Peak Oil Postponed Again: “USGS Identifies Largest Continuous Oil and Gas Resource Potential Ever”… And it’s in the Permian Basin

Guest congratulating by David Middleton

USGS Announces Largest Continuous Oil Assessment in Texas and New Mexico

Release Date: NOVEMBER 28, 2018
Estimates Include 46.3 Billion Barrels of Oil, 281 Trillion Cubic feet of Natural Gas, and 20 Billion Barrels of Natural Gas Liquids in Texas and New Mexico’s Wolfcamp Shale and Bone Spring Formation.

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the Wolfcamp Shale and overlying Bone Spring Formation in the Delaware Basin portion of Texas and New Mexico’s Permian Basin province contain an estimated mean of 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This estimate is for continuous (unconventional) oil, and consists of undiscoveredtechnically recoverable resources.

“Christmas came a few weeks early this year,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy. Before this assessment came down, I was bullish on oil and gas production in the United States. Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.”

“In the 1980’s, during my time in the petroleum industry, the Permian and similar mature basins were not considered viable for producing large new recoverable resources. Today, thanks to advances in technology, the Permian Basin continues to impress in terms of resource potential. The results of this most recent assessment and that of the Wolfcamp Formation in the Midland Basin in 2016 are our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released,” said Dr. Jim Reilly, USGS Director. “Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring both our energy independence and energy dominance.”


The new assessment of the Delaware Basin Wolfcamp shale may be found online. To find out more about USGS energy assessments and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website, sign up for our Newsletter, and follow us on Twitter.


I worked with Jim Reilly at Enserch Exploration from 1981-1995.

The “amazing” thing is that this isn’t a “new” oil discovery.  It’s just a realization that a lot more oil and gas can be produced from these formations than was previously imagined.

The Permian Basin a nearly infinite resource.  It seems as if there will always be more hydrocarbons to squeeze out of its numerous oil & gas reservoirs.  From a Warmunist perspective the Bone Spring and Wolfcamp are much worse than previously thought… Since Warmunists seem to think that we are on course for a repeat of the Permian extinction.  Clearly the carbon now stored in the Permian Basin oil must have caused the “Great Dying” and if we don’t stop producing it, we’ll cause another “Great Dying”.  At least, that’s as close as I can get to a Warmunist thought process.


213 thoughts on “Peak Oil Postponed Again: “USGS Identifies Largest Continuous Oil and Gas Resource Potential Ever”… And it’s in the Permian Basin

    • And… It looks like OPEC and the Russians have agreed to cut production, rather than make the same mistake they did in 2014.

        • Neither OPEC nor Russia nor US “shale” producers can survive long when prices drop below $50 per barrel. Reservoirs are just getting too expensive to develop, and opec needs more income to satisfy the growing populations.

          This resource is technical, meaning they didn’t try to estimate at what price it could be produced. I have supervised teams preparing these types of estimates, and they can be quite different from the way we estimate reserves.

          When I estimated a peak co2 concentration of 630 ppm a few years ago, i added 400 billion barrels for future oil resources we couldn’t name. So my estimate stands, thus far i see nothing which will allow CO2 to reach those crazy numbers the Ipcc puts out.

          • Not so fast, Fernando. The adaptive/innovative incentive of American ingenuity has a tendency to attack problems head-on and produce new realities. Remember when shale oil was deemed non-competitive because it took more than $30/barrel to produce? They’ll find a way. I like your estimate of 630 ppm CO2, everything should be green!

          • Fernando L. point of technical vs economic is vitally important.
            So to is Nelson’s on Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROEI) See below.
            (or EROI Energy Return on Investment).
            Early US petroleum had an EROEI > 100:1
            Now US EROEI has plummeted to ~ 12:1.
            Trillions of barrels are meaningless if the EROEI is too low.
            Charles Hall emphasizes we need a minimum EROEI of 3 to keep functioning and bio ethanol is only 1-2.
            Society needs about 7:1
            A high quality of life needs about 10:1.
            Note the huge 85% drop in petroleum growth rate from 7.5%/y to 1.1%/y highlighted by Jean Laherrere Thoughts on the future of Oil Production Dec. 5, 2018 Resilience

            economists Reiner Kümmel and Robert Ayres have shown that energy consumption, in particular oil, is the main force behind GDP growth. These economists conclude that our consumer society is based on cheap energy. And the close historic correlation between growth in energy, especially oil, and growth in the global economy supports their conclusion.

            The “thirty glorious years,” as it is called in France, covered the period 1945-1973—from the end of the Second World War to the first oil shock—when world oil production growth averaged 7.5 percent per year. Compare that to 1.1 percent average growth (excluding extra-heavy oil) for the period 1983-2017, which could be called the “thirty laborious years.” GDP growth has become harder to achieve, and economists now fret over what they call “secular stagnation,” often without any understanding of the underlying shifts in the oil industry. The maintenance of growth has become highly dependent on quantitative easing, low interest rates, and tax cuts, all of which are problematic over the long run.

            (with Ayres link changed to his book)

          • Ron Long, there are physical limits to what we can do. The “American ingenuity” angle is a bit overplayed in this case, because the technology we use to develop these “shale” fields is a fine tuned or much improved version of what we had 30 years ago. The seismic is better, the steel is better, we have better frac fluid formulas, etc, but nothing is really new. What we can do is fine tune and improve what we do, but it’s getting to be fairly mature. Even some “new” options like drilling from large multiwell pads are old hat. And there’s a limit to the amount of oil these wells produce, which happens to make them marginal at the price we see this week (which means the rig count isn’t about to go up).

            Because we are dealing with marginal reservoirs, the only significant factor to make them economic is higher prices. The acreage is attractive because OPEC nations and Russia don’t like the low price environment either. So they’ll be rocking back and forth to keep producing at their optimum rate, and at a decent price. Most OPEC nations are no longer competitive, and many are declining, OPEC power is in Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran. And Russia has to cooperate with them to fill in the fact that the others are now has beens.

        • RE: Darn, I was looking forward to sub dollar gas.

          Don’t look now, but it’s already here. Inflation adjusted, the current price is well below a 1980 dollar, which was about the last year we saw $1.00 or less on the actual pump.

      • David Middleton

        Meantime, back in suburban Europe, the UK is still squabbling about limited resources. Those that want to remain in Europe following the 2016 referendum (the minority) want to keep buying Russian gas, French electricity and Arab oil whilst the people that actually might like us are now swimming in oil, gas coal and ~ahem~ bio fuel.

        Seriously. It beggars belief what our insane government is risking UK democracy itself to grovel to the EU when we have the US as an agreeable trading partner only an ocean away.

        • It seems that throughout my lifetime, and long before, the UK has been dominated by a ruling class who are entirely antithetical to the concepts embodied by the industrial revolution. Those promoting science, engineering and industry have always had to face an uphill battle. This view percolates down to their offspring, schoolmates and fellow students of PPE at Oxbridge, who get to pull the levers in various levels of government, the judiciary, civil service, the BBC and other media, etc. They both fear science/engineering, and despise it along with it’s practitioners. It still amazes me that the UK ever built an Empire at all with such people at the helm.

          I suspect that the only way shale can really be developed as a significant domestic UK energy source and industry is by finding a better, quicker, way to securely funnel potential profits to local landowners and related parties. If there is one thing that the UK does ‘understand’, it is increased paper wealth from rising house prices and property speculation. Whatever the green groups may think and hope, properly-done fracking will raise the value of land, not decrease it.

      • David M: “rather than make the same mistake they did in 2014.” Conceding that you know more about it than I, my thought at the time was that Russia and Saudis ran the price down to hurt Iran, even though it hurt themselves as well. Russia and OPEC were realizing that Obama and John Kerry, so desperate for a foreign policy legacy, offered the moon and New York City to Iran just to get the mullahs to go along with the pretense of a deal. Those low oil prices did hurt Iran, and still do, diminishing the value of Iran’s oil just as sanctions lifted. Every aspect of the Iran deal showed Obama as a fool, and the Russians and Arabs didn’t make a mistake, they bought fool insurance.

    • Sorry but util the shale sector can generate positive free cash flows, the announcements are nothing but noise. The US imports crude and exports finished products. Without the imports there would be little to export. The simple fact is that shale production is NOT ECONOMIC. It wasn’t economic at $95 oil and $20 gas and it certainly isn’t economic today.

