How Perception of Fossil Fuel Futures Have Evolved

An Engineer’s Perspective

By Ronald Voisin,

A couple decades ago an international team of volcanologists arranged for the tag-on launch of a first generation orbiting gravimeter in order to study volcanism (the legitimate auspicious being pure scientific endeavor). While that intended function was successful, a much more important capability unexpectantly came to pass. Subsequent generations of these devices showed exactly where and to what extent natural gas, oil and coal were located as they have revealed progressively higher resolution images of Earth’s deep interior. Several more generations of these devices are possible and this explains the recent substantial increases in estimated recoverable oil and gas and coal for that matter. Meanwhile, fracking and horizontal drilling have enormously reduced the costs and surface-area-impact of fossil fuel recovery.

In the 1920’s we believed, quite honestly, that there were only 5, maybe 10 more years of recoverable oil. The simplistic plan was to make hay while the Sun shined…the economy was rocking.

And in spite of continuing significant increases in consumption, in the 1930’s we still believed that there were 5, maybe 10 more years of recoverable oil.

This same thinking continued to be true in the 1940’s. But with a regular stream of new oil finds occurring, there was the suggestion that maybe oil recovery innovation could keep the Sun shining on this growing oil consuming activity for some time to come.

In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s we upped our estimate and thought that in spite of ever growing demand we have 10, maybe 20 more years of recoverable oil.

In the ‘70’s, even though we got scared by the Middle East oil crisis, we still thought 10, maybe 20 more years.

In the ‘80’s, ‘90’s and half way through the 2000’s we still thought precariously 10, maybe only 20 more years. And this thinking prevailed year after year even as an inundation of Peak-Oil concerns came from every direction in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s.

But in around 2008 something remarkable happened. A fantastically improved 3rd generation orbiting gravimeter gave a much more clear view. So now here we are in the 2010’s and we now believe, and for good reason, that there is a century, likely two centuries, and possibly 5 centuries of economically recoverable fossil fuels. That realization changes things quite a bit.

And guess what else, it turns out that North America has more oil and more natural gas and more coal than anywhere else in the World. Who’ed ‘a thunk-it?

You might wonder why 1) you’re hearing this from me and 2) why you aren’t hearing about the great extent of the this discovery in general? Well, regarding the 1st question…since 2006 I’ve been intensely interested in volcanism as a climate driver. In ‘06, ‘07 and ‘08 I was digesting all the late-breaking news regarding volcanism (also digested Amazon’s two top-rated Earth Science text books cover to cover).

The volcanologists were ecstatic with the results of the 1st generation Hewlett-Packard built device. They wanted to study magma plumes responsible for the Hawaiian Island Chain, the Aleutian Island Chain and Mediterranean Italy. And even though gravitationally, magma is somewhat poorly differentiated from the general mantle, since they knew exactly where they wanted to look, they generally were able to find what they were looking for.

As they examined these 1st generation gravimetric mapping results, an astute observer happened to notice that an unexplained image anomaly in the American Appellations looks somewhat similar to seismically derived images of the coal fields of Appellatia.

For obvious reason the serendipity of this find was exciting. Unexpectantly, a new technology’s look into Earth’s volcanic interior also reveals fossil fuel pockets. And with a 1st Gen orbiting gravimeter under their belt, HP promised that they could readily develop a 2nd Gen device with 10X better sensitivity than the one currently in orbit.

However, the serendipity of the 1st Gen device observations sparked far greater interest. Much more well-funded thinking went into future devices. I don’t know specifically, but I suspect the 3rd Gen device up there now has 1000X the resolution of the 1st Gen device.

The volcanologists wrote prolifically about the early results. And in these same papers, they would sometimes comment on the unexpected but now obvious: coal, oil and natural gas in particular are highly differentiated gravitationally from the general mantle and so easily spotted with this new imaging technology. However, by 2011 or so, no further mention of fossil fuels was being made by the volcanologists even though the gravimetric understanding of volcanos continued to greatly expand.

Regarding the 2nd question…the USA was not just lifting-the-kilt on North American fossil fuels. We came to understand the global distribution of them. We came to know who had what, just what fossil fuel reserves existed in the Middle East, Russia, China, as well as with Friendlies, such as Europe, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. This information has enormous geopolitical significance…possibly the greatest geopolitical significance of any human discovery ever. Papers dealing specifically with gravimetric identification of fossil fuels were Google disappeared. Additionally, huge fossil fuel reserves runs counter to the AGW meme. So of course it is suppressed for both strategic (geopolitical) and stupid (AGW) reasons.

Meanwhile, enhanced levels of atmospheric CO2 continue to stimulate the prolific expansion of all life on Earth…enhancing biodiversity everywhere we might choose to look. If you care to challenge this notion, Google “greening Earth”, and do some quality reading.

Humanity will never run out of fossil fuels. Going forward, distributed compact nuclear will likely be both safer and more economical such that we nonetheless eventually leave fossil fuels largely behind.

Ronald Voisin
Taylor, MI

About the Author

Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California’s Silicon Valley. Since retiring in 2007, he has made a hobby of studying climate change. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established semiconductor equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 31 patent applications, 27 of which have issued.

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February 28, 2019 2:07 am

As long as there is life on this planet there will be fossils too, ergo: fossil fuels should be added to the list of the long term renewals. /sc

steve case
February 28, 2019 2:09 am

Humanity will never run out of fossil fuels.


Reply to  steve case
February 28, 2019 2:27 am

Simples, (as said by the PM) according to AOC there will be no humanity in 10 or was it 12 or even 30 year time.

Reply to  vukcevic
February 28, 2019 8:29 am

In the 1970’s the warmists said we had only 10 years to live.
In the 1980’s the warmists said we had only 10 years to live.
In the 1990’s the warmists said we had only 10 years to live.
In the 2000s the warmists said we had only 10 years to live.
In the 2010’s the warmists said we had only 10 years to live.

R Shearer
Reply to  vukcevic
February 28, 2019 9:35 am

Roughly 11 years, 10 months and 3&1/2 weeks.

Reply to  steve case
February 28, 2019 4:40 am

The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.

Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 6:19 am

I use a slingshot to herd my beef cows because I don’t have a dog and there’s only one of me against many cows! For ammo I use rounded stones the size of large marbles which have an effective range of about 50 yards but don’t bruise the cows. This may sound silly but on the opposite end of the spectrum is the fact that throughout the world the largest tonnages mined by far are aggregate operations for road and building construction. I know we don’t live in a stone age but those little suckers are often overlooked and underappreciated!

Reply to  RockyRoad
February 28, 2019 6:30 am

Rocky the stone age herder, get up to date and buy yourself a drone, accurate, fast and effective tool of the AOCcene man.

Reply to  Vuk
February 28, 2019 7:20 am

Rocks are cheaper and don’t have to be recharged.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Vuk
February 28, 2019 7:32 am

The slingshot doesn’t need batteries when you’re on the range and 20 miles from the nearest outlet.

Reply to  Vuk
February 28, 2019 8:55 am

Mark & DJH
In the UK, Rocky the stone age herder, in no time would be dragged before a local ‘beak’, found guilty of cruelty to animals and thrown into slammer.
It’s time America joined the New Green-Better-Deal For Animals.

Reply to  commieBob
March 1, 2019 3:54 pm

No, but if our politicians pass laws that keep us chained to fossil fuels, we may be here for a long time.
Just remember: Nuclear is dangerous, fossil fuels not so much, and renewable is 100% safe for humans, wildlife… the planet. All one has to do is look at the historic death rates involved with these energy sources. Also, anything newer than nuclear will be more dangerous still.
At least to hear those with AOC’s high level of education. Like (apparently) senators Markey, Warren, Harris, Booker, et al. (Sad that they are older, yet… no wiser.)

Reply to  steve case
February 28, 2019 6:36 am

When it comes to fossil fuels, people generally ask the wrong question. It’s not “how much are left,” but rather “how much are left at what price.” At $1,000 BOE there are a lot more left than at $57.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Craig
February 28, 2019 1:07 pm


Ken Andrews
Reply to  Craig
February 28, 2019 1:09 pm

That’s assuming that the recovery costs will remain the same. Fracking has taught us that human ingenuity is the greatest resource we have – PROVIDING – we are left free to pursue them.

Reply to  steve case
February 28, 2019 7:19 am

Considering his following comment regarding nuclear power. I believe his point is that we will move on to something else long before fossil fuels run out.

Aynsley Kellow
February 28, 2019 2:22 am

I take it by ‘Appellatia’ you mean ‘Appalachia’? Autocorrect can do strange things!

Reply to  Aynsley Kellow
February 28, 2019 4:44 am

As with “American Appellations”.
American Appellations basically means ‘American Names, which is illogical as used.

So, yes this article has phrasings where it appears the spell checker adjusted wildly.

Still, excellent article Ronald Voisin, BSEE!

David Harris
February 28, 2019 2:22 am

New to me, could anyone point me in the direction of further reading on this.


Reply to  David Harris
February 28, 2019 3:04 am

It’s old news.

