth’s heat flow originates in the core, while most results from radioactivity and/or secular cooling of the mantle.

    Computer models showed that internally heated (and/or surface cooled) systems have no upwelling sheets or plumes and that all concentrated flow originates in the upper cold boundary layer, which stirs the interior as it sinks. Thus it became natural to regard plates of lithosphere as driving themselves and, incidentally, stirring the rest of the mantle”5. Some researchers make the point emphatically: “convection does not drive plates.” Upper mantle convection is a product, not a cause, of plate motions20. Thus the location and orientation of a sinking slab is the best indicator of which way upper mantle flows. 

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090910084259.htm

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo591.html

    Methane-derived hydrocarbons produced under upper-mantle conditions
    Anton Kolesnikov1,2, Vladimir G. Kutcherov2,3 & Alexander F. Goncharov1

    There is widespread evidence that petroleum originates from biological processes1, 2, 3. Whether hydrocarbons can also be produced from abiogenic precursor molecules under the high-pressure, high-temperature conditions characteristic of the upper mantle remains an open question. It has been proposed that hydrocarbons generated in the upper mantle could be transported through deep faults to shallower regions in the Earth’s crust, and contribute to petroleum reserves4, 5. Here we use in situ Raman spectroscopy in laser-heated diamond anvil cells to monitor the chemical reactivity of methane and ethane under upper-mantle conditions. We show that when methane is exposed to pressures higher than 2 GPa, and to temperatures in the range of 1,000–1,500 K, it partially reacts to form saturated hydrocarbons containing 2–4 carbons (ethane, propane and butane) and molecular hydrogen and graphite. Conversely, exposure of ethane to similar conditions results in the production of methane, suggesting that the synthesis of saturated hydrocarbons is reversible. Our results support the suggestion that hydrocarbons heavier than methane can be produced by abiogenic processes in the upper mantle.

  26. An excellent summary understandable even to those of us without degrees in the sciences. Regardless of how much petroleum yet exists underground, whether known or unknown, the EROI is the only thing that matters, correct? I recall reading a summary of the historical decline of EROI from approximately 75:1 to in some cases 5:1 for fracked oil. In essence “Peak Oil” is more about the inability to economically produce petroleum products in increasing amounts leading to a permanent slide in prosperity for as long as we depend on these products for the bulk of our energy. Even new discoveries will be irrelevant if the EROI ratio is low. If my memory is correct I recall a 25:1 EROI ratio or so is necessary to maintain continued growth in economic output. EROI less than 10:1 cannot support meaningful economic growth absent massive debt creation which has kicked the can down the road the last 15 plus years. 10:1 EROI sounds great until you factor in transportation, refining costs, distribution costs etc. I am interested if it is realistic to hope for huge leaps in technology and innovation to economically produce future hard to develop reserves?

    • The EROI method can be flawed, because we can use natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power, or coal generated power to produce the oil. This means we take energy from those sources and use it to make oil which makes kerosene, gasoline and diesel. I prefer to stick to the actual cost to produce the crude, which has been climbing as we have to develop lousier reservoirs.

      Let me give you an example: we use natural gas to heat produced fluids to separate oil and water. We also generate electricity using natural gas. But in some cases the electricity comes from hydro and nuclear. In Argentina some fields are pumped using a mix of wind power and natural gas turbine generated electricity. In Venezuela some fields used to draw electricity from the giant Guri dam project. What counts in the end is the cost of the inputs. So as oil prices increase (as they surely will), we will be able to pay for the needed energy input. However, we will demand more and more energy as fields age. And this drives up costs.

  27. Interesting article. I read Thomas Gold’s book “The Deep Hot Biosphere” from cover to cover. I also found Wikipedia’s article of value:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin

    I don’t think your article actually rebuts the Abiotic hypothesis. Gold’s hypothesis revolves around evidence that oil originates below the locations where it is found, or using his words, below the “crystalline basement that underlies the sediment”. You seem to agree with him. For example you write: “Even the oil that’s trapped in fractured granites and other basement rocks, had to migrate through and be trapped by sedimentary rocks.”

    He assumes there is no deeper sedimentary layer under the basement, and uses this to justify that the oil must originate by some other means. Whereas you say there is a deeper sedimentary layer below the basement, where the oil originates.

    So what is the evidence for oil bearing sedimentary layers below the basement? You don’t present any in this article.

    Thanks.

    • I clearly did not rebut Gold’s hypothesis because it is irrelevant. I even stipulated that it was possible.

      If Gold “assumes there is no deeper sedimentary layer under the basement, and uses this to justify that the oil must originate by some other means,” he is clueless as to the generally accepted theory of hydrocarbon formation.

      There is no need for “oil bearing sedimentary layers below the basement;” nor is this bizarre notion part of the theory.

      • Mr. Middleton,

        Having attended a number of Thomas Gold’s lectures when I was a student and later having briefly discussed the Abiogenic theory with him after one of his lectures at the Royal Institution, I was a disciple. Your comprehensive but open-minded exposure has changed my opinion. Thank you.

  28. Well done! One of the impediments to understanding of many geologic processes is how water behaves at high pressures and temperatures. This is why gold is found in quartz. The two dissolve in supercritical water.

    • Thank you! Old chemistry trained greybeard granddad here and many don’t get how fast things can go, chemically, when the necessary conditions are present. One of the projects I worked on in the 70s was ‘biogenic’ oil from pyrolysis. Fisher-Tropsch is a pyrolytic process at relatively low temperatures and pressures.

  29. Very interesting articles, this one and Andy May’s. I have a question:

    Years ago I was informed(?) that in the early 20thc century, the oil EROEI — “energy return on energy invested” — was on the order of 50:1. That is, the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil yielded, for society’s use, 50 (if not more) barrels of oil worth of energy. By ~2000, this had fallen to 4:1 — one barrel’s worth of effort yielded only 4 barrels of usable energy.

    My source’s concern was that, if the ratio ever fell to 1:1, that would be true “peak oil”. We could have an infinite reserve but, if one barrel’s worth of effort only produced one barrel of result, why bother?

    His logic is impeccable; the real world tends to be rather messier, however. I am wondering what the current EROEI might be and, especially, what the trend is, if anyone can say.

    • My 2¢ on EROEI…

      EROEI

      It doesn’t matter how much energy it takes to extract, refine and transport fossil fuels. EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) is even dopier than AGW. I don’t spend energy to fill my tank. I don’t give energy back to the gas & electric companies in exchange for them being nice enough to heat and light my home. My company doesn’t drill for oil & gas to make energy.

      I spend money to fill my tank. My company drills wells for oil & gas to make money. My gas & electric bills are paid for with money. My pay check, ExxonMobil & Shell credit card statements and checks to the gas & electric companies aren’t denominated in joules, kilowatts or btu – They are denominated in $.

      I don’t give a rat’s @$$ if 1 barrel of amoeba farts uses less energy to produce than 1 barrel of crude oil… Because the barrel of amoeba farts costs $1,100 and can’t be produced in sufficient quantities to be waiting for me at the Exxon or Shell station when I need it.

      If oil companies (or any businesses) used EROEI to guide their investment decisions, they would go out of business (unless the gov’t was footing the bill).

      And, for that matter, most fossil fuels actually have better EROEI than most alternative sources do.

      Oil, natural gas and coal are concentrated biofuels. They represent thousands to millions of years of condensed solar energy.

      • It’s effectively the same as tapping natural gas out of the pipeline to run the compressor station. There are losses in the process.

        Poor biodiesel. Guess I gotta go eat more grilled sausage and pasta so there’ll be more cooking oil to convert.

      • On second thought if I eat more grilled sausage and pasta, I’ll be driving to the gym more often…and they’ll have to keep the lights on and the equipment powered, and I don’t think the energy I expend on the treadmill and weights actually gets captured and fed back into someone’s Tesla, so…

      • Not interested in “alternative” energy.

        “Oil, natural gas and coal are concentrated biofuels. They represent thousands to millions of years of condensed solar energy.”

        Yes. And in order to put gas in my gas tank I must use a ?few days? of condensed solar energy in the form of the fats and sugar in my body, that I got from the sausages and beans I’ve eaten, that were processed (either by someone hand-stuffing the sausage casings or by an electric sausage-stuffing machine run on electricity from a power plant, to say nothing of the pig-feed sown, harvested, and transported with energy), then delivered by gas-powered vehicles to a convenient place which I also needed energy to get to (and from). The money I use to buy the gas did not come from the money fairy but by my exchange of my time and — oops — energy to my employer for that money.

        Before petroleum, society was much smaller and ran much more slowly. It is the injection of that “millions of years of condensed solar energy” into society that has allowed the spread and speed we have today. I’m not complaining.

        I’m wondering: the oil is not bestowed, in the tanks and ready to go, by the oil fairy. We have to do some amount of work, expend some amount of energy, to get the oil out where we can use it.

        It used to be easier: oil seeped out in many places; just go scoop some up. Then we had to pump it — that costs more energy than just scooping it up. Now we have to process the hell out of shale to get enough.

        If you can’t tell that some energy must be burned in order to get at this energy source, and that the energy used does not have a fixed relationship to the energy retrieved, you are unlikely to be of help in this matter.

  30. David, if all oil is of marine origin, how do you explain the kerosine that is often found in coal measure rocks?

    Also, where does the pollen found in oil come from? Is it exclusively wind-borne?

    • All oil is not of marine origin. Some is of lacustrine origin.

      Coal oil and kerosene are similar; but not the same thing.

      I’ve never heard of pollen in crude oil

      • “I’ve never heard of pollen in crude oil”

        Me either, but I suppose it could happen. I do think there are fossil pollen grains associated with Green River formation kerogens in some beds.

      • It probably does happen. The little bits of terrigenous plant matter used for vitrinite reflectance were washed into the oceans by rivers and streams. Pollen grains were probably deposited in a similar manner. I’ve just never seen any references to it.

      • Coal is often a source rock, though more often for gas than oil. Coals usually have too low of a hydrogen index to be an oil source, though some of the coals in SE Asia are oil source rocks. They tend to be from a form of coal referred to as alginite coal, with origins more from laccustrine algal mats than woody plants.

    • I may just order it… $2.50 is a bargain. I was thinking more along the lines of checking with my coworkers to see if they had a copy of it.

  31. Just to back up Sheri’s memory on the dinosaurs thing, in my around-1980 Canadian high school classes I absolutely did read oil came from dinosaurs in my science textbooks, and it was also definitely accepted convention in science for kids publications like _National Geographic World_ magazine in the mid-70’s, along with stories about The Ice Age Coming Back (40 years later I can still picture this one two-page spread of cavemen leading mammoths in front of an advancing ice sheet. Scary stuff to a kid living in a place where you can look at the scars that last ice sheet left). Never had any particular reason to look into it deeper until this article came along, so I tended to assume that oil formation theories were as well supported by the evidence as the plant-food-will-kill-the-planet theories. This article increases my confidence greatly that geologists can be considered actual scientsts :)

  32. A few observations:

    1. I can’t be the only one who remembers Chevron’s ‘dinosaur in your tank’ commercials of the late 70’s. Dino’s to oil was all the rage back then.

    2. In oil exploration ‘basement’ usually meant ‘there is nothing to find below this’. In the LA Basin the ‘basement’ was usually the top of the Cretaceous.

    3. In Oklahoma we drilled through the ‘basement’ and encountered sediments with oil, a sub thrust play.

    4. Off shore Oxnard the oil source and reservoir seemed to be the same.

    • The get out of jail card was “economic” basement.
      So oh yes we have the technology now and prices are better now but we actually always knew it was there.

      In NZ we have the same sub-thrust targets but so far not prolific and one further comment our HC’s are dominated by coal source.
      We are minor players in the greater scheme.

    • I mentioned the Conoco commercial in the post. There were even a few gag seismic lines which depicted the “seismic image” of a brontosaurus. Inside jokes aren’t theories.

      • I forgot all about that one… A classic! I wish I could find the old Conoco commercial with the Vibroseis truck hunting a buried dinosaur.