      While the Left is wrong on the dangers of fracking, the Right is wrong on the economics of shale. We would be better off if we concentrated on the signal and ignored the noise. But that requires favouring reason over emotion and from where I stand, there is little appetite for reality.

          • Alas – I feel soooo underprivileged! };>)
            Thanks for the graphics assist.

            Good post! I’ve been reading various reports on this topic over the last few days. Also, your primer on organic rich source sediments (Comment @ Dec 7 11:29 am) for biogenic oil creation is a good read.

          • That’s, like, so unfair man. Discrimination. I’m gonna form an organisation I can complain to about you.

            I’ll call it the UN, the Unfair…..Nnnnn……I’ll get to the second bit when I finish my spliff, chill man.

  1. “Clearly the carbon now stored in the Permian Basin oil must have caused the “Great Dying””

    The vast quantities of carbon sequestered in Carboniferous/Permian Coal layers and Oil source rocks must have decreased the amount of CO2 in the air and thereby prevented a mass extinction from occur….

    Er…never mind.

      • Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, only used by half wits.

        I never indulge. /sarc……..Oh look, a sarc key suddenly appeared on my keyboard and I pressed it by accident! /sark……..Look, I did it again!

        Isn’t technology amazing.

    • Surely the carbon stored in the Permian Basin was not the cause of the “Great Dying” , but the result of the Great Dying .

      • But, ….. but, …. but what was responsible for the “Great Burying” after the “Great Dying” occurred?

      • The oil and gas resource comes from rock layers underneath the Permotriassic boundary, therefore the organic matter is millions of years older than the Permian extinction event.

  2. I still can’t grasp all the in’s and out’s of OPEC…..
    This is our oil, right?….why aren’t we keeping it?
    …we could get gas prices so far down it would be ridiculous

      • David, if they’re not competitive they should not be in operation (and not just US shale). Such is the risk-reward ebb and flow of capital investments, take the US out of the international buyers market and the others have to follow US price or may oil importer states will suddenly want reliable North American oil supply options instead.

        Now, if the USA actually decides to ‘pull out’ of (most) ME countries and everyone else suddenly has to mobilize to pay for an expeditionary military capacity than can keep ME oil flowing against all comers … and they fail to keep it flowing … and USA isn’t coming back to do it for them … I guess they’ll have to settle for wind mills and push bikes.

        Sounds ideal-ic, no?

        Interesting times ahead.

        • Back in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, there was an article in World Oil, if I remember correctly, that estimated how much the US had spent on enforcing the Truman/Carter doctrines and tacked that on to the price of oil. I think it boosted the price to over $100/bbl.

      • That would end the shale boom and US oil production would crater.

        But, surely, the resources remain. Despite ‘politics’. Waiting for a different day.

        • Resources don’t serve a purpose unless they are converted to proved developed producing reserves.

    • It takes money to get the oil out and produced; it’s good ol’ capitalism that makes selling it for a higher price than essentially free to our own citizens both a necessity and economic boon.

    • I just paid a little over $2 in Colorado for a gallon of gasoline (3.7 L) and the trend is favorable for consumers.

      • We’re paying best price C$1 per liter. $3,7 * 0.75 per US gallon = US$2.78 per gallon if we are lucky

        • It’s about $2.19 in Houston and $1.99 in Dallas. I find it odd that gas is usually about $0.20 cheaper in Dallas than in Houston.

        • In Waterloo a US gallon is 3.8 litres, not 3.7.

          It must have something to do with the currency conversion.

          I last paid CDN 0.999 per litre.

      • There is no evidence at all of any significant volumes of complex hydrocarbons on Earth that were not sourced from organic material (traces are not significant volumes). Petroleum is a mixture of complex hydrocarbons (paraffins, naphthenes, aromatics and asphaltics) and the vast majority of natural gas production comes from the same total petroleum systems as crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons. It’s possible that oil forms in the mantle all the time. The chemical equations can be balanced; so it’s not impossible. There’s just no evidence for it.

        Methane on Titan is 100% irrelevant to hydrocarbon formation on Earth. Abiotic/abiognic/inorganically-sourced methane is common throughout our Solar System and beyond, as are traces of other heavier simple hydrocarbons.

        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.

        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…


        (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.”

        University of Georgia Department of Geology GEOL 4320/6320 Petroleum Geology

        “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.  Just about every drop of crude oil ever produced can be geochemically matched to its source rocks.

        (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.  Furthermore, the vast majority of natural gas production is not biogenic methane.  It’s thermogenic methane.  The original source material was largely organic, however the process is not the simple decay of plant material.

        (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.  The source rocks are structurally deeper and usually older than the reservoir rocks.

        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.

        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 reactions. The crust becomes progressively warmer with depth.

        Here’s a very simple example:

        In Pescadero Basin, however, hydrothermal-vent fluids pass through thick layers of seafloor mud. As the hot hydrothermal fluid flows through this mud, it “cooks” organic material, forming methane (natural gas) and oil-like hydrocarbons. The Pescadero Basin vents contain very little sulfide, and the superheated fluids produce giant, light-colored, carbonate chimneys streaked with dark, oily hydrocarbons.

        The “oil-like hydrocarbons” were associated with hydrothermal-vent fluids which “pass through thick layers of seafloor mud”  in the Pescadero Basin.

        The Pescadero Basin is only the second place in the world where carbonate chimneys (instead of ones made primarily of sulfides) have been found in the deep sea. The other known location is the “Lost City” vent field in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, at a spot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

        The geologists also noticed that their rock samples smelled like diesel. They hypothesize that hot hydrothermal fluids migrating upward through the thick sediments of the Pescadero Basin “cook” organic matter in the sediment, converting it into petroleum-like hydrocarbons—a process that has been observed at several other vents in the Pacific. Hydrocarbons may provide nutrition for the unusual microbes that thrive at these vents.



        Just 75 km to the south, the seafloor of the Alarcón Rise is covered with layers of relatively fresh lava flows and very little sediment.  The Alarcón Rise hydrothermal vents are run of the mill black smokers, with no evidence of “hydrothermal oil.”

        Petroleum-like substances have been associated with hydrothermal vents in basins with thick organic-rich sediments. However nearby hydrothermal vents with little to no sediment cover (rises) do not exhibit evidence of “hydrothermal oil.”

        If petroleum was being formed in the mantle, the petroleum-like substances wouldn’t be limited to hydrothermal vents in basins with thick organic-rich sediments.

        Furthermore, the “hydrothermal oil” of the Guaymas Basin is extremely young and relatively rich in 14C…

        Nature 342, 65 – 69 (02 November 1989); doi:10.1038/342065a0

        Hydrothermal oil of Guaymas Basin and implications for petroleum formation mechanisms


        *Refineria de Petroleo Concon, Casilla 242, Concon, Chile

        †Petroleum Research Group, College of Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

        PETROLEUM-LIKE hydrocarbons have been detected in thermally altered Recent sediments of Guaymas Basin1–5 and petroleum-like hydrocarbon impregnations were found in hydrothermal mounds on the sea floor and associated with hydrothermal vent emissions5–9. Here we report the evaluation of such a hydrothermal oil, which we find to be similar to conventionally exploited crude oils. Its young geological age (< 5,000 yr, 14C) 10 indicates that a significant fraction of the organic carbon in the oil has completed the transformation from biomass to migrating oil in less than 5,000 years, thus limiting the oil generation, explusion and migration processes to a geologically short timescale. We estimate the generation potential of such hydrothermal oil and discuss its implications to our understanding of the petroleum generation, expulsion and migration mechanisms.

        The Lost City hydrothermal vent on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Pescadero Basin are the only two known places where carbonate (rather than sulfide) chimneys have been found.  While there are similarities between the Pescadero Basin and Lost City, there’s a big difference…

        Deep-ocean vents are a source of oil and gas
        Hydrocarbons bubble up from the mid-Atlantic’s Lost City.

        Rachel Courtland

        Undersea thermal vents can yield unexpected bounty: natural gas and the building blocks of oil products. In a new analysis of Lost City, a hydrothermal field in the mid-Atlantic, researchers have found that these organic molecules are being created through inorganic processes, rather than the more typical decomposition of once-living material.

        Most of the planet’s oil and natural gas deposits were created when decomposing biological matter is ‘cooked’ in high temperatures underground. But non-biological hydrocarbons have also been found deep inside the Earth, where chemical processes create the molecules from inorganic sources such as rock.