Oil used to be call Mineral Oil.

Reason is is is being continually formed from deep inside the Earth,

Russia figured this out years ago, and now have some of the largest supplies of Mineral Oil in the world.

Obama knew this but just wanted to destroy the USA and give his Muslim mates some more money

D Anderson
Reply to  Samboc
February 28, 2019 9:11 am

It is NOT old news that they are using satellites to find oil.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Samboc
February 28, 2019 2:00 pm

abiotic oil is a crock samboc

Reply to  Rich Davis
March 1, 2019 12:39 am

Titan et al

Reply to  AngryScotonFraggleRock
March 1, 2019 7:48 am

Meaningless. Most of the lighter materials were blown out of the inner solar system by the sun prior to the earth becoming fully formed. The heat of formation would have destroyed any methane that did make it to the early earth.

Reply to  AngryScotonFraggleRock
March 1, 2019 9:13 am

Methane isn’t oil.

Reply to  AngryScotonFraggleRock
March 1, 2019 11:30 pm

From an earlier comment:

Petroleum is Hydrocarbon and basic building block starts with Methane (CH4). There are many Methane hydrate deposits under Arctic permafrost and beneath the ocean floor. One of the source of Methane could be the debris of Marine organism like Phytoplankton and Zooplankton submerged by tectonic plates subduction and interaction with lava in the upper Mantle.

Reply to  Rich Davis
March 1, 2019 8:06 pm

“Power from the earth” by thomas gold. find it and read it.

Kermit H
Reply to  Samboc
March 4, 2019 4:41 pm

Meh, a FEW Russians believed that but it has been debunked thoroughly. Only nutters believe it now.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Harris
February 28, 2019 5:12 am

It’s new to me, too. Would love to see some visuals and figures for all these oil, coal, and gas reserves for the world.

I would also like to see more information about what these advanced instruments have discovered about volcanoes. 🙂

I could google it, but it’s much better when a subject appears here at WUWT and then the experts in that particular subject dig into it in depth. You learn so much more.

Kermit H
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 4, 2019 4:45 pm

Geologists have long known about these oil reserves and long known that source rock was shale. Under every oil reserve was a shale formation bearing hydrocarbons. Hubert’s Peak Oil theory for the 1950’s did in fact account for there being way more oil but it was locked in shale formations. While we had both hydraulic fracturing (fraccing or fracing as advertised by service companies for DECADES) and horizontal drilling since the 1940’s, we didn’t have geosteerable drilling until the mid 90’s as developed offshore Louisiana. Thus Hubert didn’t know how to get the oil out of the shale.

Charles Payne
Reply to  David Harris
March 4, 2019 8:37 pm

Give this a look!

Margaret Smith
February 28, 2019 2:33 am

OT: Tony Heller’s site is down again. Makes you suspicious because it is the site most likely to turn readers to scepticism.

As ancient forests have (probably repeatedly) covered the planet’s landmasses I would would expect huge amounts of fossil fuel; only a matter of discovery and accessibility.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Margaret Smith
February 28, 2019 6:47 am

I just tried Heller’s website and it’s still down.

Maybe Heller has said something about it on Twitter. I don’t do Twitter, so someone else would have to look.

John Shotsky
Reply to  Margaret Smith
February 28, 2019 8:01 am

Forests don’t turn into oil…they turn into compost, just like the other biological matter on earth. Oil is formed far below the earth’s surface, well below where any ‘forests’ may have become buried. It has been proven that there is more hydrocarbon energy under the surface than all of the biological matter that has ever existed, even if it ALL turned into oil instead of compost. It is illogical to even call it ‘fossil’ energy – it is not fossil at all, but is being created as the earth outgases methane from the deep recesses of the earth. It is an ongoing process.

Reply to  John Shotsky
February 28, 2019 8:12 am

It’s been proven???

Reply to  MarkW
March 1, 2019 12:40 am

Titan et al

Reply to  AngryScotonFraggleRock
March 1, 2019 7:49 am

Proves nothing.

Reply to  John Shotsky
March 1, 2019 9:15 am

Not even wrong.

David Harris
February 28, 2019 2:52 am

found this. Comments?

The instrument originally envisaged for space now flies on a light aircraft. A survey grid is flown over an area to record the different signals from the ground below. As a large area can be covered quickly from the air, a gradiometric survey is 10 times cheaper than a traditional seismic survey.

Donald Kasper
Reply to  David Harris
February 28, 2019 3:49 am

Gravimetric data is worthless shit for oil exploration. It was originally used to hunt for iron ore deposits. It cannot locate the depth to a gas or oil body and if it is shallow, it has already been found. This is stupid gibberish.

steve case
Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 4:13 am

First thing I did was Google “Ronald Voisin” and “Fossil Fuel”

Nothing came up. I still said “WOW!”

Steven Mosher
Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 5:01 am

“Gravimetric data is worthless shit for oil exploration. ”

But all the papers have been disappeared. !!!

this is funny

Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 5:37 am

Which just goes to show that you know zero about the subject.

old engineer
Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 11:45 am


Are you engaged in using GRACE data to find oil, and want to limit the competition? The literature is filled with articles about using GRACE information to find water. If it can find water, it can find oil.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  old engineer
February 28, 2019 1:32 pm

old engineer
You said, “If it can find water, it can find oil.” Not necessarily! Water aquifers tend to be broad sheets covering large areas. Whereas, conventional oil has been concentrated in small areas by structural traps. So, unless the satellites can provide the spatial resolution necessary to resolve accumulations (which I’m dubious of) one is going to get a ‘smeared’ image similar to applying a low-pass filter to an aerial survey.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 1:26 pm

Thomas, airborne gravuty for petroleum exploration as structural basin mapping tool has been around since 1980, no you cannot pinpoint hydrocarbons, but it is far cheaper than seismic so works as an exellent reconnaissance tool.

Randy Bork
Reply to  Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 4:46 pm

I have no idea if these guys are selling snake oil, but it is claimed as a commercial service by these guys:

Reply to  Donald Kasper
March 1, 2019 9:21 am

Gravity data is useful for broad, regional mapping of basement and/or salt structures. Coupled with seismic data, it can be used to model the geometry of salt domes.

Gravity does not directly or indirectly detect hydrocarbons… Never has, never will.

I’ve been a geophysicist/geologist in oil & gas exploration since 1981, a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists since 1981 and American Association of Petroleum Geologists since 2004. While this post is largely spot on about the abundance of hydrocarbon resources, it is 100% science fiction in its discussion of gravimeters.

Reply to  David Harris
February 28, 2019 4:53 am

I would say that satellites are a much better instrument platform than aircraft.

For an idea of the sensitivity of satellite gravity measurement, consider this. They are measuring ground water with a claimed accuracy of 0.1 cm.

Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 5:39 am

Aircraft are used to excellent effect.

Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 7:22 am

Being closer to the ground, I would have thought you could get better resolution from airplanes.

Reply to  MarkW
March 1, 2019 9:22 am

You can get better resolution on foot… It’s still not adequate resolution for detailed structural mapping, much less hydrocarbon detection.

Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 7:24 am

But the aircraft fly at a much lower altitude so are much closer to the subject. I would expect correspondingly higher resolution.

Reply to  pochas94
February 28, 2019 8:14 am

One thought that occurred to me after my first post was that satellites are quiet, no moving parts.
Airplanes vibrate and have moving parts that could interfere with the gravity measurements.

Reply to  MarkW
February 28, 2019 11:41 am
Reply to  pochas94
February 28, 2019 11:31 am

Correct, airborne gradiometry has been used extensively in hydrocarbon exploration for basin mapping.
The author is not a geologist and it shows.

Reply to  Hans Erren
March 1, 2019 9:23 am

In spades.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 1:26 pm

Gravimeters were one of the first, if not the first, geophysical instruments used for resource exploration. However, setting up stations on the ground is cumbersome, slow, and expensive. Putting the instruments in an aircraft speeds up the collection of data and significantly decreases the cost per unit area, with the slight disadvantage of decreased spatial resolution of targets. The electronic improvements have been in the area of increased amplitude resolution in the digitization. However, the farther one is from the ground, the more the target signal is influenced by mass off to the sides of the survey line. That is, the spatial resolution for a satellite is going to be much less than for aircraft! Also, aircraft can fly a grid pattern, whereas satellites are restricted to rather widely spaced NS oblique lines, with it taking a long time to fill in the gaps. I may be missing something here, but I suspect the situation is similar to the transition that occurred when we went from high-resolution aerial photography to satellite imagery. The satellite imagery had lower spatial resolution but provided a synoptic view that wasn’t possible with aerial photography. The tools are complementary, and don’t obviate the need for the either.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  commieBob
February 28, 2019 8:09 pm

The article that you link to describes a method to infer ground water CHANGES over a very large area using the change in the gravity field. That is very different from finding a gravity contrast that is small in area, and knowing what that contrast means. It is like so much in geophysics. Gathering data is straight forward. Processing the data takes specialized algorithms. Interpreting the anomalies correctly requires a savant.