  33. David, You have probably noticed (as I have) that most people who promote biogenic / mantle derived oil are not explorers . They are not putting their money where their mouth is and risking $s to drill for oil with this concept … where as explorers, using conventional source / maturation & migration models are putting their money where their mouth is … and finding oil.

    I think that pretty much sums it up as far as what’s really going on.

    One more thought … if oil was mantle sourced, we ought to see seeps and fields randomly distributed across the whole globe…. but in reality , we only see oil in areas with a migration pathway from mature source rocks (or in the case of shale oil … in mature source rocks). It could not be any more obvious where the oil is coming from if you actually know anything about petroleum geology.

    • Oil would be flowing out of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge if there was any merit to the Abiogenic hypothesis.

      • Great read, thanx. I personally think abiogenic hydrocarbon liquid and gas inevitable. I have little doubt that there are huge deposits of biogenic oil. I see the earth and other planets/moons as chemical factories where, especially on planetary/geological timescales, an enormous variety of chemical processes occur at one time or another.
        Concerning the last point that abiogenic hydrocarbons would be flowing out of the mid atlantic ridge if that process was producing same. I would question this – the slow formation of same and the fact that at that ridge there is nothing to ‘capture’ it, i.e. a layer of rock it can’t get thru, under which it builds up significant reserves. Could it be seeping out as we speak? At the slow rate it is being produced and migrating to the surface of the ridge. Could it have seeped out already? Could the ridge have altered the conditions that hydrocarbons would form below? Could it even be the source of the ‘frozen’ methane deposits/layers we have yet to tap? If it were there seeping out, what rate would/could we expect it so to do?

      • Does David and the mainstream support abiogenic major gas reserves then? If the Earth’s mantle has been producing methane for the last few billion years…
        From what I gather : the biogenic process is that carbo-hydrates decompose to kerogen in a very tight rock, which strips off the oxygen and hydrogen to leave a lump of mostly carbon with a ratio to hydrogen of roughly 1:1 . But oil needs a H:C ratio of at least 3:1. Where does the kerogen get its hydrogen from?
        I don’t think carbon will strip off hydrogen from the deep crustal waters, but aside methane, the mantle also produces plenty of raw hydrogen gas ( see Kola deep borehole ), which is capable of reacting with carbon at lower crust temperatures and pressures.
        If it is true that low crustal pressure in a tight formation will strip off hydrogen and oxygen from carbon biomass to leave kerogen, then we might expect a similar thing to happen if mantle methane is trapped in a lower crustal rock, again producing a lump of kerogen. From there on, the biogenic and abiogenic processes are the same.

        I would have liked to read a description of how kerogen gains hydrogen to become oil in the article. I don’t think the mainstream accepts its from mantle hydrogen. So from where?

      • Natural gas is rarely biogenic. This is why the use of the phrases biogenic and abiogenic is misleading, I explained this in the post.

        Kerogen is a fracking hydrocarbon…

        Kerogen, complex waxy mixture of hydrocarbon compounds that is the primary organic component of oil shale. Kerogen consists mainly of paraffin hydrocarbons, though the solid mixture also incorporates nitrogen and sulfur. Kerogen is insoluble in water and in organic solvents such as benzene or alcohol. Upon heating under pressure, however, the large paraffin molecules break down into recoverable gaseous and liquid substances resembling petroleum. This property makes oil shale a potentially important source of synthetic crude oil.

        https://www.britannica.com/science/kerogen

        It doesn’t gain hydrogen to become oil. Kerogens are primarily composed of hydrogen-carbon compounds, This is why it is a fracking hydrocarbon.

  34. An interesting, comprehensive and well explained article, thanks David.
    Obviously back in the late 70s early 80s the CSIRO was still doing good objective science “Petroleum generation by laboratory-scale pyrolysis over six years simulating conditions in a subsiding basin”. Alas a far cry from the pathetic propaganda agency we see today – sad.

  35. (10) 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.

    Abject nonsense.

    ================================

    No, it’s not.

    The term optical activity is derived from the interaction of chiral materials with polarized light. Chirality is a marker of biological origin. That they have found some oil without chirality is good evidence that it is indeed abiogenic.

    But note the anecdote, even if true, is extremely rare. An irrelevant oddity. Not ‘abject nonsense.’

    • I was assuming that “optical activity” refered to vitrinite reflectance. Oil that was generated prior to the evolution of woody plants doesn’t contain vitrinite.

    • Please show an analysis of a crude oil with these characteristics and absence of biomarkers. I’ve never seen one, and I’ve analyzed thousands of samples. A publication of a valid and verified analysis of such would be ground breaking, so to speak.

      • I think there’s one somewhere. I vaguely recall a paper on a European oil field which supposedly had no biochemical markers.

      • Thank you David. I’ve been out of this field for over 20 years, but in any case, I just did a literature search on petroleum without biomarkers and came up empty.

        If Gamecock could provide a reference to any report of petroleum without biomarkers, this would be appreciated. I would note that chirality can be readily lost through isomerization resulting from exposure to high temperature.

        My search did appear to indicate, however, that the abiotic theory proponents simply dismiss the presence of biomarkers as being the result of deep earth bacterial contamination.

    • A minor quibble, chirality is a marker of biological use, not necessarily origin, for certain chemical compounds. I recall some work in the 70s that showed zeolites has having an enantiomeric excess, under certain conditions. There are differences between surface chemistry on condensed substrates when compared to fluid chemistry, especially gas phase chemistry.

  36. David, thanks so much for the fascinating and illuminating post. I also want to thank you for the prominent display of my company’s logo. Regarding the “cracking temperature” of crude oil, in geologic time, 300 F may be enough for thermal decomposition to occur, but in my world (refineries), we do it at 900 to 1000 F. I’ve always thought the onset of thermal decomposition of hydrocarbons was around 500F, but if you have enough time, 300F may do some work.

    • We have a genuine, large Sinclair gas station sign hanging on our driveway fence and I always hit the Sinclair booth at NAPE to pick up another inflatable Dino… Just picked another up on Thursday. I’d venture a guess that most geo’s are fans of Sinclair’s dinosaur.

    • 300F with the right conditions, considering condensed surfaces to work on under pressure, should crack some longer chains in to shorter ones and/or combine some shorter chains into longer ones. I recall some zeolites being used for this purpose back in the 70s.

    • I probably should have phrased this differently… “Crude oil cracks at temperatures above about 300°F. It generally can’t exist at depths anywhere close to the mantle.”

      “Cracks” probably wasn’t the most accurate word. When I say crude can’t exist very long “above about 300°F,” I am using “very long” in a geological context.

  37. THANK YOU, thank you, thank you, David. I have endured many posts from to the inorganic zealots here, and am so glad to see this well done and thorough article.

    The amazing thing to me has been how often they invoke “the Russians” . I have worked with many Russians in the oil business, and never hear the inorganic version from them. I do have excellent Russian seismic lines over Bach Ho, demonstrating the organic rich sedimentary source rocks in contact with the fractured granite, just as you so nicely depict.

    It is ironic that the revolution of horizontal multi stage fracking has not put the whole thing to rest. We are fracking the very source rocks that produce the oil for conventional fields. The hydrocarbons could not have gotten into those impermeable rocks any way other than during deposition. It the oil and gas oozed up from a deep abiotic source, it would have had to frack its way into the shale. It was deposited with the rock, and we frack to let it out.

  38. Another strong argument that fossil fuels are produced from plants is the fact that the 13C/12C ratio in F.F. resemble that in living plants, but does not resemble that in volcanic CO2 or marine limestone.

    • Vinod Kholsa bet a bunch on this. Lost. I used their purported yield to show biofuels cannot get there. And I turned down Vinod’s pathetic offer to invest in my energy storage materials company based on my own inventions. That proved a wise decision.

    • I’m sure it has some utility in certain reservoirs… But I don’t think there’s enough data to draw any general conclusions.

  39. great post! I taught an industry course on “basic geophysics” where i showed an old
    SEG movie titled “the world is full of oil”. In the movie they interviewed Gold when he was drilling in Sweden..He made an interesting comment: “if we could find methane @ 40000ft we’ed have a whole world to explore”. Oil is in the minds of men!

    seg

  40. Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    × 1,000,000

    I seem to run into all the nutters who subscribe to the abiogenic theory. This wonderful piece will save me enormous amounts of time and effort.

  41. Great article! I always meant to have a look at the whole abiotic argument. Thanks for writing such a thorough outline.

  42. So what you’re saying is that there is a 97% consensus among petroleum geologists about where oil comes from?

    Sarcasm!

      • No, they are not. Science is a process for ascertaining truth. A social process.

        Social. “We” all agree to tentatively support a conjecture if it fits a certain test:

        the a priori hypothesis tested by observation test.

        Where did this come from? God?

        [Well, yes: Book of Daniel. But no – we failed to catch the lesson for millenia.]

        No. It was schemed by humans. And trotted out to other humans for consideration.

        Etc., Etc., peer review, “PhD,” etc. There is no “peer review” or “PhD” in the philosophy of science. All of that is consensus. —review Feyerabend. Ultimately, “science” is a social endeavor entirely dependent on consensus of many aspects.

  43. Great article. Would it be that such thoughtful analyses could be exported, especially to those fields claiming, but now lacking, the scientific method. I have been on the edge of your business since my daddy worked briefly for the Flying Red Horse before WWII. We liked it better than Sinclair dinosaurs, but never were taught that there were any horse wing fossils in Eocene deposits. Don’t recall pollen, but lots of interest in forams.

    There has been an argument out there for several decades that energy, however you properly measure it, is a better economic long term indicator than the coin represented in its production and consumption. While presented as closer to reality, economic theory may not yet be successful enough to help us much.

  44. I think that the self-appointed climatologists would be well served to endorse “Chamberlain’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses.” Unfortunately, I’m left with the impression that most have never heard of it!

  45. David keep saying things like this…

    * * * *
    “Oil Does Not Come From Dinosaurs or Dead Vegetation … this has never been the theory of hydrocarbon formation.”>
    * * * *

    ..while fastidiously ignoring any evidence that undermines his faith-based, evidence-free assertion, e.g.:

    QUOTE:
    ==================================
    October, 1917…

    Owing to most oil fields being associated with limestone, many theorists conclude that petroleum is the result of animal fats of pre-historic animals. This query is well set at rest by Sir James Hector, when he says : “It is not so much the result of limestone as its capacity to store it.”
    http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/123538155?searchTerm=petroleum%2C%20oil&searchLimits=
    ==================================

    Animal fats of prehistoric animals. You may as well call that Dinosaur Fat Theory, a theory David says never existed, even though you can see it old newspapers.

    Here’s another fact that fossil fanatics refuse to acknowledge:

    Cntrl+f , comet haley.
    No mention of it in the article..

    Comet Haley is 1/3 kerogen, aka, “oil shale,” equivalent to 500 years of OPEC output:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale#Extraterrestrial_oil_shale

    WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

    • Khwarizmi ,
      When I moved to Ohio from California I was surprised to discover how abundant aromatic, volatile hydrocarbons were in the limestone quarries I collected minerals in. I’ve presumed that they were the result of pyrolysis of the fleshy parts of the reef-dwelling organisms and plankton settling on limey bottoms.

      As an historical point, I remember as a child asking an uncle living with us, while he was going to college in 1953, where oil came from and he handed me his geology textbook. I remember it referring to organisms in the ocean with nary a mention of mosasaurs or pleisiosaurs or even what were formerly called brontosaurs, as found as a logo. While is is conceivable that such creatures got washed out to sea, and a few.actually didn’t get devoured by the equivalent of the hag fish that now live off dead whales, it is inconceivable that enough large creatures got buried to produce the billions of barrels of crude oil that have been recovered.

  46. David, as another oil and gas geologist (40 yrs U.S and international, now retired) I really appreciate your lucid post, and equally apt replies to reader comments. Thank you.

  47. What great information! Just the other day I asked on this website what is the current science on how oil is formed. What perfect timing. And all the charts and sketches were so easy to understand. Again, great job. Thanks.

  48. ‘Those who can’t do teach’
    I was, years ago, considered an expert snow skier.
    I was at that time also a ski instructor, aka teacher.
    That phrase always had given me a laugh.