        Among other measurements, the team analysed the amount of carbon-13 in methane, which contains one carbon atom, and in hydrocarbons containing two, three, and four carbon atoms. As the number of carbon atoms rose, the concentration of carbon-13 fell — the opposite trend to that seen in biologically derived hydrocarbons.

        Instead, the pattern of isotopes suggest that a chemical process called the Fischer-Tropsch process is at work in Lost City, creating bigger and bigger hydrocarbons in the hydrogen-rich environment. Although the concentrations were too low to detect without a filter, small amounts of larger hydrocarbons such as kerosene and octane may also be produced.

        The team also found that the methane in Lost City contained no carbon-14, suggesting the carbon source for the hydrocarbons comes from within the mantle, far away from organisms that might have had contact with the global carbon cycle at the surface.



        Setting aside the fact that “the building blocks of oil products” are not the same thing as oil (in much the same manner that a 2×4 is not the same thing as a house)… The carbon in the Lost City hydrocarbons is either so old that carbon-14 is undetectable or it has never “had contact with the global carbon cycle at the surface.”  So, the methane and the traces of heavier hydrocarbons at Lost City were almost certainly sourced from inorganic substances.  While the traces of “hydrothermal oil” in the Pescadero and Guaymas Basins were almost certainly sourced from organic substances.

        If “Earth’s hydrocarbons are a renewable — i.e., inexhaustible — resource,” then no oil reservoir would ever exhibit a decline curve and every reservoir that has ever been produced has eventually exhibited a decline curve.  Oil and gas are continuously formed in the Earth’s crust and continuously migrate into reservoir rocks.  This process has possibly been documented with a 4d seismic survey in Eugene Island 330 Field, the largest Gulf of Mexico oil field, not in deepwater.  However, even EI 330 exhibits a decline curve…


        It’s still producing and it will continue to produce until the production rate not longer justifies the operating expenses.  We simply produce oil & gas at a rate many orders of magnitude faster than the Earth makes it, even if it was forming in the mantle.

        Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how hydrocarbons form. They have to be produced from economically viable accumulations… which only occur in or adjacent to sedimentary basins.

        All that said, we have probably only consumed about 16% of the recoverable petroleum on Earth.  From a human perspective, it might as well be infinite.

        • I generally agree with what you have said, just one minor nit to pick:

          If “Earth’s hydrocarbons are a renewable — i.e., inexhaustible — resource,” then no oil reservoir would ever exhibit a decline curve and every reservoir that has ever been produced has eventually exhibited a decline curve

          That depends on the speed of renewal. If we draw the oil out of a reservoir at a faster rate than it gets “renewed”, then obviously there would be a decline curve despite any “renewal” going on. A decline curve alone doesn’t disprove the theory. A decline curve that isn’t followed by an incline curve once we stop drawing out oil for a particular reservoir on the other hand is pretty good evidence that such a process is not taking place (or taking place so slowly as to be irrelevant)

          • I could have worded that better… Particularly since I made the same point elsewhere in the comment.

          • Another thing that occurs to me and I am genuinely curious and not trolling in any way is how come there are ginormous quantities of hydrocarbons on, say, Titan.?

            These surely are not “fossil” fuels?

          • 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:

        • 1) 4. Comet Halley
          Some comets contain “massive amounts of an organic material almost identical to high grade oil shale (kerogen),” the equivalent of cubic kilometers of such* mixed with other material; for instance, corresponding hydrocarbons were detected during a probe fly-by through the tail of Comet Halley in 1986.
          –Dr. A. Zuppero, U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. Discovery Of Water Ice Nearly Everywhere In The Solar System
          –Huebner, Walter F.(Ed) (1990). Physics and Chemistry of Comets. Springer-Verlag.
          * “its hydrocarbon content may exceed 500 years of OPEC output” – Zuppero.

          2) Gulf Methane is NOT Fossils – David Attenborough

          3) San Andreas fault VS oil and gas fields:


          David Middleton touched on this toward the end of his post ( .
          However, I think he dodged the real question. The key puzzle for me is the origin of kerogen. Once we have kerogen, I think the theory of how it is cooked into shorter-chain hydrocarbons at shallow depths is sound. But we can’t explain the origin of oil without getting to the origin of kerogen.

          Breaching the 2nd law of thermodynamics to promote a story about “fossil fuels” isn’t scientific – it’s anti-science, in fact.

          • What the 2nd Law thermodynamics argument center around is equilibrium thermodynamics.

            We know that diamond may be formed by non-equilibrium processes such as Chemical Vapor Deposition whereas long-chain alkanes (saturated hydrocarbons — main chemical component of petroleum) can be made in the Fischer-Tropsch process.

            Getting #2 Diesel, a valuable product from Fischer-Tropsch requires withdrawing the reaction product early — letting F-T run to completion (thermodynamic equilibrium) ends up with methane. I know this because an expert from Norway on using F-T to make Diesel fuel from Norway’ stranded natural gas resource told this to a university seminar sponsored by our Chemical Engineering department. “Reforming” methane to get hydrogen and carbon monoxide as a feedstock, running it through F-T, and ending up with methane again defeats the purpose of what they want to do in Norway with their natural gas.

            It is well known that the equilibrium conditions of temperature and pressure for forming diamond only exist in the Earth’s mantle, and it is hypothesized that surface diamonds are the result of an explosive “diamond pipe” eruption, which humankind has never witnessed, that bring them up from great depths before they equilibrate back to graphite.

            J. F. Kenney claims that the long-chain alkanes — everything from gasoline to #2 Diesel to lubricants to candle wax — require mantle temperatures and pressures to form under equilibrium conditions, and there as that article in Nature of where water, limestone and iron ore were compressed to those conditions in a diamond anvil cell and not only methane but higher alkanes were formed.

            After the seminar on F-T, where methane was explained as the equilibrium endpoint of this synthetic fuels process, I asked the Chair of Chemical Engineering “what chemical pathway generates petroleum in the Earth’s crust.” This man is a noted researcher on chemical synthesis of hydrocarbon substitutes from biological feedstocks, and to my utter amazement he told me, “I have no idea.”

            The 2nd law of thermodynamics “story about fossil fuels” is that endpoint of “cooking” carbonaceous material under anything other than conditions in the upper mantle is methane — you don’t get long-chain hydrocarbons.

            Thomas Gold had a lot of “crazy” ideas, and J.F. Kenney gives off an air of quackery in his “Gold-is-totally-wrong-but-oil-is-still-abiogenic”, but can you point me to a serious explanation of how straight-chain saturated hydrocarbons form from biological materials in the crustal “oil window”? We can regard all the evidence we want that this is where oil has to come from, but when I asked someone who reasonably should know this, the answer I got is that there is not a good chemical-thermodynamic theory.

          • The Chemistry of Petroleum Formation

            At its base, petroleum is a fossil fuel, which means it is derived from the remains of organic material. In other words, petroleum results from a number of chemical reactions that occur to material that was once alive. In most cases, liquid petroleum was once zooplankton or algae that settled to the bottom of a sea or lake and was then buried under sediment. The sediment ensured that no oxygen was able to reach the decaying organic matter and this set the stage for the formation of oil.

            In most cases, the organic matter goes through several changes that take thousands or millions of years. As sediment continues to pile up and increase pressure on the organic matter, it is first changed into a waxy solid called kerogen. In fact, this material is currently being mined in many “fracking” processes because it can, through chemical conversion, be made into liquid petroleum and natural gas.

            Kerogen is formed in a process called diagenesis, the chemical form of which is outlined in the following diagram.

            Chemical formula of Diagenesis

            Essentially, heat and pressure break down organic compounds like humin (not human) and various other organic acids, lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates to form long hydrocarbon chains called geopolymers. These geopolymers are the basis of kerogen. Diagenesis is a critical mechanism in the formation of coal and is just the first of several processes necessary to convert solid hydrocarbon to liquid petroleum.

            The addition of greater heat is necessary to convert kerogen to liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons and the process takes time. The combination of high temperature and pressure is necessary to carry out the endothermic process known as hydrocarbon pyrolysis. It is sometimes referred to as cracking as well.