February 28, 2019 2:55 am

Absolutely fascinating. Thanks Ronald.
As for the climate aspect; since there is a direct relationship between gravity and temperature through the gas laws, perhaps we have a tool here to measure the variation influence globally, though it could prove insignificant ?

February 28, 2019 3:22 am

Nice article. Any data to back it up?

Reply to  SMC
February 28, 2019 3:55 am

The article exaggerates the importance of gravity surveys in oil and gas exploration. The bottom line is that exploration results have been disappointing for decades, and in recent years they are less than anemic.

The only significant reserve additions are taking place in the US, where very light oil and condensate is extracted from very low quality rocks using featured horizontal wells. Minor additions are made in deep water, and there’s also some contribution from extra heavy oils.

All of these sources require much higher prices than in the past. For example, 20 years ago some major oil companies used $30 per barrel (in 2019$) to estimate the economic return of investments in exploration and field developments. Nowadays the industry requires about $60 to $80 to be able to justify investing, even though interest rates are low and we have better technology.

One factor we need to consider is that today we are producing about 83 million barrels of oil per day, and this comes from reservoirs which have a decline rate. This decline varies, but whatever value you use, it leads to the need to add new production (new wells, new fields, enhanced oil recovery, or whatever). So let’s do a simple exercise: say the decline rate is 1% per year. By one year from now, the 83 million BOPD drops by 0.8 million. So we have to add 800,000 barrels of oil per day of production to keep up.

However, I don’t know anybody who claims the decline rate is only 1%, and we also have to consider that capacity is usually a bit over actual rate. This means that a more sophisticated estimate will say we gave to invest to add about 3 to 4 million barrels of oil per day to keep up. And never mind increasing that 83 million to say 90 million. And this is why we need ever increasing prices. The fact that the hurdle has jumped from $30 to $60 per barrel in 20 years is undeniable. Anybody who debates this point simply doesn’t understand how the industry works on a worldwide basis.

And the current outlook tells me that another doubling, to $120 per barrel by 2039, will be needed for the industry to keep up. And I don’t mean keeping up with IPCC projections which forecasted 165 million BOPD later in the century. We will need $120 per barrel to sustain oil production in the 85 to 95 mmbopd range. And it’s doubtful we will ever reach 100 mmbopd of crude oil and condensate, the liquids we refine and use to make liquid fuels.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
February 28, 2019 4:29 am

Fernando leanme,

I’m confused by your numbers. The EIA says we’re already above 100 mmbopd.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  PaulS
February 28, 2019 7:31 am

Say now, that’s an interesting link you’ve provided, PaulS! No claims there about what the earth has available long term though?

On the fourth bullet point at the top of that page, I see that they are forecasting the “U.S. crude oil and petroleum product net imports” to most likely flip around to net *exports*, i.e.,
“an average net export level of 0.3 million b/d in 2020”. That in itself is an interesting short term forecast, not what the “peak oil” people had in mind, I’m sure.

Reply to  PaulS
February 28, 2019 8:46 am

The higher figure is All Liquids. Includes NGLS, Refinery Gain, Biofuels etc. Basically they add in the kitchen sink.
One can see a better category breakdown on page 14 of this ExxonMobil report (2017)
Liquids – projections (Page 14)

Reply to  PaulS
February 28, 2019 11:33 am

PaulS, the agencies include natural gas liquids, a small amount of synthetic oil made in gas to liquids plants, the volume gained when refineries add hydrogen to crude during the refining process, and some even add biofuels.

I prefer to use the crude oil and condensate rate, which matches the refinery feed numbers, because that’s what we produce to make the bulk of products you recognize.

I’ve always been puzzled by the way these guys report figures. And as I’ve pointed out in this blog several times, there’s also a bit of deception on the part of oil companies, which not only add the natural gas liquids, but also convert natural gas to an “equivalent” (that’s the BOE you see in their investor presentations).

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
February 28, 2019 5:42 am

FL: you are wrong about gravity survey.

Reply to  Mardler
March 1, 2019 9:24 am

Fernando is 100% right about gravity surveys.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
February 28, 2019 6:40 am

“this comes from reservoirs which have a decline rate.”

There has never ever been a single reservoir without a decline rate.

The quality of Peak Oil trolls is also declining…

Reply to  tty
March 1, 2019 9:26 am

Decline rates comprise the simplest disproof of abiotic oil.

Reply to  SMC
February 28, 2019 8:07 am

Fernando Leanme, it sounds like you have gotten your information from ‘Twilight in the Desert’ or from a similar source.

Christopher Chantrill
February 28, 2019 3:46 am

Does gravimetry have anything to say about the notion that a lot of “fossil” fuel deposits results from natural gas filtering upwards from deeper in the Earth’s crust?

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Christopher Chantrill
February 28, 2019 7:36 am


Natural gas formed in an endothermic reaction in the crust at any point below 30 km. It is produced continuously and has been ever since there has been a surface overturning process going on – which is to say, billions of years.

We could extract it at an unsustainable rate, but I believe it will never run out. Essentially it is renewable. The two main inputs are limestone and water, 1500 degrees C and 100,000 atmospheres pressure. The chemical pathway is well understood. Russians replicated it in a vessel 0.6 cm on a side made of tungsten carbide.

There is plenty of water and limestone down there.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
February 28, 2019 9:53 am

The reaction also requires a reducing agent, Crispin. The electrons are probably supplied by metallic iron. There’s lots of that down there, too.

The total reaction would be CO2 + 2H2O + 4Fe –> CH4 + 4FeO

February 28, 2019 3:46 am

Unless there has been some major new technological breakthrough in recent years, I would have to say this article is nonsense and sounds like a conspiracy theory. Gravity surveys have been a part of the exploration geologists toolkit for many years, they are generally used to locate possible sedimentary basins and can be used to estimate the thickness of sediment fill. A sedimentary basin may contain oil, gas and coal. There are many steps that have to be gone through before a discovery can be made, the final one being drilling. Finding coal and oil shale is a lot easier as they are more plentiful, the hard work is in finding the economic areas, via drilling. Finding conventional hydrocarbon reservoirs is more difficult and again, requires drilling. The success rate for oil drilling is around 10% or less, if this wonderous satellite exploration tool exists I would expect the success rate to be 100%. There is nothing magical about discovering oil, gas and coal, it requires lots of detailed and rigorous investigations, sometimes spanning many years. I am not aware of any magical processes that can find them from space, but I am always prepared to learn.

Jim In Atlanta
Reply to  Graham
February 28, 2019 6:37 am

Don’t forget salt domes.

My first indicator that the article was BS was the mention of Hewlett-Packard making a space instrument. That was not a business they were in.

Donald Kasper
February 28, 2019 3:47 am

The only way to locate oil is with seismic reflection technology. Gravimetric data is going to show a lot of anomalies all over such as iron bodies, granite intrusions, etc. It is not going to be reliable for oil and gas exploration. This was available by aircraft surveys for 50 years, and was never used for oil recovery. The reason we state that there are 10 to 20 years of recoverable oil is due to the life cycle of an oil field typically being no longer than 20 years unless we find new fields.

February 28, 2019 3:58 am

Petroleum is Hydrocarbon and basic building block starts with Methane (CH4). There are many Methane hydrate deposits under Arctic permafrost and beneath the ocean floor. One of the source of Methane could be the debris of Marine organism like Phytoplankton and Zooplankton submerged by tectonic plates subduction and interaction with lava in the upper Mantle.

February 28, 2019 4:43 am

Always good to start the day with a cup of Joe and and a bit of education from different perspectives.

February 28, 2019 4:53 am

Anybody else get the feeling that they just read some delusional fantasy? Perhaps one with strong magical thinking and utopian imaginings.

“but I suspect the 3rd Gen device up there now has 1000X the resolution of the 1st Gen device.”
That would not be the misbegotten and all but “loss of mission” GRACE sats., would it?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  TonyL
February 28, 2019 1:43 pm

The electronics control the amplitude resolution, but the altitude controls the spatial resolution. I don’t think that he understands the difference.

kent beuchert
February 28, 2019 5:00 am

“Going forward, distributed compact nuclear will likely be both safer and more economical such that we nonetheless eventually leave fossil fuels largely behind.”

Right on – estimated build cost of Moltex Energy’s small modular molten salt reactor is $1960 per KW, or
$1.96 billion per Gigawatt, the size of a typical conventional nuclear reactor . Levelized power costs of $44 per Mhr or 4.4 cents per kWhr. Terrestrial Enegy’s version a bit higher : $2500 perKW build cost and $50 per MWhr.

ferd berple
Reply to  kent beuchert
February 28, 2019 7:09 am

A modular reactor the size of a standard shipping container and with a 50 year lifetime before refueling would solve many of the world energy needs.

Unfortunately no one has been able to solve the dirty bomb potential of this technology. Eventually someone will strap a whole lot of high explosives to the outside of the reactor with the potential for devastating consequences.