    • He he, and yes, I’ve heard that one, too; but it is based on differential ability among people. I also heard this: “See one, do one, teach one”, for that to work best, you can’t really teach something you can’t do. At best, under that circumstance, you’re pointing people to those who can teach by demonstration.

  49. I remember professor Thomas Gold talking about this when I was an undergraduate a Cornell. In principle, it’s very simple. Methane is indeed primordial considering how much of it we see in the Universe. Pressure and temperature (along with catalysts since the required temperature and pressures are hard to come by on the surface) is how we we turn short chain hydrocarbons into longer chain hydrocarbons. Nature can achieve the required temperatures and pressures more easily than man.

    • Conceptually possible. Except there is roughly zero evidence this has ever happened on earth. And tons of evidence that oil came from catagenesis of mainly marine kerogens. Note two quals articulated above. 1. Lucuastrine woody plants. 2. Archaea methanogens, mainly in clathrates. There can be no scientific doubt that massive abiogenic methane exists. Only question is how much on Earth, now?

      • The origin of natural gas is harder to determine. But there’s also the possibility of primordial methane bubbling up through biological residue. So the question becomes how much of the primordial methane got buried as the planet formed? Could a massive collision buried some of it deep within the mantle?

  50. It seems to me that this is more a case for why the dominant theory is dominant, rather than a general overview of both strengths and weaknesses.

    The crux of the write-up appears to be that the question is moot. Wherever the oil came from, we are using it faster than it is being produced. But, I do not see substantial confirmation of this claim.

    Are we? How do we know? How much of the world has been explored?

    I am curious – have attempts been made to revive old fields that were previously considered depleted? Given the technologies that have been developed for extracting more product, it seems there would be a record of such activity. Have there been any surprises?

    My POV is that I neither believe nor disbelieve. I am not knowledgeable enough about this field to be able to discern who is knowledgeable, and who is either blowing smoke, or relying on hidebound paradigms that they cannot see past.

    What I do know is that every cri de coeur thus far, and there have been many, has been wrong. And, I am not too exercised about it because I know when push comes to shove, we have ample energy resources in nuclear power. I am very exercised against environmentally destructive wind and solar power, though.

    • “My POV is that I neither believe nor disbelieve.’

      This is the best way to approach science.

      If you don’t see substantial evidence that we produce oil much faster than the Earth generates it, you’ve never looked at production data. If the Earth generated oil at a rate comparable to our production of it, decline curves wouldn’t exist.

      • “If you don’t see substantial evidence that we produce oil much faster than the Earth generates it, you’ve never looked at production data.”

        It does not follow. As a very simple example, suppose you had two reservoirs R1 and R2 with total input rate F. R1’s supply increases according to

        R1(k) = R1(k-1) + F/2

        We are drawing down R2, so it evolves according to

        R2(k) = R2(k-1) +F/2 -A

        If A if greater than F/2 but less than F, then R2 is going to decrease, even as overall supply is increasing.

        So, again, I am left wondering what data exist on revival of old fields? How comprehensive is our knowledge of the entire Earth’s inventory?

      • This is the decline curve for EI 330 field, often cited as evidence of abiogenic oil, where some reservoir recharge has actually been observed…

        If the Earth was generating oil at a rate comparable to our production, the curve would be more of a flat line. The field, one of the largest in the Gulf of Mexico, has been producing since 1972.

        Once a field has been plugged and abandoned, there is nothing to reenter.

        Most large fields produce for decades. Many are now monitored with 4d seismic. If they were recharging at an economically meaningful rate, there would be some evidence of this.

      • “If the Earth was generating oil at a rate comparable to our production, the curve would be more of a flat line.”

        Again , it does not follow. I’m not sure you read through and understood my example. Let me try again. If you have 100 such reservoirs, and all are being slowly recharged, then you can deplete one yet still have an overall gain. What matters is if you are depleting all reservoirs faster than the combined rate of recharge. If you are not, then you can hop from one reservoir to the next indefinitely, but by the time you have drained the last, the first will be full again.

        I’m not saying this is what is happening. I am saying you have not provided enough information to determine whether it is or not. You come close with the last paragraph, but I have no information on how comprehensive the information is. I have the known unknown – how many such sources have been monitored? – and I have the unknown unknown – how many such potential sources are there in all the world?

    • If fields were recharging at a rate comparable to production, there would be no decline curves.

      A water-drive reservoir produces an increasing fraction of brine until the well ceases to be economic. If you shut in a water-drive well for a period of time, the water-cut will briefly decline. But, it will quickly be right back where it was before the well was shut in.

      A pressure depletion drive exhibits a pressure decline until the well will no longer flow. If you shut in a depletion drive well, there will be a minor build up in pressure. However once you start producing it again, the pressure will rapidly drop to where it was before you shut it in.

      If a field is large enough to justify the cost and the geology is compatible with direct hydrocarbon indicators, toy can monitor the reservoir drainage with 4d seismic surveys. Many of the larger fields have been monitored with 4d for nearly 20 years. If the Earth was recharging the reservoirs at a rate comparable to production, you would “see” it on the 4d seismic… You don’t see this happening.

      • “If fields were recharging at a rate comparable to production, there would be no decline curves.”

        No, that is not necessarily so. I’ve explained why.

        I’m not saying there is some vast cornucopia awaiting us if we just have patience. I’m not suggesting your analysis is not actionable. The discussion is more or less academic at this point. I’m just interested in what information we do have, and how conclusive it is. At this point, I’m not convinced, but neither am I sanguine. Thank you for your time and effort.

  51. Thanks David.
    I’ve always been amazed at the depths of the deposits of the Mississippi Delta and beyond.
    The River is often called the Big Muddy, but there is a smaller river with that actual name.
    Another source of oil from the Gulf is the Menhaden. Likely you have seen this harvest. Also, amazing.

  52. Hello David:
    An excellent article; however, I do have two cents to throw in.
    Many decades ago, I was chief engineer on a pilot synoil project.
    We used an inorganic catalyst, high temperature and high pressure to convert methane to long chain hydrocarbons.
    What killed the project was the fact that the catalyst was constantly becoming plugged with organic sludge. On analysis, this sludge was found to be essentially indistinguishable from crude heavy oil, straight from the well.
    I always found this puzzling, and it gave the idea of abiogenis some credibility.
    That being the case, is the creation of oil an “either, or” proposition? Or can both theories exist side by side?

    • The theory and hypothesis can exist side-by-side from an exploration and production standpoint because neither one is really relevant to how we find and produce oil.

      • Yes, good point.
        But given my observations of the plugged catalyst, does this not suggest that a similar process is occuring naturally?
        Would it not be reasonable to assume that some proportion of oil is created by this process?
        In fact, what would be the definitive empirical observation that would bury the hypothesis of abiogenesis?

  53. On the “oil from dinosaurs” thing: in school in England, 50ish years ago, I never heard anything of the sort. It was taught that it was vegetable matter, possibly with small amounts of animal matter which formed either coal or oil, depending upon temperature/pressure/depth.

    There was no real explanation of the processes involved, other than pressure and heat.

    The only time dinosaurs were mentioned was that this all occurred during the time they were around. Textbook illustrations showed the odd dinosaur in swampland wth lots of vegetation, growing and dead.

    I think the dinosaur oil thing may be purely American.

  54. Excellent primer on the origins of petroleum. Thank you. Slightly off topic, but related to the abiogenic arguments, I would be interested on your take on the origins of helium in Texas natural gas. I also remember a shallow gas well in northeast Kansas that produced burnable quantities of hydrogen gas. In fact, enough hydrogen, that the concrete for well completion would not cure.

  55. ” To the Editor:

    It appears that Prof. Thomas Gold of Cornell University has discovered natural gas and oil beneath a meteorite crater in Sweden (news article, March 22). If this finding is confirmed, then vast amounts of hydrocarbons lie deeply hidden in the earth’s crust. This finding would have far-reaching implications for energy-related industries.

    According to Professor Gold’s hypothesis, once the planets were forming, they generated enough gravity to alter the orbits of comets and asteroids. Many of these objects rich in hydrocarbons and other organic compounds struck the earth. Therefore, natural gas and petroleum were derived from substances that fell from the sky.

    The conventional view of most scientists is that natural gas and petroleum originated from fossil remains of living organisms. However, the extraterrestrial source of hydrocarbons was suggested much earlier by Immanuel Velikovsky in 1950 in his book ”Worlds in Collision.” Velikovsky argued that the earth’s petroleum deposits came from comets. The idea that petroleum came from space was ridiculed at the time. Now it is put forward by others in perfect seriousness.

    A related article, ”A New Light in the Sky” (New York Times Magazine, March 29), described ”a tarlike chemical, mainly molecules of carbon and hydrogen, that was discovered in Comet Halley last year.” The article continued: ”There are strong suspicions that the dark substance contributes to the blast crust that was found to cover Halley’s. Such dark surfaces are also seen on some of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, leading scientists to wonder if there are connections between the planetary satellites and comets.”

    Perhaps Velikovsky was right! Clearly, his ideas are intriguing and have attracted many supporters. Recent discoveries in space and in the earth’s crust have demonstrated, at the least, that his cataclysmic concept of the world’s history must be taken seriously. ROBERT R. GALLO Auburn, N.Y., April 1, 1987 ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/16/opinion/l-oil-from-comets-shades-of-velikovsky-742487.html

    Talk about massive leaps of faith.

  56. Comment is not meant to be harshly critical of David Middleton’s article. Being succinct has its inherent flaws.

    Long story short – oil from non-biological sources (abiogenic) are possible, but not scientifically probable. This is based on current knowledge and technology. Also based on present information, how the oil was originally formed really doesn’t matter.

  57. After a second thought, I freely admit resisting even legitimate warnings at this stage, if the selected communication method even remotely resembles the following:

    A&B expert declares x looms, because A is followed by B and, thus, it’s pretty much guaranteed B is followed by A. There is 97% consensus among A&B experts, so it must be true. Anything from C to Z can be ignored, because according to A&B experts expertise in C to Z is y, z, ü. You are qualified to question A&B experts only by being one yourself. And even so, you’ll risk discovering yourself collectively categorised ö. The A&B science covers everything under the sky, is settled, x looms and it’s your fault. Look, even POTUS says so.

    And yes, Middleton’s arguments seem valid based on the information currently at our disposal. Peak oil seems logical. But so did in their own way also phlogiston, horse manure crisis, nuclear winter, acid rain, ozone hole and, my personal favourite, the Fiery EarthTM, justifying about any draconian measures throughout human history and even today.

    And yes, the world will end. Thankfully not at 2008 hockey stick tipping point and unlikely because of anything classifiable as biosphere on this planet anyway. Perhaps when the sun finally runs out of fuel. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue considering any safe and self-sustainably viable energy alternatives. Albeit the bar is not high with current standards and acquired expertise:

    -Experts declare fossil fuelTM origins support claims it’s rapidly depleting? Okay then, better consider it as non-viable already and prepare for sparing the remains for raw material use.

    -Based on repeated societal scale experiments, wind and solar have been proven not to qualify. Better leave it for individual choice already.

    -While loving environment and mankind equally, I dislike the idea of burning of forests and food for energy.

    -What’s left? Well, not much. Now I’m ready to consider other solutions previously dismissed as unsafe, including small scale nuclear applications. After all, even water is deadly if inhaled.
    /rant

  58. Thus, we should work on producing complex hydrocarbons via synfuel manufacturing using thorium reactors to provide the power. Thorium will last a few billion years and it’s use as to manufacture hydrocarbons just means a simple replacement of hydrocarbon drilling industry. We’d still need engineers – just more nuclear than petro.

  59. The point I was trying to make in my missing post is that Methane (CH4) Ethane (CH6) and Propane (CH8) are all present on Titan where there is no biological source. Occams razor would suggest that Carbon Hydrides occur due to BOTH biotic and Abiotic processes. The fact is that with manufacturing of hydrocarbons and syngas using Nuclear energy being straight forward, and the likely abiotic sources of Methane and Ethane (at least) while there may be a peak oil there will be no peak Hydrocarbon.