            Hydrocarbon pyrolysis is irreversible, which means that once a liquid hydrocarbon is formed, it is not converted back into solid form. This is why oil deposits can exist below the surface for millions of years unchanged. Liquid hydrocarbons are really just formed by breaking longer chains. It is a general rule in chemistry that the larger a molecule is, the more likely it is to be solid and the smaller a molecule is, the more likely it is to be a liquid or gas. Long hydrocarbon chains are solid, while medium chains (5 – 25 carbons long) are liquid. Smaller chains (less than 5 carbon atoms), tend to be gases. That is why gasoline at 7 or 8 carbons is a liquid while methane, with only one carbon atom, is a gas.

            Versions of cracking are used in industry to create everything from charcoal to carbon fiber to biofuels. The process is often used in oil refineries to breakdown the less valuable heating oil molecules (25 carbons per chain on average) into smaller, more valuable 7 and 8 chain molecules that can be sold as gasoline.

            The Importance of Oxygen
            Oxygen is critical to many processes and its absence is absolutely critical to the formation of hydrocarbons. When oxygen is present, several things can happen. At the surface, when organic material is first laid down, the presence of oxygen means the presence of bacteria that can quickly consume the decaying material before it has a chance to be buried by sediment. This is why most petroleum deposits were once at the bottom of a sea or lake, often one with very low oxygen content, where sediment had time to accumulate before too much decay could occur in the presence of oxygen.

            If oxygen is present, besides derailing the early stages of kerogen formation completely, it can also lead to the formation of acids and other molecules rather than strict hydrocarbon. These are usually detrimental to the formation of hydrocarbon and can even reverse formation that has already occurred.

            Finally, levels of oxygen that are not high enough to prevent hydrocarbon formation can still be a problem Low levels of oxygen can lead to the buildup of toxic nitrogen oxide compounds as well as sulfuric and sulfurous acids. All these act as contaminants in petroleum, making it more expensive and difficult to refine.


            1.2.2. Maturation is the conversion of organic matter to hydrocarbons. The first stage is the formation of kerogen. As the pressure and temperature is the source rock is further increase, kerogen converts to petroleum. If the temperature is raised above 130C for even a short period of time, crude oil will convert to gas. Initially the composition of the gas will show a high content of C4–C10 components (wet gas and condensate), but with further increases in temperature the mixture will convert to light hydrocarbons (C1–C3, dry gas).


            Crude oil in the Earth’s crust breaks down into natural gas 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.

            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.


            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.

          • David Middleton:

            A thermal process at “normal” pressures generates paraffins from torbanite. Yes, fossil inclusions attribute the carbon compounds in torbanite, a type of oil shale, to algae, but what is the pathway by which algal lips become torbanite?

            My remarks about Fischer-Tropsch (FT) are in no way suggesting that an FT reaction is taking place anywhere within the Earth. It is meant as an example of a chemical pathway that generates long-chain alkanes as an intermediate product, but when let run to completion ends up with methane. An equilibrium chemical process generating methane from organic matter is well known — cows and even the human gut does this all the time. But what chemical process starts from lipids of biological origin and ends up with candle wax?

            Two possible explanation I could accept are 1) oil doesn’t come from any old organic matter but rather from the lipid vesicles of particular strains of algae containing paraffins or 2) deep crustal bacteria reform un-saturated hydrocarbons from organic matter into the peculiar saturated hydrocarbon of petroleum. Explanation 1) may fit into the Peak Oil scarcity of petroleum, that it comes from a peculiar organic source whereas 2) may offer hope for a larger abundance.

            I am not saying oil is abiogenic, but I am saying that we don’t quite know the full story of how it forms — the explanations I have seen still involve “hand waving”, and the bio-fuels scientist I mentioned, whose expertise is on turning biological substances into usable fuels, appears to be telling me that science does not have a complete answer.

          • Science almost never has the complete answer… That would take all of the fun out of science.

            While the building blocks of oil could come from deep crustal material, crude oil can’t exist very long at temperatures above 130 C. This limits the depth at which crude oil can form and accumulate.

        • Somehow, I think we may be importing Titan’s liquid methane in giant space freighters before we reach peak oil.

          I hope we never reach peak David Middleton.

          • The BP spreadsheet can be used to plot oil production from the world minus (USA+Russia+Canada+Brazil), the plot shows a flat line from 2004 from 2017.

            I picked these four countries because they rely on nonconventional sources to increase production, while Russia increases as its oil industry becomes smarter applying capitalist principles and recovers from the USSR collapse. This is an interesting way to look at what’s going on.

        • Abiotic petroleum would be more credible if we find octane (C8H18) in other planets and moons. It’s a common component of gasoline. Its enthalpy of combustion is 5330 KJ/mol vs. 890 KJ/mol for methane (CH4), or 6x higher which means it also needs 6x more energy to produce from simple molecules like CO2 and H2O.

          Plants use solar energy to produce concentrated chemical energy in the form of complex hydrocarbon molecules. We have not observed this process occurring naturally without plant or microbial life.

          • Reversing the enthalpy of combustion of C8H18 gives an endothermic reaction with heat input 5330 KJ/mol. It needs 9 mol. H2O reactant. Temperature for endothermic reaction to proceed:
            Specific heat of H2O = 75.3 J/mol-K
            75.3 J/mol-K (9 mol) = 677.7 J/K
            5,330,000 J/(677.7 J/K) = 7865 K
            Highest temperature in Earth’s mantle = 4300 K (not hot enough)

            How do plants do it? Calculate energy on molecular level:
            Reactants 9 mol. H2O + 8 mol. C = 17 mol.
            17 mol (6 E+23 molecules/mol) = 10^25
            5330 KJ/10^25 = 5 E-19 J = 3.26 eV
            Energy of violet light = 3.26 eV. UV is higher

            Sunlight has enough energy for endothermic reaction. Sunlight is high energy on molecular level. That’s why UV can damage skin cells and cause skin cancer

        • Posted quote by David Middleton – December 7, 2018 at 11:29 am

          Deep-ocean vents are a source of oil and gas
          Hydrocarbons bubble up from the mid-Atlantic’s Lost City.
          Rachel Courtland

          Most of the planet’s oil and natural gas deposits were created when decomposing biological matter is ‘cooked’ in high temperatures underground. But non-biological hydrocarbons have also been found deep inside the Earth, where chemical processes create the molecules from inorganic sources such as rock.
          Among other measurements, the team analysed the amount of carbon-13 in methane, which contains one carbon atom, and in hydrocarbons containing two, three, and four carbon atoms. As the number of carbon atoms rose, the concentration of carbon-13 fell — the opposite trend to that seen in biologically derived hydrocarbons.

          Oh my, my, …. so the concentration of carbon-13 in non-biological hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) DECREASES as the number of carbon atoms increase. And when humans burn those non-biological hydrocarbons then far more carbon-12 than carbon-13 is emitted into the atmosphere via the CO2.

          I don’t believe that Ferdinand Engelbeen has taken the above into consideration relative to his claim concerning the “δ13C”, to wit:

          Ferdinand Engelbeen – June 12, 2018 3:13 pm

          The interesting point is that the δ13C (that is the ratio between 13CO2 and 12CO2) rate of change changes in opposite direction. That is the case if the increase/decrease in CO2 rate of change is caused by decaying/growing vegetation. If the CO2 rate of change was caused by warming/cooling oceans, then the CO2 and δ13C rate of change changes would parallel each other.
          read more here

          Ferdinand has consistently disagreed with me that the temperature of the ocean waters is the primary “driver” of atmospheric CO2 ppm quantities as measured at the MLO, Hawaii.

          • δ13C is complicated. Thermogenic natural gas, most of what is produced from oil & gas wells, is enriched in 13C relative to biogenic methane. However, automobile exhaust is depleted in 13C relative to the atmosphere.

            δ13C depletion can be indicative of anthropogenic CO2, but it can also be caused by a lot of other processes. δ13C depletion have been associated with past warming events long before humans started burning things.

          • but it (δ13C) can also be caused by a lot of other processes.

            And that is exactly what I have been telling Ferdinand Engelbeen for the past 2 or 4 years …. but he averts his eyes and his mind to the scientific facts, … apparently because it messes up his “mass balance” thingy …. as well as all of his pretty colored graphs he generated as proof of his claims that the increase in atmospheric CO2 ppm has a definite anthropogenic cause (signature).