Gregg Hill
February 28, 2019 5:09 am

Gravity and magnetic data require so many corrections that their use in finding oil and gas deposits is very limited. Basins where deposits might be found using seismic and geologic data can be identified, but not the deposits themselves. The opinion comes from an electrical engineer, not a geologist. My wife’s a geophysicist with forty-plus years experience. It’s never as simple as many people think.

Reply to  Gregg Hill
February 28, 2019 5:48 am

GH: I know geophysicists who disagree with your wife.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mardler
February 28, 2019 1:46 pm

If your geophysicist friends think geophysical data processing is simple, I’d suggest you get some new friends.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 1, 2019 9:31 am

I’ve been a geophysicist/geologist in the oil industry since 1981. While I know some geophysicists who think gravity data is more useful than most of us do… I don’t know a single geophysicist in the oil & gas industry who would agree with the claims in this post… And I’ve been a member of the SEG since 1981 and AAPG since 2004.

M Courtney
February 28, 2019 5:15 am

And in these same papers, they would sometimes comment on the unexpected but now obvious: coal, oil and natural gas in particular are highly differentiated gravitationally from the general mantle and so easily spotted with this new imaging technology.

That may very well be true but coal, oil and natural gas in the mantle is a very long way from the surface.

How can they be considered economic to extract?

February 28, 2019 5:15 am

“The volcanologists wrote prolifically about the early results. And in these same papers, they would sometimes comment on the unexpected but now obvious: coal, oil and natural gas in particular are highly differentiated gravitationally from the general mantle and so easily spotted with this new imaging technology. ”

This excerpt illustrates that the author has no real idea what he is talking about. Coal, oil and natural gas only occur in the Earth’s crust, not the underlying mantle. Further, oil and natgas are fluids permeating pores in sedimentary rocks and cannot be differentiated from the solid matrix within which they occur by gravitational methods. As commented previously. This is article is mostly gibberish and reflects poorly on WUWTs generally high quality postings.

Reply to  Peter
February 28, 2019 7:49 am

Agree, it’s low-brow nonsense, as is all the tedious abiotic trolling.

Billm Rocks
Reply to  WXcycles
February 28, 2019 10:37 am

Gravimetry is a part of the history of oil exploration (salt domes, primarily) and produces very “fuzzy data” with limited modern applications such as the location of large rock masses of contrasting bulk density. The data do not produce a unique or singular portrayal of the subsurface and must be constrained by other more precise data.

As for abiotic oil and gas from the mantle or where ever, so what? It is a scientific curiosity at this time. Please keep trying, but, is there a single significant site producing commercially-viable abiotic gas or oil? Not to my knowledge.

Reply to  Peter
February 28, 2019 8:24 am

Here, Here! Delusional nonsense from ??? I don’t know the author’s battleground but as a geologist with almost 40 years of exploration experience, I have never heard or come across anything like described in the piece. Exploration for and development of hydrocarbon sources is complicated and is nowhere a sure thing. Most recent horizontal development is not exploration but mostly development level infill drilling that essentially manufactures a reservoir through engineering applications (mostly hydraulic fracturing).

Down with delusional posts!

February 28, 2019 5:18 am

… enormous geopolitical significance …

WW2 was all about oil. The Germans invaded the Soviet Union to get oil. The Japanese were driven to attack Pearl Harbor because America wouldn’t sell them oil and wouldn’t let them invade Indochina to get the oil there. Without American oil, beating the Germans would have been much more difficult.

Farmer Ch E retired
February 28, 2019 5:39 am

Ronald Voisin – thanks for sharing.

February 28, 2019 5:46 am

Saudi Aramco Review
Saudi Aramco hopes to raise oil recovery rates in the kingdom to 70 per cent versus a global average of 50 per cent by using CO2 injection technology
SAUDI ARAMCO has raised the recovery rate at its Abqaiq oil field, one of the kingdom’s oldest fields, to 68 per cent and plans to start applying a carbon dioxide (CO2) injection programme soon that will help boost oil recovery rates to 70 per cent across the kingdom, a senior oil source says.
Saudi Arabia’s recoverable reserve figure of around 260 billion barrels is also based on a recovery factor of 50 per cent and will rise as recovery rates are boosted, the source says, giving Abqaiq as an example.

Saudi Aramco Makes Strides With R&D Programs
Through Saudi Aramco’s R&D arm, the Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center Advanced Research Center, the company is working on various R&D projects in an effort to increase the recovery factor of major producing reservoirs from the current 50% to 70%

Reply to  brent
March 1, 2019 9:33 am

They’ll probably get 80% recovery from Ghawar.

Reply to  brent
March 2, 2019 9:24 am

Does Saudi Arabia have enough oil?
Aug 31 2018
It was unusual, however, to see Aramco report its total oil and gas reserves in barrel of oil equivalent this year. For the first time the company reported it has 333.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent to include natural gas and natural gas liquids. This change in reporting methods is believed to be the result of its switching to global standards in preparation for the initial public offering.
Saudi Aramco, according to its own records, has about 802.2 billion barrels of oil resources, including about 261 billion barrels of proven reserves; 403.1 billion of probable, possible and contingent reserves. The company has produced up to 138 billion barrels of oil to date out of the 802.2 billion barrels.
It plans to raise oil resources to 900 billion barrels from the 802.2 billion over the long term as its also plans to increase recovery rate of reserves to 70 percent from the current 50 percent.

A little more detail in this article

Reply to  brent
March 2, 2019 9:32 am

Aramco’s reserves were independently audited this year by DeGolyer & MacNaughton. This is the first time Saudi Aramco has opened up to outside auditing. D&M actually increased their proved reserves.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 2, 2019 10:06 am

Hi David,
It was a small increase. But at least I think we get a firmer answer and more transparent numbers. Aramco traditionally wasn’t transparent at all, which was a big problem.They had substantial historical cumulative production, while maintaining essentially static “reserve” numbers. Now we can see that they are justifying maintaining reserves via higher estimated ultimate recoveries,
Hope they do get to 80% on Ghawar. We’re going to need it.

February 28, 2019 5:48 am

Saudis seem to be taking the position that they will be the last one standing.
However MBS has made some interesting comments about their view of production declines elsewhere.

Saudi Arabia Calls The End Of Russia’s Oil Prowess
Saudi Arabia has not only called the end of Russia’s prominence as a global oil behemoth, but anticipates that Russia’s oil exports “will have declined heavily if not disappeared” within the next 19 years, Mohammed bin Salman said in a recent interview with Bloomberg

But we believe that the other side will be a lot of producers disappearing. So for example we believe that China will be decreased sharply if not disappeared after five years from today. And other countries will continue every day to disappear as countries producing oil. Nineteen years from today, Russia will have declined heavily if not disappeared with 10 million barrels. So comparing the rise of the demand for oil and the disappearing supplier, Saudi Arabia needs to supply more in the future. So we don’t believe that there is any risk in that area for Saudi Arabia

February 28, 2019 5:50 am

Thank you for the stimulating post
As a Petroleum Geophysicist who has spent a long career exploring for petroleum around the world, I agree with most of your article.

Each decade the ‘proved and probable’ petroleum discovered had a shelf life of 10-12 years (where have I heard that number is Gore/AOC on to something?) and 10 years later it was still 10-12 years. There are many excellent books dispelling the myth of ‘peak oil’.

From the inside there are two factors that impact the calculation of remaining reserves.
1. Economics – the cost of finding/producing and the net value after tax. If a barrel of oil was $200 the worlds reserves would instantly be x5-6 the current number.
The edge that the US has over say Australia where I currently work is the weight of green tax/legislation/governance which is huge – stupid huge – compare to the US under Trump (Obama times were similar to Oz now) plus the Us has a skilled set of multi-generational office/field staff. Many other countries could compete with the US Geology given the right economic landscape.

2. Technology – every few years a new geoscience/engineering technique redefines the economics – think fraccing, 3D seismic, big/deep data, satellite sensing, horizontal etc. etc.
In my experience Gravity has been of limited use but a current project in the Western Australian desert is giving it ‘a go’ so I have an open mind.

I conclude that petroleum at current technology and price – with the sensible US red/green tape has at least 100 years of reserves worldwide (many many basins are largely untouched) and in Australia which is gas prone compared to most continents (we have very old rocks) – there is at least 200 years of domestic gas supply.

James Clarke
February 28, 2019 6:53 am

I have no expertise in the subject of fossil fuel reserves and I am highly skeptical of gravimetric results from satellites, due to the conflicting results around high latitude ice volumes in peer reviewed papers. So I read Mr. Viosin’s article with some skepticism.

I do accept one aspect of the article to be true: past estimates of peak oil have all been wrong, grossly underestimating what is reasonably available. Those who are criticizing the article and arguing that we are 10 to 20 years away from a dwindling oil supply, have an additional burden to overcome in order to be convincing. They need to acknowledge why the previous estimates of peak oil were so terribly wrong and why their current estimates of peak oil do not suffer from the same shortcomings.