  60. “Ultimately, the entire debate is academic. “Oil is where you find it.” However it originally formed, it has to be found in economic accumulations. Igneous and metamorphic rocks are rarely porous and permeable… And rarely contain crude oil. Even if oil was commonly formed inorganically… It wouldn’t alter how and where oil companies look for oil. It still has to be trapped in porous and permeable reservoirs – Sandstones, limestones, shales and other sedimentary rocks. Even the oil that’s trapped in fractured granites and other basement rocks, had to migrate through and be trapped by sedimentary rocks.”

    The economics of oil production has been ignored in the past decade as shale companies that have never been free-cash-flow positive keep borrowing to produce oil that is sold at a loss. When the financial engineering stops distorting the picture, most people will be in for a rude awakening.

    • All that reckless spending by the frackers brought on a flood of technology. Now they are concentrating on efficiency, and in some cases can produce unconventional oil and make a profit at prices in the high $20’s. The improvements in efficiency and technology will continue, as will the increase in regions they are applied. The awakening will not be so rude.

  61. A great piece.

    this is scientific evidence being used to good effect to refute nonsense science.

    If climate scepticism is going to ever be considered a respectable point of view, it needs to argue like this (and a lot less about the whole thing being the views of leftists, etc)

  62. Individual plankton cells are not much denser than water and sink very slowly. It’s likely that transport of their carbon-rich organic matter is via fecal pellets of copepods or whatever organisms performed their function way back then.

  63. The discussion of the origin of oil and natural gas ignores hundreds of observations that support the assertion that CH4 is extruded from the core of the planet as it solidifies.

    The super high pressure, extruded liquid CH4 from the core is what drives tectonic plate movement on the planet.

    The core of the planet is estimated to have started to solidify roughly 1 billion years ago which explains why the tectonic plate movement has doubled in the last 2 billion years which is a paradox from the standpoint of the competing theory that heat plumes in the liquid core somehow move the tectonic plates.

    It is estimated that roughly 5% of the liquid iron core is made up of CH4.

    The movement of super high pressure CH4 up to the surface of the planet explains multiple geological anomalies such as the Denver plateau or the Tibet plateau and the formation of mountain ranges.

    It also explains why there are methane seeps all over the planet’s surface and explains massive methane releases such as the Madrid Missouri earthquake.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329843-000-earths-tectonic-plates-have-doubled-their-speed/

    Earth’s tectonic plates have doubled their speed

    Plate tectonics is driven by the formation and destruction of oceanic crust. This crust forms where plates move apart, allowing hot, light magma to rise from the mantle below and solidify. Where plates are being pushed together, the crust can either rise up to form mountains or one plate is shoved under the other and is sucked back into the mantle.

    The planet’s inner heat powers plate tectonics. That heat is ebbing away as Earth ages, and this was expected to slow plate motion. A study last year by Martin Van Kranendonk at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues measured elements concentrated by tectonic action in 3200 rocks from around the world, and concluded that plate motion has been slowing for 1.2 billion years.

    Now Kent Condie, a geochemist at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro and his colleagues have used a different approach and concluded that tectonic activity is increasing. They looked at how often new mountain belts form when tectonic plates collide with one another. They then combined these measurements with magnetic data from volcanic rocks to work out at which latitude the rocks formed and how quickly the continents had moved.

    Both techniques showed plate motion has accelerated. The average rate of continental collisions, and the average speed with which the continents change latitude, has doubled over the last 2 billion years (Precambrian Research, doi.org/vbv).

    Peter Cawood at the University of St Andrews in the UK thinks the work is interesting and provocative. “The overall increase in the rate of plate motion with time seems real and believable,” he says, and could well be linked to changes in the mantle’s water content – although convincing sceptics that plates move faster now will be difficult without more data, he adds.

    Van Kranendonk is not ready to change his mind. “Our paper documents a reduction in the rate and volume of crustal recycling for 1.2 billion years, supporting the idea that plate tectonics actually has been slowing down since that time,” he says.

    http://www.new-madrid.mo.us/index.aspx?nid=132

    New Madrid earthquake, Missouri.
    Earthquake Phenomena
    Sand Boils
    The world’s largest sand boil was created by the New Madrid earthquake. It is 1.4 miles long and 136 acres in extent, located in the Bootheel of Missouri, about eight miles west of Hayti, Missouri. Locals call it “The Beach.” Other, much smaller, sand boils are found throughout the area.

    Seismic Tar Balls
    Small pellets up to golf ball sized tar balls are found in sand boils and fissures. They are petroleum that has been solidified, or “petroliferous nodules.”

    Earthquake Lights
    Lights flashed from the ground, caused by quartz crystals being squeezed. The phenomena is called “seismoluminescence.”

    Warm Water
    Water thrown up by an earthquake was lukewarm. It is speculated that the shaking caused the water to heat up and/or quartz light heated the water.

    Earthquake Smog
    The skies turned dark during the earthquakes, so dark that lighted lamps didn’t help. The air smelled bad, and it was hard to breathe. It is speculated that it was smog containing dust particles caused by the eruption of warm water into cold air.

    Loud Thunder
    Sounds of distant thunder and loud explosions accompanied the earthquakes.

    Strange Happenings during the Earthquakes

    The New Madrid earthquakes were the biggest earthquakes in American history. They occurred in the central Mississippi Valley, but were felt as far away as New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Washington D.C. President James Madison and his wife Dolly felt them in the White House. Church bells rang in Boston. From December 16, 1811 through March of 1812 there were over 2,000 earthquakes in the central Midwest, and between 6,000-10,000 earthquakes in the Bootheel of Missouri where New Madrid is located near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

    In the known history of the world, no other earthquakes have lasted so long or produced so much evidence of damage as the New Madrid earthquakes. Three of the earthquakes are on the list of America’s top earthquakes: the first one on December 16, 1811, a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale; the second on January 23, 1812, at 7.8; and the third on February 7, 1812, at as much as 8.8 magnitude.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/500-champagne-methane-seeps-discovered-114400702.html

    About 500 new streams of shimmering methane bubbles have been discovered off the Pacific Northwest coast.

    The discovery of copious methane seeps in the Cascadia margin near Oregon and Washington was “at the top” of the list of 2016 discoveries, Ausubel said.

    “It’s a scale question,” he said. “We’ve known for a few decades that these exist, but it’s turning out that they could be really extensive, and if they’re very extensive, that starts to change your ideas about ocean life, because there are animals, mussels and sea worms and so forth, that can live off the energy” released by the seeps.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/08/numerous-methane-leaks-found-atlantic-sea-floor

    Numerous methane leaks found on Atlantic sea floor

    “So far everybody has been looking at small spots. This is the first time anyone has systematically mapped an entire margin,” says Christian Berndt, a marine geophysicist at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, who was not involved in the study. It was also a surprise because seeps are typically found above known methane reservoirs, or above regions of active tectonic activity. The continental margin was thought to be virtually devoid of seeps—until scientists studied the sonar data. “They found that there was much more methane coming out than was suspected beforehand,” Berndt says.

    Proving that climate change is directly responsible could be difficult, Berndt says. In January, he and colleagues published a study in Science on methane seeps in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of the island of Svalbard, where temperature changes are occurring more rapidly. Berndt found evidence that the seeps there had existed for at least 3000 years and saw no evidence that the ocean sediments had been heating up—and releasing methane—on the decadeslong timescales associated with climate change. At the very least, though, he says, the Atlantic Ocean study shows that ocean and climate modelers should start to incorporate methane inputs from many more types of seafloor terrains around the world. “We have this extra source here,” he says. “Not much attention has been paid to it.

    • Good fracking grief! From the post…

      Inorganically sourced methane is massively abundant on Earth and elsewhere in our Solar System and probably throughout our Galaxy. Other simple hydrocarbons are also often associated with inorganically sourced methane, usually in trace quantities.

      The Saturnian moon, Titan, has seas of liquid methane and there is evidence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Titan’s atmosphere. PAH’s are pollutants that occur naturally in crude oil and coal deposits and as the result of burning of carbon-based fuels.

      The fact that Titan’s methane-rich atmosphere can generate PAH’s and trace amounts of heavier hydrocarbons has no relevancy to how petroleum and natural gas liquids form on Earth. Even if it was relevant to the formation of petroleum, it would be totally irrelevant to how oil and gas accumulate in the Earth’s crust.

      Methane and simple hydrocarbons are not even remotely close to crude oil.

      • The following is a repeat of a link that was provided in my above post. High pressure in the mantel converts methane to light crude.

        The point is there is evidence of immense amounts of CH4 moving through from the core of the planet to the surface of the planet which explains plate tectonics and the reason why the speed of movement of the plate tectonics has doubled in the last 2 billion years.

        When are we going to run out CH4?

        The entire cult of CAGW paradigm is built on the assumption that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to anthropogenic emissions. There are multiple observations and analysis results that dispute that assertion.

        The IPCC reports use the cult of CAGW’s Bern model with its ridiculous assumed extremely low natural sources of CO2 (volcanic only ignoring hundreds of thousands of CH4 seeps on the ocean floor that are constantly emitting CH4 at pressure) and logically connected ridiculously long lifetimes for CO2 in the atmosphere (The Bern model lifetime for CO2 in the atmosphere is roughly 75% 200 years and 25% for every while observations set the lifetime at around 5 years which supports a large natural source of CO2 constantly entering the atmosphere). The elephant in the room is the massive amounts of CH4 constantly entering the biosphere.

        The CH4 disassociates by sunlight high in the atmosphere into unstable ions which in turn are converted to water and carbon dioxide.

        P.S.
        I notice that you completely ignore observational data that does not support the fossil origin of black coal and light crude such as the fact that heavy metals in both.

        Gold includes in his book specific examples of black coal deposits that can only have formed by upper movement of very hot CH4 into the geological formation after they were formed.

        Black Coal Example 1:
        New Brunswick, Canada coal seam that is near vertical that move through sedimental layers. The hot CH4 moves through a crack in the earth that has been filled with sand. The hot CH4 burns in a low oxygen environment leaving carbon and forming acidic water which removes the sand leaving the black carbon along with the heavy metals that where picked up by the liquid CH4 as it move up through the crust.

        Black Coal Example 2:
        Germany dual coal seams that are separated by a one to two inch shale. Again same mechanism. Two sandstone formations, the first formation is covered with mud and then covered again by sand. After the formation of the two sandstones separated by shale the hot CH4 comes up through the formation.

        The fossil source mechanism cannot produce the same formation observations.

        Black Coal Example 3:
        In regions where there is coal seams observed. Rocky Mountains for example there are small coal seams the size of a person’s waist two or three some times in close proximity. Again these are sandstone seams that have formed in the limestone where sand has been deposited. Later the high temperature CH4 moves up through the formation forming the tiny coal seams.

        http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo591.html

        ‘Methane-derived hydrocarbons produced under upper-mantle conditions
        Anton Kolesnikov1,2, Vladimir G. Kutcherov2,3 & Alexander F. Goncharov1

        There is widespread evidence that petroleum originates from biological processes1, 2, 3. Whether hydrocarbons can also be produced from abiogenic precursor molecules under the high-pressure, high-temperature conditions characteristic of the upper mantle remains an open question. It has been proposed that hydrocarbons generated in the upper mantle could be transported through deep faults to shallower regions in the Earth’s crust, and contribute to petroleum reserves4, 5. Here we use in situ Raman spectroscopy in laser-heated diamond anvil cells to monitor the chemical reactivity of methane and ethane under upper-mantle conditions. We show that when methane is exposed to pressures higher than 2 GPa, and to temperatures in the range of 1,000–1,500 K, it partially reacts to form saturated hydrocarbons containing 2–4 carbons (ethane, propane and butane) and molecular hydrogen and graphite. Conversely, exposure of ethane to similar conditions results in the production of methane, suggesting that the synthesis of saturated hydrocarbons is reversible. Our results support the suggestion that hydrocarbons heavier than methane can be produced by abiogenic processes in the upper mantle.’