        • There is no doubt and for the reasons given, that David M. is correct that the earth’s abundance of oil and associated liquid hydrocarbons (oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids) were and are being generated by thermal alteration of organic matter. The evidence is manifold, nearly worldwide, and has accumulated during at least 100 years of exploration and science. In addition, the thermogenic process can be simulated in the laboratory using the hydrous pyrolysis technique such as pioneered by M. D. Lewan at Amoco and the US Geological Survey.

          I completely agree that the Thomas Gold abiogenic petroleum hypothesis is not supported by the evidence including the deep drilling experiment at Siljan Ring structure in Sweden. David M. has previously detailed that the claimed and miniscule “shows” found at that deep drilling experiment were contamination.

          Methane (natural gas) has an additional story. Yes, it is widely recognized that most of the world’s commercial methane reserves and past production is also derived from the thermal cracking of organic matter, often in association with oil formation, but vast amounts of methane are also the byproduct of low-temperature (less than 100 degrees Celsius) metabolism of organic matter by anaerobic “bacteria”. This is “biogenic” methane. Many people are familiar with “swamp gas”, gas in peat bogs, deep mud, shallow coalbeds (Powder River Basin, USA) and shallow carbonaceous strata intersected by water wells (many areas including Denver Basin, USA).

          Significant natural gas fields which produce biogenic methane exist in the northern Great Plains of the USA and Canada and other places. Some of the world’s largest natural gas fields located in Siberia produce biogenic methane.

          Methane is a very simple compound. Likely abiogenic methane is well-known such as in the deep gold mines in South Africa but I am unaware of any commercial production from such occurrences and the relative amounts of this abiogenic methane, although significant in terms of safety, are very small and not commercially viable, to date.

          Methane Cold Seeps
          I take one exception to what David M. has written, above. I address a minor but factual detail that does not conflict with his overall thesis but which does highlight some new and interesting exploration.

          To wit: “The Lost City hydrothermal vent on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Pescadero Basin are the only two known places where carbonate (rather than sulfide) chimneys have been found.” Whereas the writer may have intended to restrict the above claim to only hot water vents (hydrothermal sites), the statement, as written, invites me to add the following:

          A carbonate chimney was dredged from offshore Oregon, USA and has been on display at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. During the summer of 2018 the Exploration Vessel Nautilus using remotely-operated submersible vehicles (ROV) investigated methane cold seeps offshore Washington, Oregon and N. California. Methane Cold Seeps (biogenic methane) were located at more than 1000 sites at water depths of 40 to 2040 meters. Several sites were extensively documented and sampled. See Cascadia Margin at These sites have calcium carbonate hard ground and spectacular communities of organisms. I watched live video of some of the Cascadia Margin undersea work and you can do the same during future expeditions.

          Finally, carbonate mounds, nodules and concretions, some with small chimney structures and embedded with the unusual cold seep fossil organisms, are found onshore western Oregon and Washington in deep marine “mudstone” rocks of Paleogene age. The lithologic, biologic and geochemical evidence allows the hypothesis that these are ancient examples of the active offshore cold seeps.

          • Hydrothermal = hot water…

            After his ROV dive, Clague noted, “This site was not at all what I was expecting.” For one thing, the fragments of chimneys that the ROV brought back to the surface were quite different from those collected at other vents in the area. The Pescadero chimneys consisted entirely of light-colored carbonate minerals instead of the dark sulfide minerals that are abundant in hydrothermal chimneys elsewhere in the Gulf.

            The Pescadero Basin is only the second place in the world where carbonate chimneys (instead of ones made primarily of sulfides) have been found in the deep sea. The other known location is the “Lost City” vent field in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, at a spot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.


            Carbonate chimneys are frequently associated with cold seeps.

            There’s definitely lots of biogenic methane out there.

            Lots of interesting critters live on and around methane seeps… of all varieties.

        • So when a dinosaur died, did the survivors dig a grave several miles down into the earth’s crust just to bury it?

          I’m trying to figure out how, short of something like a massive global flood, where biomass could somehow find itself compressed under miles and miles of rock.

    • Let’s see if I have this right. Finding a large deposit of oil precisely where current theories of biotic oil predict it should be, is proof of the abiotic theory?

      Are you sure you’ve thought this plan through?

      • That’s because the conventional theory of hydrocarbon formation was largely derived from how and where we found oil & gas.

        • How dare you bring empirical data into the discussion?!

          It seems to me these days that, the more modeling is involved, the more “correct” the theory – at least to modern “scientists.”

          Biotic generation theory is a thin layer of models laid on top of a huge ocean of measured data.

          Abiotic generation theory is a thick layer of models laid on top of a very thin layer of measured data.

          Sounds kind of like another “science” we know of.

          • Writing Observer

            There is the remote possibility David and the rest of the geological oil community are wrong. Well, 3% at least.

            In which case we must determine the future of mankind on the certainty that 97% of the scientific community is right. Well, 97% of 3% at least.

            Onward to Valhalla, 97% of 3% certainty is all we need to achieve our objective of global domination.

            It’s Friday night, gimme a break!

            OK…….I’m stepping away from the beer now.

          • OK…….I’m stepping away from the beer now.

            Finally . . . we’ve been waiting for you over here in the Whiskey section.

          • Explain the formation of the longest long-chain hydrocarbons in abiotic genesis.

            That usually shuts them up.

    • The abiotic oil idea looks more plausible all the time

      How so? There’s nothing about these latest finds that suggests they’re any different than any previous find. so how exactly do you see it as making the “abiotic oil idea looks more plausible”?

  3. So, when I hear about (yet another) oil/gas deposit measurable in trillions of cubic feet (we’re talking ten cubic miles!!!), I don’t see why the abiogenic theory for oil origination doesn’t get more traction. What are the odds that 10 cubic miles of dead dinosaurs (or other organic life) piled up enough to make that much oil? Also, keep in mind, it’s not very likely that oil to dinosaur flesh would be a 1 to 1 ratio. Odds are it would take a lot of dinosaur flesh to make one drum of 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.

        • Not more than a link:
          Generation of methane in the Earth’s mantle: In situ high pressure–temperature measurements of carbonate reduction

          We present in situ observations of hydrocarbon formation via carbonate reduction at upper mantle pressures and temperatures. Methane was formed from FeO, CaCO3-calcite, and water at pressures between 5 and 11 GPa and temperatures ranging from 500°C to 1,500°C. The results are shown to be consistent with multiphase thermodynamic calculations based on the statistical mechanics of soft particle mixtures. The study demonstrates the existence of abiogenic pathways for the formation of hydrocarbons in the Earth’s interior and suggests that the hydrocarbon budget of the bulk Earth may be larger than conventionally assumed.

          • I think that everyone, everywhere, at some point in time, has been embarrassed by their sure knowledge that methane, expected, was actually something else.

          • When you get nothing but C1’s on a mud log show, you’re usually looking at dry natural gas. Oil shows usually have heavies (C4’s and C’5’s) and fluorescence in the samples.

            C1 is methane, C4 is butane, C5 is pentane.

          • When you get nothing but C1’s on a mud log

            😊 😊 the above sentence confused me for a second as I pondered what the devil is a C1,….. then I realized you were counting hydrocarbon “ane’s”.

      • David,

        Extracted hydrocarbons certainly have a biological signature, but so does dirt and rocks, so you can’t rule out cross contamination and/or that what we extract is a combination of both biological and primordial sources. The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, so your evidence doesn’t falsify Gold’s hypothesis that some of the hydrocarbons we extract from the ground have a primordial origin.

        I attended some of Professor Gold’s lectures many years ago. Among other things he brought up was that hydrocarbons of biological origin certainly exist and that the same kind of geological structures that trap them would trap primordial hydrocarbons, which makes cross contamination inevitable.

        Another interesting nugget is that just a few ppm of CH4 dissolved in the mantle would represent more natural gas then we have ever or will ever find at the surface. Economically exploiting this is another matter, even if it happened to concentrate in pockets throughout the mantle and was reformed into longer chain hydrocarbons.

        As far a I can tell, Gold’s hypothesis is still a valid hypothesis as is has not been falsified, but neither has it been validated. That being said, it doesn’t mean in any way shape or form that the vast majority of what we extract from the ground isn’t of biological origin.

        • The hypothesis that methane can be generated by the Fischer-Tropsch process has been confirmed.

          It’s highly probable that hydrothermal fluids from deep in the Earth’s crust play a role in oil & gas formation and migration.