After a century of crying ‘wolf’, it is easier to believe Mr. Voisin and his optimistic article than those who say he is an idiot, and the ‘wolf’ is really at the door this time.

ferd berple
February 28, 2019 6:56 am

It is quite possible oil and gas are made from fossilized carbon dioxide in the form of limestone and similar. This limestone can come from the shells of once living creatures, or precipitate naturally from dissolved salts and co2 in the oceans.

Limestone + water + iron + heat + pressure = hydrocarbons + calcium iron oxide rich rocks.

interestingly, calcium iron oxide has been identified as a good candidate for oxygen batteries.

I find it interesting to the point of amazing the number of human problems that have a solution in nature if we only know where to look.

I suspect this may be the missing ingredient in the doom and gloom view of the future. The assumption that there will be no new technologies discovered between now and the time at which doom is forecast to arrive.

In reality the pace of discovery is rapidly accelerating and it is quite likely nature will provide solutions where we least expect.

It strikes me as a fool’s errand to spend time and money trying to solve problems 50 or 100 years in the future. We have no shortage of problems today, mist of which were not foreseen 50 or 100 years ago.

I suspect in 50 or 100 years the problems facing humanity will bare almost no resemblance to the problems that are currently being projected.

Ask someone that grew up 50 years ago. Did the problems being talked about at the time, did they come to pass.

Growing up at that time I recall the major worries being global nuclear war, population famine and disease, pollution and then the energy crisis.

None of these came to pass. We avoided nuclear war, fed the people, made huge progress in disease eradication, reduced poverty and fed the population. At the same time there was a massive reduction in pollution.

Not a single major prediction of doom and gloom from 50 years ago turned out to be correct. Not a single one.

Kermit H
Reply to  ferd berple
March 5, 2019 6:07 am

You are describing the FT process which also requires very tight control of the heat produced, as in control within inches of each zone of the reaction. That produces mostly wax which has to be broken down in a hydrocracker reactor, requiring additional catalysts and introduction of hydrogen at several zones in the reactor to cool the reaction. Now, over a long period of time, that heat control wouldn’t be as critical but it not even close to as simple as your chemical equation.

February 28, 2019 7:19 am
Kermit H
Reply to  brent
March 5, 2019 6:08 am

I would never use oilprice as a source to cite. I have found those journalists to be lacking in actual understanding and only mimicking press releases, at best.

February 28, 2019 7:21 am

As to abiotic oil, listen to Ira Flato of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation – Science Friday” clumsily handle the swashbuckling Dr. J. F. Kenney in this interview:
(original here:

They are talking, possibly, about this research paper:

Here is another related paper:

It could be time to abandon the term ‘fossil fuel’ for a more accurate term.

I’ll grant hydrocarbons might be difficult to find, extract, transport and refine, but I wonder what premium we pay for the notion that they are in short supply? Geopolitically, the notion that the earth perpetually creates oil has far-reaching consequences.

The Russians have been on to this idea since the 1950s. Are interviewers like Flato gatekeepers or just so steeped in a belief they are unwittingly blind to possible realities? I would guess the latter.

William Astley
February 28, 2019 7:34 am

Let’s have some fun. There is a real breakthrough that changes everything concerning CAGW and AGW and hydrocarbon energy.

There is a Columbus type ‘breakthrough’ (Thomas Gold’s re-discovered of a theory which is the same theory the Russians have had for the last 60 years) that is related to the origin of hydrocarbons on the planet and what moves the tectonic plates cyclically.

Comment: What is the explanation why there are heavy metals in oil, increasing with viscosity? Why are there heavy metals in bituminous coal? Why is there helium gas in oil and CH4 gas reservoirs?

The earth was struck by a Mars size object roughly 100 million years after its formation. That impact stripped the mantel of the light elements hydrogen and carbon. For some strange reason there is roughly 100 times more hydrogen and carbon on the continents than in the mantel. Where did the hydrogen and carbon come from? When was it delivered to the surface of the planet?

It is an observational fact that there was been an unexplained 300% increase in mid-ocean seismic activity period B for the entire planet as compared to period A.

The earth’s mid-seismic activity has abruptly dropped back down to the lower activity in period B.

Period A: 1979 to 1995

Period B :1996 to 2016 (More than 300% increase in mid-ocean seismic activity)

The observed changes in mid-ocean seismic activity are orders of magnitude too large and too fast for all of the current geological mechanisms to explain. The observations are a hard paradox. (No possible alternatives, the solution is forced from the observations).

The assumed energy input from the mantel and core (radioactivity, material phase change, reactions), cannot physically change in that time scale/entire planet and even if they did change could not appreciably change temperatures to affect mid-ocean seismic activity for the entire planet.

It is physical impossible for the current standard geological model (and its assumptions) to explain the sudden and astonishingly large increase and decrease in mid-ocean seismic activity.

Based on observations (there are roughly 50 independent observations that support the assertion) plate tectonics is driven by liquid CH4 that is extruded from the liquid core of the planet as it solidifies.

That assertion is consistent with the analysis of wave velocity which shows there must be light elements in the core and theoretical analysis for the liquid core that shows CH4 can ‘dissolve’ in the liquid core and would be extrude when a portion of liquid core solidifies.

It is believed the core of the planet started to solidify roughly a billion years ago. At that time there would be a large increase in extruded liquid CH4 which explains why there is a sudden increase in continent crust building at that time. The sudden increase in continental crust building and the increase in water on the planet at the time is the likely explanation for the Cambrian ‘explosion’ of complex life forms.

The continuous release of CH4 up into the mantel and into the biosphere explains why the earth is 70% covered with water even though there is continuous removal of water from the earth’s atmosphere by the solar wind. Support for this assertion is the recent discovery that there is three times more water moving into the mantel than is coming out via volcanic eruptions. The solution of course is the CH4 that is coming out all over the planet.

Detailed analysis of seismic wave travel in the mantel has shown there are intercrossing tubes in the mantel which reflect waves. This was a recent new discovery.

These core to crust ‘tubes’ transmit force and liquid CH4 from the earth’s liquid core as the liquid core solidifies and extrudes the liquid CH4. The core of the earth is believed to have started to solidifying roughly a billion years ago.

The ‘tubes’ form as the elements hydrogen and carbon have been removed from the mantel when the Mars size object impacted the earth roughly 100 million years after it was formed and by the descent of heavy metals into the core. The ‘tube’ is required to contain the force and the CH4 to enable it to reach the surface of the planet.

As noted in the paper below, increase in mid-ocean seismic activity closely correlates with ocean temperature changes for the entire period.

Two previous studies, The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming (CSARGW) and the Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming: 2016 Update (CSARGW16), documented a high correlation between mid-ocean seismic activity and global temperatures from 1979 to 2016 [1,2]. As detailed in those studies, increasing seismic activity in these submarine volcanic complexes is a proxy indicator of heightened underwater geothermal flux, a forcing mechanism that destabilizes the overlying water column. This forcing accelerates the thermohaline circulation while enhancing thermobaric convection [3-6]. This, in turn, results in increased heat transport into the Arctic (i.e., the “Arctic Amplification”), a prominent feature of earth’s recent warming [7-9]. .

Reply to  William Astley
February 28, 2019 8:21 am

The collision did not strip the mantle of it’s light elements. A fraction of the combined crusts of the earth and the collider were thrown into space to form the moon. The earth retained about as much mantle material before the collision as after.

Coal filters water that flows through it. Water often contains trace amounts of heavy metals.

Seismic activity is not constant year in and year out. This is supposed to prove something?

Seismic activity has nothing to do with current energy flow from the core. Assuming we could even measure that.

The rest of your nonsense has been dealt with before.

William Astley
Reply to  MarkW
February 28, 2019 9:26 am

You have an answer before you have looked at the observations. Can you form two competing hypotheses in your mind?

How many observations support one hypothesis other another?

The Australia atmospheric scientist, Salby, has found there is a large source of CO2 into the atmosphere in addition to gas from volcanic eruptions that is not taken into account by the Bern equation analysis. The Bern equation is used to justify the assertion that humans caused the recent rise in the atmospheric CO2.

Salby’s analysis result shows the majority (more than 95%) of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 was caused by the temperature rise and hence less than 5% of the rise in atmospheric CO2 was caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

If Salby and others are correct, his finding is a game changer.

There are at least five other independent analysis to support Salby’s conclusion. There is also a very good specialist review paper that tears apart the assumptions of the Bern equation.

Is there other information that supports the assertion?

Is there evidence that that CH4 is being extruded from the liquid core of the planet when it crystallizes? Sudden increase world wide for 20 years of earthquakes and the discovery of ‘tubes’ in the mantel. The tubes showed up as lines in the seismic analysis which determined structure base on reflections from the tubes.

Do you understand the concept that there must be a tube to transmit the force as the liquid CH4 is extruded from the core of the planet and to keep the liquid CH4 from just mixing in the mantel? The self sealing tube forms as the elements carbon and hydrogen are not found in the mantel and those react with elements in the mantel to form a tube that contains flowing liquid methane.