  64. Enjoyed the post. Only problem I have is with the chart/explanation of the potential amount of oil laid down over the ages. Seems to me that this has nothing to do with what might be available for recovery. The constant leakage to the surface over tens of millions of years up the same types of passages that allow some of it to be trapped in domes, is bound to be many, many times greater than what we have recovered. Not so?

    • It just addresses the erroneous argument that there couldn’t be enough buried organic material to account for all of the oil that has been produced.

  65. Hi David,
    if the abiotic oil hypothesis is untenable, could you explain a couple of observations?

    It is generally agreed upon, that diamond is a crystalline form of carbon, which is only metastable at low pressure and is (really) slowly transformed into graphite at that pressure. It can only form at high pressure in the upper mantle, where conditions are such, that it is the stable crystalline form of carbon. Subsequently it is transported to near surface regions quickly through a kimberlite pipe. The only alternative way for diamond to form is in far from thermodynamic equilibrium processes like shockwaves generated by a meteorite impact.

    Now, mineral oil inclusions are found in some diamond crystals, while nanodiamonds and diamondoids are dissolved in some oils. What biological process might be responsible for it?

    You say for oil generation from organic matter “the sources of energy are heat, pressure and chemical reaction resulting from heat and pressure“.

    It is a grave misunderstanding, I should say. Neither heat nor pressure can provide any free energy to transform organic material of low chemical potential to complex hydrocarbons of much higher chemical potential. Only temperature and/or pressure differences can serve as a net source of free energy. However, my impression is that maturation is a process which is supposed to happen under local thermodynamic equilibrium. In that case no matter how much time elapses, there is no thermodynamic driving force to do the job.

    Could you explain clearly what is the source of free energy that transforms organic stuff to complex hydrocarbons?

    At low pressure (in the crust) the only stable hydrocarbon is methane, all complex hydrocarbons are only metastable, like diamond. However, in the upper mantle (at a depth of 150 km or so) it is the other way around. This is why limestone (calcium carbonate), water and ferrous oxide transforms spontaneously into complex hydrocarbons, calcium oxide and ferric oxide under such conditions. We know it for sure, because the experiment was done under laboratory conditions, using diamond anvils.

      • Everything is either wrong and/or irrelevent. The formation of crude oil is not a biological process. I clearly explained this in the post.

      • The diamondoid nonsense is just one more fundamental misconception.

        Hydrocarbon diamondoids are not created by biological processes. They are a byproduct of hydrocarbon cracking during katagenesis. Diamondoid concentration is an indicator of thermal maturity. The carbon in the diamondoid is of organic origin because it exhibits 13-C depletion.

        Over time the total isotopic fraction of 13-C declines due to radioactive decay. 13-C depletion in hydrocarbon diamondoids is an indicator of the age of the oil formation…

        13-C depletion is not assumed to be evidence of organic origin due to theoretical stipulation. The observations of 13-C depletion in organic vs inorganic matter are what led to the theory.

      • Ok, I see I can’t get answers. Never mind.
        1. I never said it was a biological process. It was you, who maintained the source material was of biological origin.
        2. 13C is a stable isotope, no radioactive decay is involved in depletion.
        3. Cretaceous is much earlier, than either Eocene, Oligocene or Miocene. The image you’ve provided does not support your proposition.
        4. Could you specify the chemical reactions leading to diamondoid formation during thermal maturation? It would worth the effort, since higher polymantanes are abundant in some oils, but they are failed to be synthesized in the lab so far. Diamondoid Molecules
        5. Could you elaborate on why relative Oxygen contents of kerogen is much lower, than that of biogenic stuff? Removing Oxygen from molecules requires considerable free energy input. Source?

      • 1. I never said it was a biological process. It was you, who maintained the source material was of biological origin.

        The source material is clearly of a biological origen. The process of converting the biological material to kerogen, then oil and gas is not a biological process. I clearly explained this in the post.

        Present-day analysis of petroleum systems, when performed integrated with direct geochemistry, remote sense and high resolution geochemistry technology (HRGT), can provide irrefutable proof that 99.99999% of all the oil and gas accumulations found up to know in the planet earth have a biologic origin. The technologies can be so accurate and useful that they can predict pre-drilling insights regarding the quality and potential volumes of hydrocarbons to be found, including deep gas reservoirs, oil versus gas prone areas, degree of oil and gas cracking and of mixture of hydrocarbons derived from different sources, from different petroleum systems.

        […]

        Today, the biogenic theory, which recognizes that all petroleum found in our planet is derived from biological precursors, is well proved and supported by laboratory experiments, in which petroleum composition is shown to reflect that of oil generated from kerogen by pyrolysis.
        The application of high resolution biomarker technologies using GC-MS, GC-MS-MS, Diamondoids, CSIA-B and CSIA-D methods, integrated with detailed geological and paleontology cal characterization, provide scientific evidence that that oils can be attributed to organic-rich sedimentary rocks of specific geological age and depositional environments.
        Oil samples related to sedimentary rocks of a certain depositional environment and geologic age show biomarkers derived from organisms that are known to have derived from biological precursor that evolved by that time (Figs 1 and 2). For example, oils that can be related to late Cretaceous and Tertiary source rocks generally show Oleanane, which derives from triterpane precursors in angiosperms that evolved and radiated in the Cretaceous and Tertiary, and/or they show the highly branched isoprenoid, which is synthesized by diatoms that evolved and radiated in about the same geologic time-span. Clear examples from major oil-producing basins are Venezuela, Nigeria and California (USA).
        Tetracyclic terpanes, such as kaurane, beyerane and phyllocladane occur only in rocks and oils younger than the age of evolution of land plants, i.e., Silurian, because these are biogenic diterpenoid structures that are associated exclusively with hormone (gibberellins) synthesis required by all land plants. Such terrestrially dominated oils that show such compounds can be found widely in China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and in Venezuela. Oil samples that can be tied to early Paleozoic rocks, Cambrian-Devonian often show a unique n-alkane distribution with high odd/even predominance, terminating at n-C19 (Fig.1). This is the biochemical signature that has become identified and attributed to an early Paleozoic alga Gloeocapsamorpha Prisca, and can be found in certain oil habitats in basins of the Central USA, Australia, and Russia. It is also interesting to note that oils derived from marine and lacustrine source rock environments without higher plant influence lack terrestrial plant terpanes and oils derived from terrestrially dominated source rocks lack algally-derived C27 and C30 steranes. Another case, in point, is the presence of β-carotane derived from pigments in halophyllic bacteria that thrive in hypersaline environments, such as the Lagoa Feia source and derived oils of Brazil.

        http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/documents/abstracts/2005research_calgary/abstracts/extended/mello/mello.htm

        2. 13C is a stable isotope, no radioactive decay is involved in depletion.

        Correct. The 13C depletion actually has more of an inverse relation with age. I was copying some old notes because I was in a hurry, rather than finding the original paper…

        Another irrefutable proof of the biogenic origin of petroleum is the character of diamondoids in all petroleum liquids. One might expect an ultrastable hydrocarbon “non-biomarker” in oil, such as a diamondoid, to have an abiogenic origin. But, alas, it is not the case and it is proven by carbon isotopic composition. Diamonds are invariably formed from abiogenic carbon and, without argument, are abiogenic. They show carbon isotope ratios around 0 to 5 per mil indicating little, if any isotopic fractionation during their formation. However, the structurally related diamondoids in oil show high levels of isotopic fractionation in the range of -20 to -30 per mil, the same as most true biomarkers, indicating diamondoid derivation from enzymatic ally-created lipids with subsequent structural rearrangement during the process of source rock maturation and oil generation.

        Application of diamondoid technology in the petroleum basins of the Gulf of Mexico has led to a uniquely detailed understanding of the oil and gas generating systems. Quantitative and isotopic analysis of diamondoid compounds in Mexican oils provide a depth of knowledge of the of the oil and gas biogenic origins, tying them to source ages and ranging from Oxfordian to Miocene in time, and from marine hypersaline to deltaic depositional environments, in which high amounts of higher plants were responsibly for the organic matter (Fig. 2).

        The original carbon for the diamondoids is clearly of organic origin. The diamondoids are derived from biogenic carbon.

        3. Cretaceous is much earlier, than either Eocene, Oligocene or Miocene. The image you’ve provided does not support your proposition.

        That’s because I was in a hurry and misstated the relevance of the 13C depletion.

        4. Could you specify the chemical reactions leading to diamondoid formation during thermal maturation? It would worth the effort, since higher polymantanes are abundant in some oils, but they are failed to be synthesized in the lab so far. Diamondoid Molecules.

        Heat, pressure and time…

        Diamondoid hydrocarbons as a molecular proxy for thermal maturity and oil cracking: Geochemical models from hydrous pyrolysis
        Organic Geochemistry
        By:
        Z. Wei, J.M. Moldowan, S. Zhang, R. Hill, D.M. Jarvie, Hongfang Wang, F. Song, and F. Fago

        Abstract
        A series of isothermal hydrous pyrolysis experiments was performed on immature sedimentary rocks and peats of different lithology and organic source input to explore the generation of diamondoids during the thermal maturation of sediments. Oil generation curves indicate that peak oil yields occur between 340 and 360 C, followed by intense oil cracking in different samples. The biomarker maturity parameters appear to be insensitive to thermal maturation as most of the isomerization ratios of molecular biomarkers in the pyrolysates have reached their equilibrium values. Diamondoids are absent from immature peat extracts, but exist in immature sedimentary rocks in various amounts. This implies that they are not products of biosynthesis and that they may be generated during diagenesis, not just catagenesis and cracking. Most importantly, the concentrations of diamondoids are observed to increase with thermal stress, suggesting that they can be used as a molecular proxy for thermal maturity of source rocks and crude oils. Their abundance is most sensitive to thermal exposure above temperatures of 360-370 C (R0 = 1.3-1.5%) for the studied samples, which corresponds to the onset of intense cracking of other less stable components. Below these temperatures, diamondoids increase gradually due to competing processes of generation and dilution. Calibrations were developed between their concentrations and measured vitrinite reflectance through hydrous pyrolysis maturation of different types of rocks and peats. The geochemical models obtained from these methods may provide an alterative approach for determining thermal maturity of source rocks and crude oils, particularly in mature to highly mature Paleozoic carbonates. In addition, the extent of oil cracking was quantified using the concentrations of diamondoids in hydrous pyrolysates of rocks and peats, verifying that these hydrocarbons are valuable indicators of oil cracking in nature.

        https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70033091

        https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70033091

        5. Could you elaborate on why relative Oxygen contents of kerogen is much lower, than that of biogenic stuff? Removing Oxygen from molecules requires considerable free energy input. Source?

        Primarily heat.

        The oxygen content varies by kerogen type…

      • Primarily heat.

        Heat does not remove oxygen while leaving behind hydrogen. It may remove water in an anoxic environment, in a 2:1 H:O molar ratio. What you are left with is coal, not kerogen.

        I am still curious, in your opinion how hydrocarbon inclusions can get into diamond crystals.

      • Most of the oxygen is removed during diagenesis…

        There are three phases in the transformation of OM into hydrocarbons: Diagenesis, Catagenesis, and Metagenesis (Tissot, 1997). Diagenesis occurs in the shallow subsurface and begins during initial deposition and burial. It takes place at depths from shallow to perhaps as deep as 1,000 meters and at
        the oil window temperatures ranging from near normal to less than 60C. Biogenic decay aided by bacteria (such asThiobacillus) and non-biogenic reactions are the principal processes at work producing primarily CH4 (Methane), CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), H2O (Water), kerogen, a precursor to the creation of the petroleum, and bitumen. Temperature plays an important role in the process. Ambient temperatures increase with depth of burial which decreases the role of bacteria in the biogenic reactions because they die out. However, much of the initial methane production begins to decline because it is the bacteria that produces the methane as a by-product during diagenesis. Simultaneous to the death of the bacteria however, the increased temperatures accelerate organic reactions.