          Gold’s hypothesis that accumulations of oil & gas are not of organic origin has been falsified every time it’s been tested.

          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 produced from the fractured granite 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.

          • David,

            I don’t think Gold ever said that all of the carbon in oil and gas was abiotic, although this is often inferred. He did seem to attribute a significant fraction to non biological sources, but definitely not all of it. Biological and non biological sources of carbon are not mutually exclusive. A biological source being the subduction of deep ocean methane ices and a non biological source being the seepage of deep primordial methane, both ending up in about the same places in the crust. C14 tells us the former exists, but doesn’t preclude the latter from existing.

            Land based biomass doesn’t seem to contribute to oil and gas as it tends to end up as coal when it’s otherwise prevented from being recycled into the biosphere while the carbon in ocean biomass is frequently sequestered on the ocean floor, subject to anaerobic decomposition and eventual subduction.

            BTW, abiotic processes are already involved with the cracking and reforming of hydrocarbons deep underground, although most of this activity seems to be reforming methane into longer chain hydrocarbons. If you can figure out a way to biologically decompose biomass directly into light sweet crude, or better yet, gasoline, you’ll be able to mint money.

          • That’s why I don’t care for the biotic or biogenic vs abiotic of abiogenic characterization. The formation of oil and gas from biological material is not a biological process, nor has that ever been part of the conventional theory of hydrocarbon formation.

            Biogenic methane, directly formed from the decay of organic matter, is very different than the thermogenic methane that forms with crude oil.

          • People love to invoke the Russians, and use the Cuu Long Basin as an example of what the “Russian Theory” can find. I have the original VietSovPetro seismic data here in my office. Oligocene algal rich lacustrine sediments lap up against the basement rocks, precisely as Dave shows. The oil contains biomarkers of the bottriococcus algae, found in those onlapping sediments. The Russian and Viet geologists I worked with all agree that is the source of the oil.

          • I’ve flown over those Vietnamese offshore oil rigs, at night, in a 747 at cruise level. A very eerie sight, hundreds of stark, haloed arclights in the mist-shrouded blackness.

    • Because it’s not dinosaurs. Even the coal wasn’t made from dinosaurs. Coal came from the compacted remains of ancient PLANT matter. Year after Year of entire forests of plants taking CO2 out of the air and using the carbon as a building material. And after they die and decompose a portion of that carbon remains as new topsoil, and over Centuries and Mellenium and longer, that carbon enriched soil built up and was compacted more and more. And after a few million years it was compacted down into coal.

      Oil and Gas were formed much the same way, but over even longer periods. And most of it came not from land forests, but from the similar build up of deceased Ocean life. Which is why Geologist find them most often under land that once, tens and hundreds of Millions of years ago, we’re seas and oceans.

      So, CAN Oil or Gas be formed by an abiogenic process? Possibly. But as far as I am aware none of it we have found so far NEEDED to be. It all fits fairly neatly into are understanding of geology. To prove abiogenesis we would need to find oil somewhere that never had life. And that rules out almost all of the Earth.


      • Because it’s not dinosaurs

        indeed, but it’s a common myth that the average citizen believes. The roots of the myth seem to go back to Sinclair oil’s dinosaur exhibits at world’s fairs as far back as 1933.

      • Schitzree – December 7, 2018 at 11:57 am

        And after they die and decompose a portion of that carbon remains as new topsoil, and over Centuries and Mellenium and longer, that carbon enriched soil built up and was compacted more and more. And after a few million years it was compacted down into coal.

        Schitzree, now I was thinking that the majority of all coal deposits formed where dead biomass accumulated in swampy areas or very shallow inland seas, lakes or wet, soggy floodplains where an anaerobic environment precluded any microbial decomposition.

        A neighbor of mine, now deceased, has a fossilized section of a tree trunk (12”D x 14”H) that he retrieved from the middle section of a coal seam. Which infers the dead biomass accumulated around the growing tree.

    • Well Matt, we agree on one thing, not much oil came from dead dinosaurs. Dave has shown saintly patience in offering up an opportunity to learn a bit about oil and gas. Take the time and try to learn from what he has provided.

    • Not dinosaurs, most likely the vast majority is dead plankton-ever seen a plankton bloom? David Middleton’s explanation is spot on.

  4. I especially enjoy these articles about area of Texas where I grew up(Midland, Texas ). After graduating HS my father arranged a summer job on a company that was exploring for oil/natural gas before I started College. Working out doors in the summer is brutal.

  5. Maybe we’re lucky and there will be enough CO2 emitted from burning hydrocarbons to result in a measurable and beneficial warming to accompany the boost in agricultural productivity that we are already seeing and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s still not enough to prevent the next ice age, but then again, no amount of CO2 would be enough.

    • True, but it will be a hell of a lot easier surviving the next glaciation with gas heaters! (we are still in the ice age)

  6. “In 2017, the United States consumed a total of 7.28 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.96 million barrels per day.”

    Let us not get carried away here. The amount of estimated reserves in this basin is less than 7 years supply for the US. However combining all the reserves everywher Venezuela, Sudia Arabia Cnada oilsands and the world is awash in oil. I think that in the future the Gulf of Mexico field will dwarf the Permian Basin amount.

    • There’s still a lot of oil to be found in the Gulf of Mexico… But the Permian Basin is the closest thing a a hydrocarbon Unicorn, that I can imagine.

      Allen Gilmer, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at DrillingInfo, Inc., is not a man who minces words, an attribute that has served him well during a long career in the oil and gas industry. When it comes to the Permian Basin and the amount of oil and gas resource contained in it, he becomes positively loquacious.

      “We should view the Permian Basin as a permanent resource,” he says, “The Permian is best viewed as a near infinite resource – we will never produce the last drop of economic oil from the Basin.”

      No one disputes that the resource in the Permian is huge, but ‘infinite’ is a big word. I asked him to expand on that concept. “That is the practical reality with the amount of resource that is in the ground,” he says, “The research we’ve done indicates that we have at least half a trillion barrels in the Permian at reasonable economics, and it could be as high as 2 trillion barrels. That is, as a practical matter, an infinite amount of resource, and it is something that has huge geopolitical consequence for the United States, in a very good way. It has a huge consequence in terms of GDP, and right now it is creating an American energy global ascendancy.”


      • Roughly 2 trillion barrels of economically recoverable oil supplying a nation which consumes 20 million barrels per day means 275 years of supply. That, in my view, is infinite. It’s enough to mean that our children will never have to face an oil shortage. In this situation, the following paraphrase of Jack Handey applies: “I believe in making the world [energy independent] for our children, but not for our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex.”

        BTW, David Middleton, the post plus your subsequent replies were the best I’ve read on petroleum. I once worked on some of the recovery equipment, and gained what I thought was a lot of insight on the process. Your writings have given me a huge new perspective. Thank you.

        • Hell, if we are going to bs, then let’s bs Texas size, and claim the Permian has 200 trillion barrels. That should make acreage prices go through the roof, we sell 20 acres and retire in a nice place like Amarillo, where they have a real nice minigolf and thai restaurants with cloth napkins.

    • US yearly oil consumption has barely changed in 40 years, despite large growth in population. Comes down to energy efficiency and generating more electricity via natural gas. The big growth in oil demand is to be found in China, India, and other emerging markets.

      Africa is the next big energy demand story, but that continent is energy rich, as well.

      • Adam

        With all the mineral wealth in Africa, and considering the time they have had, and the money poured into the continent, I still can’t figure out why the place isn’t as successful as anywhere else.

        Is it a cultural thing? I mean, you have to go back to European Medieval times to replicate some of the living conditions of many Africans today.

        • Well, development only takes place when you’ve got the right mix of culture, education and good government. I’d argue that some of the right conditions exist in some African countries.

          Many people (including those at the IMF and World Bank) assume that natural resource income will necessarily spur development. Clearly not the case, as many resource-rich countries aren’t developed (Iraq, Venezuela, Angola), while many resource-poor ones are (Singapore, Israel, South Korea).

          • Despots such as Mobutu of the DRC, retarded economic growth by decades, and the good old US of A backed the son of a bitch

          • Kabila wasn’t any better. When Mobutu was ruling Zaire, I was in French Congo and saw how Sassou, who wasn’t any better than Mobutu, robbed the country’s wealth. Later on we have seen Angolan socialists become just as corrupt as Mobutu, or their Nigerian counterparts. Or should I mention Equatorial Guinea, where a socialist former Soviet client runs a torture shop next to a luxury mall for regime big wigs? Do you want me to go on?