What is the explanation for the super large CH4 deposits? The tiny country Qatar had 15% of the worlds CH4 reservoirs.

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

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

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

Numerous methane leaks found on Atlantic sea floor

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

…. Berndt found evidence that the seeps there had existed for at least 3000 years and saw no evidence that the ocean sediments had been heating up—and releasing methane—on the decades long timescales associated with climate change. At the very least, though, he says, the Atlantic Ocean study shows that ocean and climate modelers should start to incorporate methane inputs from many more types of seafloor terrains around the world. “We have this extra source here,” he says. “Not much attention has been paid to it.

Reply to  William Astley
February 28, 2019 10:41 am

Nickel catalyzes the breakdown of methane to hydrogen, carbon and oxygen at very high temperatures. The chances of a CH4 phase existing at the temperatures (@ 5000 C) of a molten Fe-Ni earth core are zero. There is no CH4 being extruded from the earth’s liquid outer core into “mantle tubes” (??) Also, carbon is, in fact, found in the mantle as evidenced by the occurrence of natural diamond which can only form at mantle pressures. This comment is nonsensical.

Reply to  William Astley
February 28, 2019 12:01 pm

Not a single piece of your so called evidence for a CH4 core actually exists anywhere outside the fevered imagination of a few deluded cranks.

Methane leaks are all, 100% of them, caused by decaying mater in the sea floor ooze.

Reply to  William Astley
February 28, 2019 10:52 am

Nickel catalyzes the breakdown of methane to carbon and hydrogen at high temperature. No oxygen involved obviously.

February 28, 2019 7:38 am

This article inspired me to believe we should start harvesting magma to fuel our industry. We HAVE the technology to build tanks that can hold the HOT magma till needed. Geothermal energy, without the messy … water.

Reply to  Kenji
February 28, 2019 8:11 am

Kenji, let us consider what happens when you mine magma from under the continents.
1) You remove the support of the mantle underneath the outer crust of the planet. This causes the continents to sink lower into the mantle.
2) As your mined magma cools and is spent, you just pile it up into a huge rock pile. The weight of this pile causes the continents to sink even deeper into the mantle.
3) All this sinking causes the apparent sea levels to soar, flooding huge parts of your continent.
4) Within a short time, all the accumulated stress on the Earth’s crust will cause a huge break in your continent. The mantle will be openly exposed at the bottom of the rift.
5) The now elevated oceans of the world will flood into the rift, causing an enormous steam explosion. This cataclysmic detonation will blast the whole planet to pieces.

Probably not a good thing to do.

Reply to  TonyL
February 28, 2019 11:33 am

Just as well, The Mole Men would never have tolerated our theft of their Magma.


Reply to  TonyL
February 28, 2019 2:28 pm

TonyL – your detailed response humbles my simplistic tongue-in-cheek suggestion. Agreed. We should not mess with Mother Gaia’s guts.

Reply to  Kenji
February 28, 2019 10:38 am

If world use of lava was 1 cubic km per year, how does this effect things?

It seems if you could buy lava, one could use it, instead of concrete.
The value of concrete is about $75 per cubic meter.
1 cubic km is 1 billion cubic meter or at same price of concrete 75 billion dollars of
lava as construction material.
If used as energy, would there be 75 billion dollars of energy in a cubic km of lava?

William Astley
February 28, 2019 7:51 am

This is more information to support my above comment. Have a look.

The reason that there are only three tiny pieces of continental crust for the first 3 billion years of the earth is that plate tectonics started roughly a billion years ago, driven by the start of the solidifying of the core of the plate which causes super high-pressure liquid CH4 to be extruded from the liquid core when it crystallizes. The liquid core of the planet is saturated with CH4. The CH4 was pulled into the core when the planet formed.

It has been known for some time that convection motion in the earth does not and cannot physically explain plate tectonics. The lack of a forcing mechanism explains why the theory of plate tectonics took so long to be accepted.

Comment: It was once believed that that heavy metals were brought the surface of the earth by a late ‘heavy’ bombardment. At that time, it was believed that the asteroid belt contained the remains of a Mars size object, including the core of that planet, that was destroyed by Jupiter. It is now known the asteroid belt is formed only small bodies and does not contain concentrated heavy metals.

The forced movement of the super high-pressure liquid CH4 from the liquid core and drop out of the organic metals that dissolve in super high pressure CH4 at specific pressures explains why there is heavy metal concentration in the crust of in some cases a million times more concentrated than the mantel.

The same mechanism explains why there is helium in some natural gas fields and oil fields. The helium is produced from radioactive decay of the concentrated Uranium and Thorium that drops out at specific pressures. The super high pressure CH4 that is moving through the mantel provides a path for the helium gas to move up to higher locations where the natural gas and oil are found.

The same mechanism also explains why the tectonic plate movement has double in speed.
Plate Tectonics: too weak to build mountains

“In 2002 it could be said that: “Although the concept of plates moving on Earth’s surface is universally accepted, it is less clear which forces cause that motion. Understanding the mechanism of plate tectonics is one of the most important problems in the geosciences”8. A 2004 paper noted that “considerable debate remains about the driving forces of the tectonic plates and their relative contribution”40. “Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift died in 1926, primarily because no one could suggest an acceptable driving mechanism. In an ironical twist, continental drift (now generalized to plate tectonics) is almost universally accepted, but we still do not understand the driving mechanism in anything other than the most general terms”2.”

“The advent of plate tectonics made the classical mantle convection hypothesis even more untenable. For instance, the supposition that mid-oceanic ridges are the site of upwelling and trenches are that of sinking of the large scale convective flow cannot be valid, because it is now established that actively spreading, oceanic ridges migrate and often collide with trenches”14. “Another difficulty is that if this is currently the main mechanism, the major convection cells would have to have about half the width of the large oceans, with a pattern of motion that would have to be more or less constant over very large areas under the lithosphere. This would fail to explain the relative motion of plates with irregularly shaped margins at the Mid-Atlantic ridge and Carlsberg ridge, and the motion of small plates, such as the Caribbean and the Philippine plates”19.

Gordon Lehman
February 28, 2019 8:26 am

“auspicious” should be “auspices” in first paragraph.

No big deal.

February 28, 2019 8:53 am

Perhaps this is why AOC’s Green New Deal demands the curtailment of fossil fuel production NOW! The old models always gave the world just 10 to 20 years to “peak oil”, so the communists/socialists could sit back and wait for industrialized nations to collapse as energy sources ran out! If this information is even partially correct, it might be centuries before we hit the fossil fuel limit! The communists/socialists realize they must strike now or forever be relegated to the dustbin of history!

Gordon Lehman
February 28, 2019 9:35 am

Current Carbon cycle efforts put volcanic Carbon at about .1 Gt annually. I believe this is substantially underestimated, but even if you take this number and multiply by 4 billion years, you get 400 million Gt Carbon injected to the atmosphere. Some of this gets recycled by subduction, but subduction volcanism puts some of this back in the atmosphere. We know this because arc volcanic gas is enriched in 12C.

Current Carbon cycles total something like 60 thousand Gt in the reservoirs. Where did the rest of the 400 million Gt go?

North America is the oldest craton, with a core in western Canada that is 4 billion years old. Both mineral and biological Carbon have accrued here the longest

kevin kilty
February 28, 2019 10:21 am

In an earlier incarnation I was a geophysicist, running a small geophysical exploration/engineering company. I know a bit about potential fields. Gravity data cannot be inverted to a unique solution–to do so requires independent data; and if one has independent data of good quality, typically seismic data, then gravity data becomes merely a constraint.

The only oil fields found using gravity data are salt domes, and perhaps extremely obvious anticlines.

kevin kilty
Reply to  kevin kilty
February 28, 2019 10:24 am

And, by the way, gravity fields measured from satellite are smoothed to such a degree (upward continuation) that only broad features remain. Spatial resolution becomes a problem no matter what the instrumentation.

Thomas C Bakewell
February 28, 2019 10:34 am

Donald Kasper got it right. I used gravity and magnetic data for exploration and development work. It can be useful when combined with high quality seismic data. Not so good as a direct indicator of hydrocarbons. Fixed station gravity data is much more useful than that collected from a moving platform. If you’re having trouble sleeping look up the Ootvos Effect to learn why. (Don’t forget the umlauts) The satellite gravity data is pretty smeared out, so using it for detailed work, like aquafer estimation, is silly.

February 28, 2019 11:28 am

This is sooo bad, it’s not even wrong, paging David Middleton , paging David Middleton .

Reply to  Hans Erren
March 1, 2019 9:37 am

Sorry… My wife had surgery last week. I’ve been busy taking care of her, 10 dogs and trying to work from home: finding oil & gas without the use of gravity data. Through the miracles of Citrix and VPN, I can interpret 3d seismic data, stored on a server in Houston, on a laptop in Dallas… But I still can’t find oil with gravity data of any kind.