        Kerogen: the name given to insoluble, disseminated organic (carbonaceous) matter in sediments
        Bitumen: the name given to soluble, disseminated organic (carbonaceous) matter in sediments

        http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/assets/TAD/education/BGBB/3/transformation.html

        Laboratory thermal conversion of sedimentary lipids to kerogen-like matter
        Makoto Shioya. Author links open the author workspace.Ryoshi Ishiwatari. Author links open the author workspace.
        Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Fukasawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158, Japan
        Show more
        http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0146-6380(83)90011-6

        Abstract
        A laboratory heating experiment was conducted in an attempt to evaluate the possible role of lipids as precursors for petroleum hydrocarbons. Lipids were extracted from a Recent lake sediment (Lake Haruna, Japan), and heated under N2 atmosphere, at 125–370°C, for 1–7 days. A significant amount of lipids was polymerized to kerogen-like matter (lipid-derived kerogen) at the low temperature of 175°C for 1 day. The polymerization follows first-order kinetics, and the half life of lipids is calculated to be 104–105 yr at 0–30°C. The lipid-derived kerogen generated a significant amount (62 mg/g) of n-alkanes (C14–C36) on heating at 350°C for 1 day.

        The results indicate a possible occurrence of lower temperature thermal polymerization of lipids in a relatively early stage of diagenesis as one of the formation pathways of kerogen with high hydrocarbon producing potential.

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0146638083900116

        I am not aware of any hydrocarbon inclusions in diamonds, apart from Marmarosh Diamonds, which aren’t diamonds.

    • Berenyi Peter:

      One of the claims of J. F. Kenney and his Russian collaborators is that the formation of oil (i.e. straight-chain saturated hydrocarbons) in the crustal “oil window” is as thermodynamically impossible as diamonds forming under those conditions. As you point out, there are recent diamond-anvil experiments demonstrating the generation of higher-than-methane alkanes under upper mantle conditions.

      Are there any experiments demonstrating the generation of such chemical substances under crustal conditions? I had asked about this of a noted chemical engineering researcher working on the synthesis of biofuels. Not being confrontational by bringing up either Gold or Kenney, I simply asked whether the chemical reactions or processes by which organic material is turned into oil under crustal conditions in the “oil window” is known, and I was told a flat out, “no.”

      The Fischer-Tropsch process converts molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide into those straight-chain saturated hydrocarbons. That process, however, is a non-equilibrium chemical reaction. Given my interest in peak oil and energy supplies, I had attended a talk by a speaker from Norway hosted by that noted researcher mentioned above. It was explained that the end point of Fischer-Tropsch is methane. In Norway having abundant “stranded natural gas”, methane is “reformed” into H2 and CO, and turning that feedstock back into methane would defeat their purpose. The Fischer-Tropsch process, it was explained, needs to be “quenched” by withdrawing the generated higher alkanes from the chemical reactor before they eventually become methane at chemical equilibrium — to make this point, graphs were shown in the talk of curves comparing higher hydrocarbon and methane concentrations vs time.

      It is widely regarded that the formation of oil from whatever is in algae is an equilibrium thermodynamic process where chemical reactions proceed to completion in the absence of some “quenching” or means of withdrawing the formed oil in something like an industrial Fischer-Tropsch reactor before it reverts to methane?

      I have heard of two avenues where oil could form under crustal conditions. One is the “serpentinization” reaction involving hydrothermal vents. This appears to be a geologic, catalyzed (the serpentine minerals acting as a catalyst), non-thermal equilibrium reaction. The other is that it is widely regarded that oil forms from algae or perhaps cyanobacteria (so-called blue-green algae) in deep anoxic lakes. I read a paper claiming that oil is sourced from particular vesicles in those organisms accumulating a substance close to crude oil, and this narrow source for oil accounts for oil being rare compared to other crustal hydrocarbon substances. J. F. Kenney may be generating a straw man to claim that generating straight-chain hydrocarbons from cellulose is impossible, because David Middleton here concedes as much.

      But however biogenic source material and which particular biogenic source material becomes oil, there is a gaping hole in our scientific knowledge if oil can be generated in a laboratory diamond anvil apparatus under mantle conditions whereas one cannot point to a comparable experiment where oil is generated under crustal conditions?

      Even if the preponderance of the evidence points to a biogenic source for all commercially recoverable oil, the biogenic case does not meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, especially without addressing the thermodynamics question. There is a legal saying, “When the facts are on your side (i.e. your client is really innocent), pound on the facts. When the law is on your side (i.e. there is a legal technicality to free your client), pound on the law. When neither, pound on the table.” Did I just witness an advocate of biogenic origin in claiming “100% wrong and/or irrelevant” for the points your raise, just start to pound the table?

      • I am not an “abiotic oil advocate”, just want to understand what’s actually going on. I am quite sure “maturation”, “cooking” and the like are woodoo terms, not chemical ones, so they lack explanatory power.

        Also, by now we do know that a vast number of underground microorganisms are feeding on oil, therefore no wonder so called “biomarkers” are present in oil, quite independent of its original source.

        No doubt higher alkanes are metastable at low (crustal) pressure. If oil is left alone in an anoxic environment for a long enough time, it is spontaneously transformed into methane and carbon. However, the timescale involved is enormous, this is why we still have it.

        If it is metastable, we have oil as a result of a non equilibrium process. Even if the abyssal abiotic theory is true, oil has to be moved to the crust from the upper mantle quickly, otherwise the same thing would happen to it as to graphite pseudomorphs (graphitized diamonds).

        If it is of biological origin, only a very special kind of biological matter has any chance to turn into complex hydrocarbons, especially carbohydrates (sugars and their polymers like starch or cellulose) has no chance at all, in spite of comprising the bulk of biomass. Lipids have a considerably higher chemical potential than the rest, but even fatty acids are not quite alkanes, so an additional source of free energy seems to be indispensable to that transformation path. Also, I can’t see an effective separation process selective to lipids after bulk biomass burial, algal matter or not.

        I can see no chemical path either that would turn fatty acids into high order diamondoids. That does not mean such path can’t exist, but I reckon the phrase “diamondoid derivation from enzymatically created lipids with subsequent structural rearrangement during the process of source rock maturation and oil generation” has no specific meaning whatsoever.

        It is true photosynthesis does not like 13C, but carbon isotope ratio is not a sure sign of biological origin, because there are all kinds of abiotic processes leading to isotope fractionation as well. The very fact isotope ratio depends somewhat on the age of oil deposit, is suspicious in itself. Do we have evidence that photosynthesis has got more efficient in rejecting 13C over geologic time?

    • By the way, kerogen is not crude oil. Obtaining usable oil from that substance requires human-supplied chemical engineering of some form?

  66. David just remember the first purpose drilled hydrocarbon well in the US was in 1825, TD 27’produced enough gas(from shale)to provide light of about 2 good candles(google FredoniaNY and gas fired street lights. Sunday eve, 77years old, drinking wine after 3weeks skiing the Rockies, can’t remember much more. From an old Pet Eng, good article.

  67. Point #1 – Would you believe that any organic material can be converted into oil in less than a day?
    Old news – 2006 story in Discover Magazine, see: http://discovermagazine.com/2006/apr/anything-oil/
    Point #2 – One thing not mentioned in discussions, (unless I missed it) is the presence of porphoryns in oils from trace amounts up to 0.4%. porphoryns come from either plant or animal tissues. But this raises a big problem, a real elephant in the room! Porphyrins are quickly destroyed by oxidizing conditions (oxygen) and by heat, so the source rocks containing the organic matter had to be catastrophically buried in order to obtain the anaerobic environment for oil production. quote: ” plant porphyrin breaks down in as little as three days when exposed to temperatures of only 410°F (210°C) for only 12 hours. Therefore, the petroleum source rocks and the crude oils generated from them can’t have been deeply buried to such temperatures for millions of years.”
    And, since all oils contain porphyrins, here is a theory of the source of today’s oil: Such global catastrophic burial of oil-producing organic material certainly points to a relatively recent global catastrophe, such as the global flood of Noah’s day (about 5000 years ago). I know that atheists will automatically reject the theory because it does not fit within their world view, but it does fit the data that we observe in the real world today, and thus is worthy of consideration.
    ian

    • Point #1 This is how diagenesis and catagenesis are simulated in laboratory conditions.

      Point #2 is not even wrong.

    • porphoryns come from either plant or animal tissues
      Untrue. Alphaproteobacteria for example do synthesize porphyrin. They are neither plants nor animals, but bacteria. Some of them feed on hydrocarbons.

  68. While reading the first few paragraphs, I realized that the biologic-versus-abiotic origin of oil is drastically simpler than I thought. Oil forms when there is sufficient temperature and pressure to turn hydrogen and carbon to the petroleum species.

    There has been life on this mudball for about 3 billion years according to the consensus scientific estimate. This carbon has cycled around a variety of molecular forms. When corpses are buried under conditions of sufficient temperature and pressure, oil forms as described in this article. Most of the oil within a mile or so of the surface was formed from biologic organisms.

    No scientist believes that the Earth appeared in an instant out of nothing with all its current organisms. There was a time when there was no life on Earth. There was plenty of carbon and hydrogen, etc.The molecules these formed depended on the physical conditions of temperature, pressure, etc. The first petroleum of the world was abiotic–it must have been. Those conditions would have been present at depth, at least. And great depths are where abiotic oil prospectors find their petroleum today.

    There is some confusion because the biologic oil was found first and detailed concepts were derived from its appearance. When Russians figured out that oil could form without the carbon ever being alive first, they published in Russian science journals and developed their understanding in depth, too. Eventually, some Americans found out about this and did a terrible job explaining it. That made the whole thing look ridiculous and American engineers quickly decided there was nothing in it. There was no checking the original data–who reads any Russian in this country?

    But I have seen websites written in English by Russians who explained the chemistry of it very well. Abiotic oil is absolutely logical.

    The big mistake is only in thinking that there is some kind of contradiction between the two theories of petroleum origin. That somebody must be wrong. Nobody is wrong; everybody is right. Oil has formed on Earth for billions of years when conditions were right–both abiotically and from fossils.

    The man needing a fillup does not care where his gas came from–just its price. Once burned, the plants don’t care, either–they just grow. Animals eat the plants AND benefit directly from an increased stimulation to breathe. People like the author are VERY valuable individuals and those of us on this website appreciate you!

  69. Hi David
    A brilliant exposition. AS a geophysicist I always thought the dinosaur heresy was one to tell petroleum engineers to keep them out of trouble and satisfy their idle curiosity Like the stork for babies. It usually worked.
    I concede that for abiogenic origin you can do lab experiments with hydrogen and carbon in a cast iron bomb at high Temp and Pressure so it is a theoretical possibility. I see no reason to doubt biogenic hy[pothesis and I think the abiotic hypothesis is only of intellectual interest. talking to Russians it is a bit Lysenkoist but also a tool to promote atreas deficient in source
    Two questions
    1) Dnieper Donitz bituminous occurrences in high grade anthracite seem anomalous. No problem with source in the area but overmaturity should preclude liquids. This observation spurred my mild interest
    2) Agree comments on Siljan ring analysis on deep HC’s found during drilling but there is a surface seep which started the whole thing going antyway

    Alastair Gray

    • Engineers and Geo’s are separated by a common language… ;)

      1)…

      A single total petroleum system encompassing the entire sedimentary succession is identified in the Dnieper-Donets basin. Discovered reserves of the system are 1.6 billion barrels of oil and 59 trillion cubic feet of gas. More than one-half of the reserves are in Lower Permian rocks below the salt seal. Most of remaining reserves are in upper Visean-Serpukhovian (Lower Carboniferous) strata. The majority of discovered fields are in salt-cored anticlines or in drapes over Devonian horst blocks; little exploration has been conducted for stratigraphic traps. Synrift Upper Devonian carbonate reservoirs are almost unexplored. Two identified source-rock intervals are the black anoxic shales and carbonates in the lower Visean and Devonian sections. However, additional source rocks possibly are present in the deep central area of the basin. The role of Carboniferous coals as a source rock for gas is uncertain; no coal-related gas has been identified by the limited geochemical studies. The source rocks are in the gas-generation window over most of the basin area; consequently gas dominates over oil in the reserves.