          • Adam

            My late father in law was a UN forester in the 50’s. He cleared and cultivated Maiduguri in Nigeria and started with a single corrugated tin hut.

            The place flourished and went on to host a university, which was recently sacked and torched by Boko Haram.

            The government was in place, the finance was in place, the education was in place, Maiduguri had everything the west could provide yet the place was razed.

            Were he alive when the place was destroyed he would have been distraught as he literally, hacked the first clearing in the bush by hand.

            So I still don’t get it.

  7. The timing on this is hilarious. I mean, imagine how they are taking this news in Katowice. It must be going down like a fart in church. Love it.

    • Yes good point and I do hope they are getting bulletins telling them the good news. Perhaps they will have to hold hands and chant to dispel the collective angst.

      Much as I had originally hope Thomas Gold was right, I remember reading David Middleton’s Previous patient explanation about oil formation and concluding all the evidence he pres3nted was compelling. The real thing to remember here is that our all too short lives ill equip us to appreciate the staggering nature of what has rightly been called deep time and just how long the time span of geological action and accumulation really is.

      I am immensely cheered up by the fact we have only used about 16 per cent of the known oil reserves and add that to the fact that Britain has only used about 19 per cent of its known coal.

      When this alarmist rubbish finally ends we can remember that – although we might have fusion by then.

      • Ultimately… Even if Gold was right… Oil & gas have to be found and produced from economically viable accumulations.

  8. Folks just won’t give up on the dead dinosaurs thing.
    Let’s pile dead people up — there are many of them.
    We could cover them with ash and use the oil, gas, coal when needed.
    Okay, going back to my room now.

  9. Has anyone got any idea what the minimum oil price would need to be to break even on these shale plays?

  10. The Permian Basin [is] a nearly infinite resource.

    Serious question here …. I’ve seen others online say that oil as a “fossil fuel” is a misnomer because of the adiabatic process (?). Considering 8% of the total planetary biomass is extremophilic bacteria deep in the crust, is it at least plausible to speculate that we’ll never run out of oil because it’s continuously being replenished by the very bacteria we know so little about down there?

    • We’ll never run out of oil because there is more oil in the Earth’s crust than we will ever produce. However, oil isn’t forming in the Earth nearly as fast as we produce it. This is why the production from every oil well, every oil reservoir and every oil field eventually declines until it is no longer economic.

  11. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning. Donald Trump

    Nope. Not yet at least. 🙂

    Back in the 1970s after the Arab oil shock, I got really interested in renewable energy. Then oil got cheap and available again.

    It wasn’t that long ago, before fracking, that renewable energy was starting to look interesting again.

    As it stands, there is no excuse for renewable energy.

    • Fracing was invented in 1949 but methods employed today are “light years” ahead of the original technique. Thank you to American private enterprise and risk capital.

  12. I like how the USGS always gives the impression that it was the government that finds and produces these resources.

  13. Question for David: Given that there is oil under the North slope of Alaska, and given the mechanism for oil formation, and given that the latitude of those formations hasn’t changed much via plate tectonics, does that mean that the temperatures at that latitude was necessarily higher then than today?
    Thanks, Dan

    • No. The oil didn’t form at the surface. The depth of the oil window isn’t dependent on surface temperature.

      Geothermal gradient is the rate of increasing temperature with respect to increasing depth in the Earth’s interior. Away from tectonic plate boundaries, it is about 25 °C per km of depth (1 °F per 70 feet of depth) in most of the world. Strictly speaking, geo-thermal necessarily refers to the Earth but the concept may be applied to other planets.

      The Earth’s internal heat comes from a combination of residual heat from planetary accretion, heat produced through radioactive decay, and possibly heat from other sources. The major heat-producing isotopes in the Earth are potassium-40, uranium-238, uranium-235, and thorium-232. At the center of the planet, the temperature may be up to 7,000 K and the pressure could reach 360 GPa(3.6 million atm). Follow us: @GeologyTime on Twitter

    • “does that mean that the temperatures at that latitude was necessarily higher then than today?”

      Yes, the Cretaceous was a warm ocean world with anoxic bottom water in the Boreal Ocean in the Early Cretaceous leading to oil source rock formation (think modern Black Sea and then some).

      This paper by Lena B. Golovneva describes the climatic conditions in the Late Cretaceous, but as you correctly point out the limited paleo-latitude change over the last 120 million years since the Early Cretaceous means that the Boreal Ocean has been at polar latitudes for a very long time.

      This investigation of the Maastrichtian climate in the Northern Hemisphere is based on taxonomic and ecological studies of fossil floras, leaf physiognomy and the distribution of dinosaurian faunas. Fossil plant evidence indicates that the climate during Maastrichtian time was warm temperate at high and middle latitudes, and subtropical south of 40°N. Precipitation was relatively high (about 700–800 mm) and evenly distributed over the year. The annual range of temperatures was similar to that of modern maritime climates, but the latitudinal gradient was lower than at present. At high latitudes cold-month mean temperatures were about 3–4°C and probably never dropped below 0°C for extended periods. It seems that these comparatively mild winter temperatures in polar regions were a result of the heating of these areas by warm oceanic upwelling.

      The Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous) climate in the Northern Hemisphere

      • The question was if the presence of oil under the North Slope necessitated Alaska being warmer during the Cretaceous.

        The entire planet was warmer during the Cretaceous.

  14. Abiotic gas exists in the precambrian in small pockets in highly altered ultra mafic intrusions. I worked as a mine geologist at a nickel mine in northern Canada in the 1960’s in such a geological environment. The rocks were thought to be 1.8 billion years old and our diamond drillers were occasionally hitting pockets of gas that they foolishly took pleasure in burning off. This included holes on the 3000′ level. At the time the current theory for the formation of abiotic gas didn’t exist and the presence of the gas always bothered me as I could think of no way for it to be organic. It was quite a relief when the theory was developed solving the mystery.

  15. David.
    As a matter of interest, how many trees – cubic meters, and volume of atmospheric co2 would it take to create the volumes declared in the find. How many square miles of forest etc. Has anyone done the calculations.

    • Oil doesn’t come from trees or forests. It primarily comes from plankton, algae, etc.

      There were enough phytoplanton (coccolithophores) in the Cretaceous Atlantic Ocean to do this with their tests…

      Marine shale formations, 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.

  16. I remember when OPEC drove the oil price bus. Now, with U.S. oil, and also Canadian oil, not so much. Funny how they still like to pretend they do, though, like little kids with their hands on a fake steering wheel, pretending to drive the car. So cute. And that is also how we can pressure Iran, because cutting off the oil from them has little effect. So they suffer, not us, from their own intransigence. You gotta love it.

  17. Wolfcamp A, B,C and Bonesprings are well known. The USGS news isn’t anything new. I know Concho Resources very well. They have big lease holdings in the Delaware Basin. If you look at their most recent presentation, it is clear what the problem is. Concho has generated 630 million in what they call free cash flow since the Q3 2015. Their market cap is 24 billion, which means their equity cost of capital is at least 2.4 billion annually. In their free cash flow measure, the only include drilling and completion expenses. Like all of the Permian producers, they don’t really earn their cost of capital under $65 per barrel. Also, if you look at the most recent EIA drilling productivity report, Permian players only add around 650 barrels per rig per month. The problem isn’t the oil availability, its the cost of production. I don’t blame Trump for wanting lower oil prices, but as a businessman he should understand the cost of capital. Oil prices are headed higher if the world wants to consume 100 million barrels of liquids per day.

    • Yep. Nothing “new” here apart from the characterization of these formations as continuous resources.

      Shale is a low-margin business. It’s tough, but not impossible, to make money.

      In the crazy world of Wall Street, company valuation almost seems to be based on acreage positions.

  18. Peak oil was never a very important concept. The important concept is EROEI (Energy return on energy invested) We are slowly but surely sliding down the EROEI curve. It is going to be very hard for the US shale producers to maintain production above 13-14 million barrels a day. The decline curves kill you and SLB is already reporting interference between wells. Oil will have to price back to 65-70 for the US to continue any growth. There is a reason that 10 rigs were dropped this week in NA. I expect to see 2019 budget much lower than anticipated in the summer.

    • EROEI is totally irrelevant.