Joshua Combs
February 28, 2019 11:43 am

I wish I did this earlier, but I’m now trying to keep track of bad predictions when I see them. Take this Paper for example published in 2004 that is sited by;jsessionid=F36F7479255C2B9232BB2869ED935F03.bora-uib_worker?sequence=1

“The area of arctic sea ice is furthermore observed to have decreased ∼8 × 105 km2 (7.4%) in the past quarter century, with record-low summer ice coverage in September 2002. A set of model predictions is used to quantify changes in the ice cover through the twenty-first century, with greater reductions expected in summer than winter. In summer, a predominantly sea-ice-free Arctic is predicted for the end of this century.”

That is, they thought it would be ice free by summer of 2010. As we observe, it isn’t, but the predictions of ice-free still go on.

February 28, 2019 1:16 pm

The activities of Texas Frackers in terms of small oil firm investment parallel the satellite data time line. There were some monster non-disclosure agreements on several oil geologists I know in that time period.

I wrote about them in this series of posts:

Texas Fracking and the Death of Big Oil
Posted by Trent Telenko on May 15th, 2016

When Texas DUCs Go Quack, Quack, Frack
Posted by Trent Telenko on May 26th, 2016

Posted by Trent Telenko on June 3rd, 2016

February 28, 2019 1:34 pm

Hydrocarbon fuels are not politically congruent, are finitely available and accessible a la solar and wind drivers, have been painted by actual and mostly political and scientific myths, and are therefore at a politically competitive disadvantage.

Eric the Halibut
February 28, 2019 6:18 pm

Interesting stuff indeed. Do you know if any of the information gained sheds any light on the idea that the large volume of heat that arises from a point in the Western Pacific Ocean to form an El Nino is of volcanic origin?

March 1, 2019 8:24 am

Right on target about the abundance of fossil fuel resources. However, the claims about gravimeters are 100% science fiction.

Gravity data provide no details about fossil fuel deposits of any kind and very little detail of structural geology. Gravity data are used for broad regional mapping of basement and/or salt structures.

Detailed structural mapping and hydrocarbon detection (direct and indirect) is primarily done with seismic reflection surveys.

March 1, 2019 11:15 am

David, I appreciate all the work that you do on WUWT, but
You ate wrong about hydrocarbons.

Perhaps some are fossils, but the vast majority are abiotic.
Dr. Salby is correct about CO2. The vast majority is incorrectly counted.
Hydrocarbons perk up from great depth all around the earth, but are not
evenly distributed.

Upland top soils, in the presence of adequate moisture, owe their richness
to the hydrocarbons upwelling through them. Aerobic microbes consume the
hydrocarbons, mostly CH4, and oxidize them, enriching the soil, with the
CO2 rising into the atmosphere.

The output of CO2 is very easy to check. Any one with rich upland topsoil and
a CO2 meter with a continuous read function can measure the output by
removing the plants from an area large enough to invert a stainless steel
salad bowl, put the meter under it and weight the inverted bowl down
with a 10lb weight and read the meter four hours later.

The test for the hydrocarbons is similar, but requires more work. I take
the same salad bowl, drill a hole in the inverted bottom, solder a fitting for
1/4″ copper tubing.

Dig a hole in the soil completely through the topsoil, well into the subsoil,
through all vegetable and animal matter. Install the inverted salad bowl,
Reconsolidate the soil, allowing the copper tube to extend above
the original ground level and install a closed gas valve.

Return to the site 24 hours later and attach a combustible gas meter.
You will find hydrocarbons.

In places where the shield is near the surface, the soil is not brown or
black, as in the area around Atlanta, Ga., the hydrocarbons are
Completely or mostly blocked.

In Kansas, where the topsoil is very thick, there is a lot, relatively, of
upwelling gas.

This happens in arid areas where most or all the gas rises into the
Atmosphere unoxidized because the lack of moisture limits microbial
life. The gas is subsequently oxidized in the atmosphere.

Soil scientists have long known that there are hydrocarbons in the
topsoil, but they say that they are absorbed from the atmosphere.
It is not. When CH4 hits the atmosphere, it rises.

Failing to understand the above described process leads to a massive
Misunderstanding of the carbon cycle.

Gusippe Etiope’s finding come closest to mine. When I started reading
his finding of unaccounted for natural gas in the atmosphere, methane,
ethane, and propane, I thought that he must find the source. If he
has, I have not seen the paper.

The layers of carbonaceous rock seen all around earth testify to
the continuous buildup and storage and recycling of carbon
over time.

If carbon were not recycled, life on earth would have died out
long ago, or probably never started. Plant life on earth has never
Been threatened for lack of CO2 because there is a source at the
Soil beneath the plants.

The speed with which hydrocarbons rise through the earth
changes with small changes in temperature. When the soil is
frozen, the upwelling stops or slows dramatically.

Rain or water speeds the rise of the gasses, reducing the ability
of microbes to consume it, causing the misunderstood hydrocarbon
readings above rice paddies when they are flooded.

The continuous upwelling all around the earth means that there
is a never ending supply and that there has to be a continuous
generating process.

Please do the above described tests before you tell me that you
have worked in the oil business all your life and that I am wrong.
The tests are actual science and not theory.

March 1, 2019 11:55 am

None of what you posted has anything to do with petroleum formation. Biogenic CH4 from the direct decay of organic matter is unrelated to petroleum formation.

The Earth has recycled carbon over its entire history.

This isn’t even wrong:

The continuous upwelling all around the earth means that there
is a never ending supply and that there has to be a continuous
generating process.

If there was a “never ending supply” from “a continuous generating process,” no oil or gas reservoir would ever exhibit a decline curve. Every oil & gas reservoir ever drilled and produced has exhibited a decline curve. If the process was due to a “continuous upwelling all around the earth,” significant volumes of crude oil would be flowing out of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It isn’t, not even at Lost City. Crude oil is found in and immediately adjacent to sedimentary basins. With few exceptions, it is only found in sedimentary rocks. The exceptions are fractured or otherwise porous igneous/basement rocks in or immediately adjacent to sedimentary basins.

The generating process is continuous. Crude oil is constantly forming and migrating from source rocks into reservoir rocks. This has been directly observed through 4d seismic surveys in Eugene Island 330 field in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s just forming and migrating much more slowly than we are producing it.

Kermit H
Reply to  David Middleton
March 4, 2019 5:20 pm

No forest or walking dinosaur has ever become a drop of oil. Oil is from decaying aquatic microorganisms like plankton and algae. The dead microorganism fall to the bottom of a salty body of water which has no oxygen at that level. The organisms are covered with sediment (which becomes shale)

Every drop of oil produced has a biological marker.

Jerry Henson
Reply to  Kermit H
March 7, 2019 10:24 am

I’m sorry that I didn’t see your comment sooner. Microbes which
can live at great depth live and die in hydrocarbons. They have
been shown to live in African Gold mines at a depth of 2 miles.

The rainbow sheen seen on hydrocarbons is indeed said to be
a sign of biological life and was the last thing that gave me
pause about Mendeleev’s theory of deep earth creation of hydrocarbons.

The fact that all the outer planets, and in the case of Titan, moons,
exhibit hydrocarbons as do all exoplanets which have had their
atmospheres analyzed convinced me that biological life is not
necessary for hydrocarbon formation.

The “dust cloud” known as the Horse Head Nebulae is said to be
mostly Hydrocarbons. Most hydrocarbons are not fossils.

March 1, 2019 1:16 pm

Hydrocarbons at the midocean ridge would be oxidized by the heat,
as most if not all are oxidized in volcanoes.

The trigger for my findings is the linked video. The important segments
begins approx. 43:50. This was the trigger for my hypotheses and subsequent

I was able to meet with Dr. Woods shortly before his death and convince
him of the source of the enormous, relatively, amount of energy required to
regrow the soil was not something humans did 500 years ago.

I said that hydrocarbons perk up continuously, not rapidly. They are not evenly
distributed and collect under or in semi permeable or impermeable sedimentary layers
deep in the earth. These layers become what the industry calls source rock.
They collect over geological time. The smaller molecules tend to penetrate
and continue to rise, while the larger molecules tend to stay trapped in or below
the source rocks.

The collection of topsoil under the richest soils is a combination of a good
flow of natural gas, adequate moisture, and the ability of oxygen to penetrate
the soil.

The tar sands are a good example of hydrocarbons perking up where there
is not a good (impermeable) stone layer so all the lighter hydrocarbons evaporate,
leaving only the heaviest molecules. The reason that the oil in the Persian Gulf
is so light is that the layers of rock above the pools are almost impermeable.

A good example of the quantity of small molecules can be captured is natural gas
hydrates. There are massive amounts off our coasts and under the Alaskan and Canadian
permafrost. Their zone of stability causes them to collect above the source until their
weight is enough to stem further flow, just like a stopper in a bottle.

When you can find the time, please try the tests I describe.

March 1, 2019 4:34 pm

The tests aren’t relevant to crude oil formation.

This is utter nonsense…

The reason that the oil in the Persian Gulf
is so light is that the layers of rock above the pools are almost impermeable.

The layers above all “pools” of oil are effectively impermeable… Otherwise, the oil wouldn’t be trapped in the “pools.”