      […]

      The principal identified source rocks are in the Visean (Lower Carboniferous) and Upper Devonian stratigraphic units. Additional source rocks, including Carboniferous coals, possibly are present in deep parts of the basin. Over most of the basin, the source rocks are overmature with respect to oilgeneration; consequently gas dominates over oil in the resource base. Carboniferous–Lower Permian clastic reservoirs contain the great majority of discovered oil and gas reserves.

      https://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/2201/E/b2201-e.pdf

      59 TCF and 1.6 Bbbl works out to 27 bbl/mmcf. If the Dnieper-Donets was a single well, it would be a liquid-rich gas well.

      2)…

      The rocks in the Siljan impact structure have been explored for oil and gas, for example oil seeps in Upper Ordovician Boda Limestone at Solberga (e.g. Auton 1980). Investigated source rocks were suggested to be immature by the burial history;however, the meteorite impact locally matured the source rock(Vlierboom et al. 1986; Stein et al. 2009). Geochemical datapoint to Ordovician sedimentary rocks as the main source for hydrocarbon in the region (Vlierboom et al. 1986).

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248398922_Ordovician_sediments_sandwiched_between_Proterozoic_basement_slivers_tectonic_structures_in_the_Stumsnas_1_drill_core_from_the_Siljan_Ring_central_Sweden

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273507333_Analysis_of_borehole_geophysical_data_from_the_Mora_area_of_the_Siljan_Ring_impact_structure_central_Sweden

  70. I get that it ultimately makes no economic difference what creates crude oil, it’s what’s producible that counts.

    That said, this would appear to be the forum to air my pet theory. It seems to be the case that large oil fields are mostly found offset from major crustal fractures, with impact craters being particularly productive zones — the whole Gulf rim from Venezuela right around to Mexico and Texas seems to be such a fracture zone.

    Could it be that highly fractured areas created by plate tectonics or comet impacts create a habitat for the microorganisms that are posited to create abiotic oil from simple hydrocarbons?

    • The Gulf of Mexico is not an impact crater. The only major impact feature in the Gulf of Mexico is the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub Crater.

      It’s effects on the structural geology of the Gulf are very localized and play no role in the Cenozoic geology of the Gulf… Where most of the production comes from.

      Many sedimentary basins were deposited into rift or failed rift systems. The early Gulf of Mexico (Jurassic) was a rift basin. However, the post-rift geology has been dominated by sediment loading and salt mobilization,

      Faults are major conduits for hydrocarbon formation. The Gulf of Mexico is loaded with faults. None of them are “major crustal fractures.” They are mostly the result of sediment loading and salt tectonics.

      Most oilfields are located on anticlinal features, often faulted anticlinal features…

      An anticline is a subsurface positive topographic feature (like a buried hill).

      The Bakken, Eagle Ford, Permian Basin, Spindletop, the East Texas Oil Field are nowhere near “major crustal fractures.” At least not present day “major crustal fractures.”

      • Where is the source of the heavy metals that is found in both black coal and liquid petroleum?

        Why are the amounts of heavy metals in liquid crude the same in a region where the fields in question are geological separated i.e. The fields are not connected to the same source rock and there is no heavy metals in the source rock or the reservoir rock. There is no source of heavy metals and even if there where the sources would be local and vary widely over a large region. The deep earth CH4 mechanism explains the heavy metals as there are picked up by the liquid CH4 as it move through the mantel.

        An example where there is very similar amount of heavy metals in liquid crudes which from geological separate fields would be the Western Canadian oil fields or the California oil fields. Gold uses the California oil field in his example. I checked the Western Canadian oil field data and found it supported his assertion that a fossil source could not explain the uniformity of heavy metals in a region where the individual fields are geologically separated.

        Your cartoon picture ignores specific examples that cannot be explained such as Gold’s example in his book which it appears you did not read, of an Oklahoma liquid oil field that has coal mixed within the oil field.

        Gold also notes that black coal is often found in the same regions where oil is found which makes sense if both black coal and liquid oil’s ultimate source is deep earth CH4.

        Gold’s analysis is deeper, more like a crime scene investigation where are of the evidence must be explained rather than an argument where one person can present cartoon pictures which illustrate a Zombie theory but ignore the specific observational data that disproves theory. See my above comments of black coal deposits that cannot be explained by a fossil source mechanism.

        There are piles and piles of anomalies and paradoxes associated with the fossil theory all of which can be explained by the non biological source theory.

        Your cartoon picture does not show the relative deeps that black coal, liquid oil, and coal are found at. Black coal is found near the surface, then liquid oil and then ‘natural’ gas. The relative deeps makes sense if the mechanism that creates the formations is deep earth CH4.

        Gold provides examples where is observational evidence to support the assertion that the deep source CH4 is still connected to the formation such as the black coal deposit in Japan where mining had to be stopped as there it was not possible to remove the high volumes of CH4.

        In multiple places in the world there are now viable commercial natural gas projects where the CH4 is obtained by drilling into the black coal formation.

  71. Where is the source of the heavy metals that is found in both black coal and liquid petroleum?

    The same fracking source as the heavy metals in the formation water: Rocks.

    • The minerals/metals in question are not found in sufficient amounts in the surrounding sedimentary rock.

      The problem (paradox which is specifically stated as a paradox in the textbook Gold quotes ) is not limited to explaining why there are heavy metals in black coal and liquid oil but what is the mechanism in general to explain the super concentration of metals in the upper crust of the planet. (More than million times concentrated).

      The water Zombie theory for concentration of heavy metals in black coal and oil that is assumed is ridiculous based on even a back of an envelop quantitive analysis of how much water would need to move based on the concentrations that have occurred and how much of the specific metals will dissolve in the water.

      There is no mechanism to move sufficient volumes of water through the crust, the amounts of dissolved metals in water are not high enough, and there is no mechanism to cause the mineral to suddenly dropout) are super concentration of metals in the crust.

      The deep earth super high pressure liquid CH4 extruded from the core of the earth as it solidifies theory explains the observations.

      The metals dissolve in the super high pressure liquid CH4 which confirmed by experiments and by high pressure theory. As the core solidifies more and more liquid CH4 is extruded.

      The pressure of the core pushes the liquid CH4 through the mantel. As the pressure decreases some of the metals drop out of solution from the high pressure CH4. This explains why specific concentrated metals are found in the same formation.

      An example is the concentration of gold in the crust. Gold does not dissolve in water. As Gold notes small gold miners look for tracks of black coal in the sedimentary rock which lead in some cases to highly concentrated gold deposits. The deep earth extruded super high pressure liquid CH4 explains the super gold concentration and explains why there is tiny seam of coal that leads to the gold.

      • WTF do you think sedimentary rocks are? Sandstone and shale come from eroded igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. And the metals are not just from the surrounding sedimentary rock. The hydrothermal brines which transport the oil from source rocks to reservoirs can come from very deep sources.

        formation water

        1. n. [Geology]
        Water that occurs naturally within the pores of rock. Water from fluids introduced to a formation through drilling or other interference, such as mud and seawater, does not constitute formation water. Formation water, or interstitial water, might not have been the water present when the rock originally formed. In contrast, connate water is the water trapped in the pores of a rock during its formation, and may be called fossil water.

        http://www.glossary.oilfield.slb.com/Terms/f/formation_water.aspx

  72. The following are additional specific examples where Gold presents specific observation after observation that disproves the fossil theory of the formation of black coal, liquid oil, and natural gas.

    Gold examines the evidence as one would a crime scene investigation.

    It is a fact that a deep analysis of the observations indicates the fossil theory is a Zombie theory.

    It is obvious that those who argue against the Soviet/Gold abiogenic theory of the formation of black coal, oil, and natural gas have never read his book as they never address fundamental issues which disprove the fossil theory such heavy metals being found in both crude oil and black coal.

    Deeper analysis is required to find the paradoxes and anomalies which are then used to solve the puzzle.

    From Gold’s Book, The Deep Hot Biosphere The Myth of Fossil Fuels which I would highly recommend. Gold book is one of the best modern ‘science’ books that I have read. No ranting. All observations supported by links to sources. Logical pillar after logical pillar to support his assertion.

    Perhaps the strongest refutation of the traditional (William: Fossil Theory) theory of the formation of (William: Black coal) coal formation can be found in the paucity of mineral ash in most black coals.

    Some coal seams are more than 10 meters thick, yet the mineral content may be as low as 4%. The bulk of the material is just carbon, with a little hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur mixed in the various compounds.

    For a swamp to lay down enough carbon to produce such a seam, it would need to have grown to a depth of more than 300 meters, with a mineral content in the that volume of less than 1 percent.

    No such swamps exist today, and even if they once existed, it seems that unlikely plants would have grown in such conditions. (Plants need minerals to live and to grow)

    The ratio of minerals to carbon in any present-day accumulation of plant debris is a very much higher one, and accumulations of the quantities of biomass carbon necessary to account for major coal seams are not found anywhere. ….

    …Another anomaly that is difficult for geologists to explain (William the fossil theory for the formation of black coal) through the biogenic theory is the present of coal seams in places where they ought not to be and at inclinations they ought not to take.

    Most commercial mined coal seams are layered between sedimentary strata, but many coal deposits in the world are not.

    Coal that is interbedded with volcanic areas, most notably in southwestern Greenland (10). There coal is found in close proximity to large, lava-encrusted lumps of metallic iron, not far from mud volcanoes burping methane and from a rock face that frequently has flames issuing from its cracks (11).

    Another notable non-sedimentary deposit (William: Black coal) is located in New Brunswick, Canada. There a coal seam called Albertite that fills a vertical crack that goes through many horizontally bedded sedimentary layers.

    It was mined in the last century, but difficulty in mining a near vertical seam caused the operation to be curtailed (12).

    The biogenic theory can offer no remote plausible causal explanation for these and other anomalous coal environments.

    The geological distribution of coal deposits poses another problem for the conventional theory. It is assumed that oil and coal are the result of completely different types of biological deposits laid down in quite different circumstances and, in many regions where thy both occur, at quite different times.

    Biological debris from marine algae is usually invoked for the formation of crude oil, and terrestrial vegetation for coal. No close relationship between the geological distributions of the two substances would thus be expected.

    But in fact, as the oil and coal maps of the world have been drawn in ever-increasing detail, a close relationship has become unmistakeable.

    The coal and oil maps of southeastern Brazil are striking in this respect (Figure 5.3 in his book).

    Indonesia presents another example; local lore among those who drilled there for oil was “Once we hit coal, we knew we were going to hit oil”

    Coal on top and oil below is such a common feature that chance cannot possibly account for it. In Wyoming, some coal is actually found within the oil reservoirs. In many sedimentary basins including San Juan Basin in New Mexico and the Anardarko Basin of Oklahoma, coal directly overlies oil and gas (Figure 5.4 in Gold’s book).

    • Thanks for posting those excerpts. They are simply awesome for the lack of basic understanding of geology! I wonder if he ever actually looked at a single coal bearing sequence of strata before writing such drivel.

      I particularly like the Indonesian quote. I authored a book on the Petroleum Geology of Indonesia, speak the language, and never heard that one.

    • Good fracking grief! What a load of idiotic horse-schist. Gold must not have the slightest concept of basic geology.

      Sedimentary basins routinely contain intervals of marine, terrigenous and land depositional sequences due to transgression and regression.

      The D-J Basin has coal production from the Cretaceous Laramie formation, which was deposited as a coastal swamp along the edge of the Western Interior Seaway; and oil production from the deeper and older Pierre Shale and Niobrara Chalk, which were marine deposits in the Western Interior Seaway..

  73. ” Inorganically sourced methane is massively abundant on Earth and elsewhere in our Solar System and probably throughout our Galaxy.”

    Picking nits, but you just got through establishing that methane is clearly an ORGANIC molecule.

    • Methane is an organic molecule. The C and the 4 H’s can either be sourced from organic or inorganic matter.

      • The subject called “orgo” in college. The carbon in organic chemistry can come from biotic or abiotic sources.

      • Yep.

        Organic chemistry refers to compounds with at least one hydrogen-carbon bond. While much of organic chemistry is related to life, many simple hydrocarbons are not.

        I thought I clearly explained this in the original post.

      • I thought you did too. But some might have skipped over that part and never have studied chemistry in college.