      All that matters is the finding & development cost and the price of oil. Both are denominated in $/bbl.

      • That’s the stupidest statement anybody could possibly make.

        David Middleton, you are a sophomoric, self-anal-fingering charlatan.

        • It’s really a simple concept. It doesn’t matter how much energy it takes to extract, refine and transport fossil fuels. 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, Texaco, 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 Texaco, 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).

  19. My rough calculation suggests that that is enough oil and gas to keep the UK going for 100 years. I like a perspective of this kind as we do when we measure areas in terms of the size of Wales.

  20. Even if we manage to run through most of the Permian field in a reasonably short (human lifetime) period, there are a lot of smaller fields across the country that still hold a ridiculous amount of oil. They were mostly abandoned when the standard extraction methods were no longer useful.

    My dad worked in the oil fields as a drill bit salesman for a long time (in east Texas), and he used to talk how much oil we were leaving in the ground because the known formations had a lot locked up.

    For that matter, there’s a lot of old wells that were sealed up when they stopped pumping out enough oil with standard methods – but could be reopened and fracked at a fraction of the cost of drilling a new well (except it’s apparently still against the law to do so, for some reason).

        • It’s generally not possible to re-enter a well that has been plugged and abandoned (P&A’ed). And it’s generally not illegal. In rare cases where it is mechanically possible, it’s usually not economically viable.

          If the well has been properly P&A’ed, It’s been plugged with cement and the casing has been cut off below ground level (mud line offshore). We can’t even re-enter offshore P&A’ed wells drilled from producing platforms for the purpose of sidetracking them. We have to perform a slot recovery ( It’s a relatively expensive and mechanically risky procedure, which can be more expensive than drilling a new well.

          If there was a reason to re-enter it, it would be cheaper and safer to drill a new well.

          Furthermore, most frac’ing plays require horizontal completions to be economically viable.

      • David, there are about 50,000 wells that were not irredeemably plugged that can be re-entered for more intensive fracking. By about 2015, EOG (a piece of former [Enron]), the most innovative of frac oil and gas producters, began increasing frack sand employment, bigger fracs, and closer spaced fracs with excellent improvements in production. They basically were only in a learning curve a decade ago.

        Regarding the USGS estimates, it is clear that this study had to have been done during Obama’s tenure, but the authors not permitted to publish it. One couldnt cobble together a study of this size just since Trump arrived! I’m sure Trump’s Secretary found this gem pretty much ready to go when he was confirmed for the job.

        Incidentally, the USGS used to have a reputation for underestimating resources. I don’t know about now.

        • Abandoned wells that were not properly P&A’ed are not suitble for anything. They are potential company-ending liabilities. Most shale and tight formation completions require horizontal or lateral completions. Old, improperly P&A’ed vertical wells aren’t useful for anything other than proper P&A’ing. Most of them either watered-out, in which case frac’ing would be pointless or they pressure-depleted, in which case an attempt to re-enter the well and recomplete it with modern stimulation measures would probably be pointless and expensive.

          Enron spun EOG off as a seperate company in the early to mid 1990’s. They spun off EOG because they determined that they could make more money off derivatives and derivatives of derivatives than they could actully producing and delivering an actual product.

          USGS published a lot of good stuff during the Obama maladministration. USGS and the EIA were the only two agencies that didn’t seem to go full greentard. But they will probably continue to underestimate what the oil industry will find and produce.

  21. David and Old Geologist
    I’m involved in a Witswatersrand gold system, as an investor, on the border between Colombia and Brazil.
    It is very similar to those systems found in South Africa.
    One of the identifying features are thin layers of bitumen-stuff.
    Associated with the alluvial gold laid down in Pre-Cambrian times.
    Don’t know where to look to understand how the “bitumen” got there.

    • O &G are fluids and can get into the Precambrian with plumbing available. Rift valleys are underlain by deep fractures and down-dropped blocks (grabens). These are all over the globe, only starkly evident in East Africa. Chains of carbonatite intrusions (Ca, Na, Fe carbonate lavas often in circular “pipes” and diamond fields) are associated with these rifts. A chain of these crosses southern Quebec and extends westward through part of Ontario (for Quebec, see Monteregion Hills). Mount Royal, the old English name for Montreal is centered by one of these carbonate plugs and is a lovely green lofty park.

      In Malawi, they mine cabonatite for making cement.

  22. I just hope that those nations in the Middle East who support Terrorism against the West find themselves running out of cash as the West finally developes its own energy of all varieties. Both oil and nuclear.


  23. David Middleton

    Your article plus the comments are an example of why I keep coming back here most every day.

    Thank you. I really do appreciate your efforts.


  24. I hate to rain on the parade, but I recall the USGS declared that there was 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Wolfcamp a while back. Looking at their study it would take 200,000 mile long horizontal wells that would require extensive hydraulic fracturing. At the time of this release oil was $45/bbl. So estimating $5 million per well times 200,000 wells would require a trillion dollars to produce that would generate gross revenues of $900 billion. This does not include the cost of the leasing of the lands $1000/acre x 160 acre x 200,000 wells=$320 million, royalty deduction of 25% of the gross x $900 billion= $225 million. Then the state of Texas severance tax on oil of 4.62%= $41.6 million and finally operating expenses to pump the oil. Assuming lifting costs of 10% of the gross then Wolfcamp oil should only cost around $90/bbl to breakeven. Finally, the Wolfcamp and the Bone Springs are not shales they are carbonates that have been produced for decades. A typical vertical well in these reservoirs declines rapidly and then levels out and produces 5 to 10 bopd “stripper” production for decades where most of its reserves are recovered. This requires that the artificial lift pumps be set at or near the very bottom of the hole. The technology to reduce the bottomhole flowing pressure necessary to produce stripper oil in a deviated hole for an extended time does not exist.

    • Nobody is going to try to extract every barrel of technically recoverable oil. While it varies from company to company, the average breakeven price for the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring is in the high $50’s.

      Improvements in technology and/or higher oil prices make more of the technically recoverable oil economically recoverable.

      Lots of formations are euphemistically referred to as “shale” even though they aren’t really shales.

      • ha ha ha,

        Thanks for the warning, David. I guess I’m not too worried, because in the TV episodes, old Fred was never really having a heart attack. He was only FAKING IT in order to emotionally manipulate others. Which describes Weepy Bill McKibbon pretty well, too, now that I think of it. Although when Fred did it, it was obvious, funny and adorable. When Bill and Bernie, and now AOC do it, it’s just really annoying.

  25. Peak oil does not exist – in a meaning that use of hydrocarbon fuels will stop. They can be synthesized from different carbon sources starting from CO2. Of course you need energy, which can be obtained from nuclear, geothermal and other sources.

    Organic fuels are already available:

  26. The largest oil reservoir by far is the offshore Artic. This enormous resource would have little interest by oil companies if ANWAR were not opened up and the pipeline extended making transportation of oil feasible.

    • The Alaska OCS resource potential is large, but it’s not even the largest offshore resource under Federal control…

      The undiscovered resource potential in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico is larger. And the Permian Basin resource potential is about 20 times that of the Gulf.

      • David Middleton

        FFS!? Seriously?

        I’d just to make one observation from an ignoramus (me, if anyone was in any doubt). If there is so much oil in Alaska, that presumably means it was covered in vegetation several million years ago.

        So what’s the benefit of ice all the green idiots are idiots are whinging about?

      • Two thoughts:
        1. It’s shocking that 94% of federal offshore acreage is off limits to development.
        2. The amount of natural gas in those areas, just in the form of methane hydrates, is not well quantified, but it’s enormous! In 2013, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimated that methane hydrate formations along the U.S. East Coast contain at least 21,702 tcf of natural gas, with the greatest concentrations located offshore between Rhode Island and North Carolina. At current US consumption rates (approximately 25 tcf per year), that’s over 800 years worth of natural gas.

  27. Thanks Dave,
    I always enjoy your insight and comments. I’ve been working the Permian Basin for the last 10 years now and I’m simply amazed at the technology changes that have made these basins (Midland & Delaware) so prolific.
    Wallace Pratt one of the founders of the AAPG who spent much of his personal and professional life in the Delaware Basin and donated over 5,000 acres to form the McKittrick Canyon Unit of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park would have been the first to say to our old Friend “Big Jim Reilly”; “See, I knew there was oil out here”

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