      • Yes, the point is that not all organic chemistry is biotic. If Thomas Gold was correct [or partially correct, the processes are not mutually exclusive], bacteria convert abiotic methane to hydrocarbons we percieve as biotic. Modern bogs produce methane that is wildly isotopically fractionated. A typical value is -40PDB. Human cumbustion is about -20. Coal gas has been measured as low as -100.

        Hard to imagine how this would work without reprocessing.

      • Gymno,

        The possibility that microbes deep in the crust produce petroleum is a separate issue from its arising from abiotic processes in the mantle, IMO.

      • This is from the post…

        Methane, ethane and other alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, cycloalkanes and alkadienes are simple hydrocarbons. Inorganically sourced methane is massively abundant on Earth and elsewhere in our Solar System and probably throughout our Galaxy. Other simple hydrocarbons are also often associated with inorganically sourced methane, usually in trace quantities.

        The Saturnian moon, Titan, has seas of liquid methane and there is evidence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Titan’s atmosphere. PAH’s are pollutants that occur naturally in crude oil and coal deposits and as the result of burning of carbon-based fuels.

        The fact that Titan’s methane-rich atmosphere can generate PAH’s and trace amounts of heavier hydrocarbons has no relevancy to how petroleum and natural gas liquids form on Earth. Even if it was relevant to the formation of petroleum, it would be totally irrelevant to how oil and gas accumulate in the Earth’s crust.

        Methane and simple hydrocarbons are not even remotely close to crude oil.

        Methane and other simple hydrocarbons don’t have to be sourced from other organic molecules. This is 100% irrelevant to how crude oil forms on the Earth.

  74. Paul Milenkovic
     
    February 19, 2017 at 6:13 pm says:

    One of the claims of J. F. Kenney and his Russian collaborators is that the formation of oil (i.e. straight-chain saturated hydrocarbons) in the crustal “oil window” is as thermodynamically impossible as diamonds forming under those conditions. 

    His paper is here:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/99/17/10976.long

    Especially:
    2. The Thermodynamic Energy Spectrum of the H–C System and the Effective Prohibition of Low-Pressure Genesis of Hydrocarbons

    And this quote

    The foregoing properties of natural petroleum and the effective prohibition by the second law of thermodynamics of its spontaneous genesis from highly oxidized biological molecules of low chemical potentials were clearly understood in the second half of the 19th century by chemists and thermodynamicists such as Berthelot and later confirmed by others including Sokolov, Biasson, and Mendeleev.

    Berényi Péter (BP) makes the same point:

    5. Could you elaborate on why relative Oxygen contents of kerogen is much lower, than that of biogenic stuff? Removing Oxygen from molecules requires considerable free energy input. Source?

    Middleton replied: Primarily heat.

    BP: Heat does not remove oxygen while leaving behind hydrogen.

    I assume Middleton means increasing temperature, which is not the same as increasing heat
    Increasing temperature causes equilibrium faster. It does not change the equilibrium. Temperature does not make reactions happen. Temperature increase cannot cause reactions that replace carbon-oxygen bonds by carbon-hydrogen bonds.

    I don’t think Middleton ( or anyone else) answers this objection to the idea that cellulose and carbohydrates decays to hydrocarbons.

    • Good fracking grief!

      The oxygen is largely removed during diagenesis, not catagenesis…

      There are three phases in the transformation of OM into hydrocarbons: Diagenesis, Catagenesis, and Metagenesis (Tissot, 1997). Diagenesis occurs in the shallow subsurface and begins during initial deposition and burial. It takes place at depths from shallow to perhaps as deep as 1,000 meters and at
      the oil window temperatures ranging from near normal to less than 60C. Biogenic decay aided by bacteria (such asThiobacillus) and non-biogenic reactions are the principal processes at work producing primarily CH4 (Methane), CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), H2O (Water), kerogen, a precursor to the creation of the petroleum, and bitumen. Temperature plays an important role in the process. Ambient temperatures increase with depth of burial which decreases the role of bacteria in the biogenic reactions because they die out. However, much of the initial methane production begins to decline because it is the bacteria that produces the methane as a by-product during diagenesis. Simultaneous to the death of the bacteria however, the increased temperatures accelerate organic reactions.

      Kerogen: the name given to insoluble, disseminated organic (carbonaceous) matter in sediments
      Bitumen: the name given to soluble, disseminated organic (carbonaceous) matter in sediments

      http://www.dnr.louisiana.gov/assets/TAD/education/BGBB/3/transformation.html

      Laboratory thermal conversion of sedimentary lipids to kerogen-like matter
      Makoto Shioya. Author links open the author workspace.Ryoshi Ishiwatari. Author links open the author workspace.
      Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Fukasawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158, Japan
      Show more
      http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0146-6380(83)90011-6

      Abstract
      A laboratory heating experiment was conducted in an attempt to evaluate the possible role of lipids as precursors for petroleum hydrocarbons. Lipids were extracted from a Recent lake sediment (Lake Haruna, Japan), and heated under N2 atmosphere, at 125–370°C, for 1–7 days. A significant amount of lipids was polymerized to kerogen-like matter (lipid-derived kerogen) at the low temperature of 175°C for 1 day. The polymerization follows first-order kinetics, and the half life of lipids is calculated to be 104–105 yr at 0–30°C. The lipid-derived kerogen generated a significant amount (62 mg/g) of n-alkanes (C14–C36) on heating at 350°C for 1 day.

      The results indicate a possible occurrence of lower temperature thermal polymerization of lipids in a relatively early stage of diagenesis as one of the formation pathways of kerogen with high hydrocarbon producing potential.

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0146638083900116

  75. Middleton says:

    While it is possible for oil to form through mantle serpentinization or the Fischer–Tropsch process, there simply isn’t any evidence that any crude oil has ever naturally formed through these processes on Earth. 

    What do you think of this

    Petroleum formation during serpentinization: the evidence of trace elements

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AGUSM.V41A..13S

    We found that trace elements in the oils correlate well with mantle peridotites and reflects the process of hydrothermal serpentinization during continental breakup.

    • From the fracking post…

      It’s possible that oil forms in the mantle all the time. The chemical equations can be balanced. So, as an olive branch to Abiogenic Oil aficionados, I will unequivocally state that their favored hypothesis is not impossible.

      […]

      Proof of abiogenic oil would consist of the discovery of a significant volume of abiogenic oil.

      […]

      While it is possible for oil to form through mantle serpentinization or the Fischer–Tropsch process, there simply isn’t any evidence that any crude oil has ever naturally formed through these processes on Earth. If oil was forming in the mantle, it would be flowing out of mid-ocean ridges (methane flowing out of mid-ocean ridges is not oil).

      There are very few crude oil accumulations that are even consistent with the abiogenic hypotheses and no significant accumulations inconsistent with the generally accepted theory of hydrocarbon formation.

      This is not evidence of abiogenic oil…

      An organic source of petroleum formation is well attested by many biomarkers. This need not, however, exclude contribution from inorganic sources.

      […]

      We found that trace elements in the oils correlate well with mantle peridotites and reflects the process of hydrothermal serpentinization during continental breakup.

      […]

      Trace elements commonly enriched in formation fluids and hydrothermal brines (Rb, Sr, Ba, Cu, Zn), when normalized to mantle peridotites, are enriched in the oils by about 0.5 order of magnitude relative to other elements of the second group. The third group of elements includes S, Mo, and As. These elements occur in the oils at abundances similar to sea water and are, when normalized to mantle peridotites and Ni, enriched in the oils by several orders of magnitude, indicating sea water reacting with peridotites during sepentinization as their possible source.

      […]

      http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AGUSM.V41A..13S

      It’s evidence that hydrothermal brines can be sourced from mantle-like depths. This falls under…

      • No amount of evidence will convince the abiogenic crowd that they are wrong. It is like trying to teach your cat how to knit. A losing battle.

  76. One of Thomas Gold’s principal arguments is that the mass balance of methane vs everything that ever lived on the planet is ridiculously skewed to methane. You seem not to dispute this by allowing that [abiotic] methane is “massively abundant on earth”.

    Gold’s second argument is that bacteria deep in the earth are capable of converting methane.

    Do you dispute this? I did not see where you addressed bacterial modification of methane.

    • I don’t dispute any aspects of Gold’s hypothesis anywhere in the post. I made this very clear…

      It’s possible that oil forms in the mantle all the time. The chemical equations can be balanced. So, as an olive branch to Abiogenic Oil aficionados, I will unequivocally state that their favored hypothesis is not impossible.

      […]

      Proof of abiogenic oil would consist of the discovery of a significant volume of abiogenic oil.

      […]

      While it is possible for oil to form through mantle serpentinization or the Fischer–Tropsch process, there simply isn’t any evidence that any crude oil has ever naturally formed through these processes on Earth. If oil was forming in the mantle, it would be flowing out of mid-ocean ridges (methane flowing out of mid-ocean ridges is not oil).

      There are very few crude oil accumulations that are even consistent with the abiogenic hypotheses and no significant accumulations inconsistent with the generally accepted theory of hydrocarbon formation.

    • The liquid hydrocarbons on Titan are simple compounds like methane and ethane, which are gaseous on earth but form liquids there because of the extreme cold. They are not complex compounds like petroleum on earth.

      • I think I’ve had to explain this at least 20 times in the comments section, despite clearly explaining the concept in the post.

      • I guess commenters don’t find it necessary to have read your post in order to feel competent to comment upon it.

  77. Just to be bitchy to Tommy Gold and William Astley, when the Hoyle, Gold Bondi Steady state universe theory got discredited in 1965 Gold looked around for another field and reinvented himself as a bootstrap organic geochemist . I would not necessarily take a geochemist’s words for gospel on cosmology, and have reservations on taking a cosmologist’s gospel on geochemistry but would William Astley describe Big Bang as a Zombie theory?

    • Gold’s hypothesis isn’t impossible… The problem is that he seems to have a compulsion to generate geologically ignorant arguments against the generally accepted theory of crude oil formation. The coal ones are “In Search of Noah’s Ark” dumb.

    • The big bang story is the biblical genesis story reframed. It isn’t anything to do with science.
      Thomas Gold was right to oppose it and biotic oil theory.

  78. David Middleton
     
    February 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

    says

    as an olive branch to Abiogenic Oil aficionados

    Abiogenic Oil aficionados don’t need an olive ( or olivine) branch from a supporter of a rival theory. We want a reasonable debate. But in the competition of science theories it is a fight to the death.

    You have to defend your theory stoutly and attack its opponents robustly. You bluster and equivocate to cover your lack of confidence in your theory. Lets get this question settled so we move on.

    Here is a dispassionate comparisons of the theories.
    THE NON-ORGANIC THEORY OF THE GENESIS OF PETROLEUM
    Samar Abbas Dept. of Physics ,Utkal University Bhubaneswar-751004, India
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/9610011.pdf

    For me the critical argument is that by the 2nd law of thermodynamics it is not possible for oxygen rich molecules from dead organisms to become oxygen free hydrocarbons in any way at the depth at which fossils are found. Oil is a renewable energy source.

    I come to the conclusion that you support your theory for personal not scientific reasons. So as to suggest oil is scarce. Thus keeping prices up and you in a well paid job.

  79. “I come to the conclusion that you support your theory for personal not scientific reasons. So as to suggest oil is scarce. Thus keeping prices up and you in a well paid job.”
    ==================================================================
    How utterly absurd. Somehow, oil will be easier to find if you just believe it is there in abundance.
    –AGF

  80. That last comment is pretty typical of anti oil industry bile. One assumes that the self-righteous agfoster lives an oil free existence in a grass hut and walks everywhere. Anyway all other things apart I thought you were retired. I would not like to be a messenger delivering Agfoster bad news without a bulletproof vest.Congratulations David on starting a very lively thread. Time to put it to bed now I think

    • Cleantechnica is a woo-woo science site, and the link is to a two-year old page. To get the hydrogen (or anything else, including pure H2O) from seawater requires a lot of energy. There’s billions of dollars in gold in seawater, but nobody’s getting rich–the gold is too diffuse. I’ve seen enough of these seawater schemes not to get excited anymore.

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