The API gravity of crude oil is totally unrelated to the lithology of the seal.

March 1, 2019 6:59 pm


The link from Lawrence Livermore Lab explains the way hydrocarbons aggregate.

My point about impermeable and semipermeable is that different qualities in rock
layers determine the size molecules which are retained by said layers.

I have not proved anything beyond the fact that small hydrocarbon molecules
rise continuously and that microbe consume them and continuously generate
CO2 or the gas rises into the atmosphere, where they are converted water and CO2.

I have not seen this properly accounted for in anyone’s carbon budget, nor can it be
because the amount of gas varies greatly across all geographies.

As near as I can determine, the imbalance is attributed to human contribution.

Some people think that C 12 vs. C13 fractions prove biotic vs abiotic. It does

See attached link about gas inclusions in diamonds.

March 1, 2019 8:02 pm

No. Your comprehension of heavy vs light oil is totally wrong.

Heavy oils aren’t stripped of “small molecules.” Heavier oils are thermally immature, loaded with parafins and asphaltenes. The permeability of overlying rocks is totally irrelevant to API gravity.

March 1, 2019 8:04 pm

The LLNL link has nothing to do with petroleum formation…

“Our simulation study shows that methane molecules fuse to form larger hydrocarbon molecules when exposed to the very high temperatures and pressures of the Earth’s upper mantle,” Galli said. “We don’t say that higher hydrocarbons actually occur under the realistic ‘dirty’ Earth mantle conditions, but we say that the pressures and temperatures alone are right for it to happen.

The Fischer–Tropsch process is also possible. This falls under the category of No Schist Sherlock. Lost City is probably a natural example of the Fischer–Tropsch process.

March 1, 2019 8:23 pm

Attached link about gas inclusions in diamonds…

carbon dioxide entrapped in a 8.65 carat natural diamond

Methane isn’t oil. Carbon dioxide isn’t oil. Carbon isotopes, alone, aren’t definitive evidence of anything.

March 2, 2019 7:56 am


I do not remember saying that heavy oils were stripped of lighter molecules.

What I intended to indicate with various amounts of permeability in succeeding
rock layers is that when a molecule is too large to pass through a certain layer,
that size and larger will be retained in or under that layer. It is also possible
for the larger molecules to clog the pour spaces and cause some smaller molecules
to be retained while other small molecule pass that layer and continue to
the surface.

How do you think that leaves and moss and dinosaurs become heavy crude?

March 2, 2019 8:08 am

Moss and dinosaurs didn’t become oil.

Oil is sourced from marine and lacustrine algae/phytoplankton.

Heavy oils don’t lack smaller molecules. Light oils lack asphaltenes and parafins because they are more thermally mature. They “cooked” at higher temperatures than heavy oils. Natural gas condensate (>45° API) is the lightest oil. You can run a diesel engine on condensate (AKA drip gas).

March 2, 2019 9:32 am

The problem I have with that theory is that the microbial culture in the oceans do not
allow phytoplankton et. al. to collect on the ocean floor.

Three months after the Deep Water Horizon was shut off, marine biologists and others
went in search of the pollution.

They found none.

The microbial culture blooms to the extent of the food available.

Larger creatures which die and fall to the ocean floor are consumed by creatures
which live at or just under the surface of the bottom.

The reason that there is a layer about 500 ft thick of sand and silt
over the ~ 500 meter thick layer of gas hydrates off the Carolina coast
is that is required to prevent ocean dwelling creatures and microbes from
devouring it.

In your theory, what is the progression, the process, by which the phytoplankton
become heavy oil or asphalt?

March 2, 2019 9:40 am

The problem you have with the theory is a total lack of knowledge of it. Marine black shales, deposited under anoxic conditions are loaded with the stuff that oil is made of…

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

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

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

Cretaceous Proto-Atlantic

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

There is no shortage of organic matter in the sedimentary basins of the Earth’s crust. has a very good basic primer here.

The basic steps are:

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

The depth scale is generalized. It can vary a great deal depending on the nature of the overburden.

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

Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 10:19 am
Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 10:37 am

I apparently do not know how to post a photograph.

Do you agree with me that natural gas forms in the same region as

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 11:00 am

Methane can form almost anywhere.

Methane isn’t oil and the natural gas associated with crude oil production formed where the crude oil formed.

Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 10:43 am

Try again.

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 11:02 am

Only people with editors privileges can post images in the current comments format.

Jerry henson
March 2, 2019 11:59 am

The photographs I wanted to post show a cross section of the Bakken.

As the edges of the rock layers attenuate, more hydrocarbons find
their way through the layers which were once (and will be again) the
bottom of the lake.

I also wanted to show a Canadian soil classification photo.

The Canadian soil classification, different than the US, clearly show
bands of soil richness. The band at the outer edge is black- very rich,
until the soil stretches over the shield.

As the rock bands thicken towards the rise, the soils are still rich, but
less so until the fracture at the rise. The area over the rise darkens
once again, but not nearly as dark as the band where the hydrocarbons
are shunted toward and beyond the edge.

The darkness of the soil clearly indicates the amount of food the microbes
have to eat and the resulting richness of the soil. It also indicates the
difference in the amount of hydrocarbons retained buy the rock layer
underneath, indicating a relative difference in the oil/gas reservoir.

The bands also indicate, relatively, the amount of CO2 generated by
the microbes. This also demonstrates the difficulty in estimating the
total amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere by soil microbes.

Reply to  Jerry henson
March 2, 2019 2:12 pm

Post the link and I’ll post it as an image.

Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 12:16 pm

I believe that the Russians producing natural gas from a well 40,000+ feet
deep and diamonds from great depth, 435 mi. or more, carrying natural gas
inclusions show that the carbon cycle requires calculations which I have
not seen published.

March 2, 2019 2:27 pm

It’s not the depth that matters. It’s the temperature. 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.

March 2, 2019 2:47 pm

comment image&exph=498&expw=600&q=bakken+oil+field+cross+section&selectedindex=6&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&eim=0,1,2,6&ccid=soWCwiz9&simid=607997819643626065
comment image&exph=231&expw=300&q=canada+soil+maps&selectedindex=22&qpvt=canada+soil+maps&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&eim=0,1,2,6

March 2, 2019 2:52 pm

How is this relevant?

March 2, 2019 3:04 pm

comment image


Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 3:55 pm

Thanks David,

The cross section is the one to which I referred.

The soil map is also the correct one.

The colors are a little confusing but the legend gives the proper information.

For some reason, the lightest color is the black soil. If I had been choosing the colors,
they would be the inverse of the colors used, but the legend is correct.

The fissure in the anticline is richer than the soil surrounding the dome.

The fissure allowed more of the hydrocarbons to reach the topsoil at the fracture.

The dome soil covering the dome allows fewer hydrocarbons to pass, therefore
the soil is less rich than the succeeding rings, and so on until the last ring which
is actually the richest soil and is actually black soil.

The soil maps is a graphic representation of my findings.

I have another photograph, David, if you will indulge me further.
comment image&exph=328&expw=220&q=plaggen+epipedon&selectedindex=4&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&eim=0,1,2,6

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 5:18 pm

What “dome”? What “fissure”?

Reply to  David Middleton
March 2, 2019 5:33 pm

The anti-cline which has a fracture.

March 2, 2019 7:09 pm

An anticline is a ridge. There are no fissures, fractures or faults depicted on the map or the cross section.

The best Bakken production coincides with the thickest Bakken section, not the Nessen Anticline, nor any of the actual fault zones.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 5:08 am

The feature on the cross section at the anticline marked “Antelope Field”
is a fault in the cap rock. This fault allows hydrocarbons to escape, enriching
the soil above this fault.

If you would post the soil map, you can see that the area in the center of
of the Bakken is less rich than the outer bands except directly above
the line in the section which I call a fracture. This fracture allowing the
hydrocarbons to escape, as shown by richer soil directly above it,
would be a reason that there is less hydrocarbons in the anticline.

Please post the picture of what geographers have mistakenly called a
Plaggen Epipedon. One must examine the photograph carefully to understand
it as I explained below.

March 3, 2019 5:35 am

The soil has nothing to do with the Bakken.

The Bakken is Late Devonian to Lower Mississipian age. The Bakken is in the Williston Basin, essentially a big “bowl”.

The Williston Basin is productive from the Triassic down to the Cambrian.

The thousands of feet of section from the Triassic up to the soil is not productive. There’s no oil there.

The most productive area is where the Bakken is thickest, east of the Nessen Anticline.

Early Bakken wells were drilled up-dip on the basin rim and anticlines. These were conventional wells from conventional reservoirs. In the 2000’s it was discovered that the source rock, the Bakken shale members were a continuous resource across the basin.


Palliser’s Triangle is totally irrelevant to anything related to the Wiiliston Basin…

Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 4:33 pm

The above link shows a picture of top soil over a layer of CACO3. The
caption for the picture says that the topsoil was created over time
by humans spreading manure on it. It was not. The topsoil is a
product of aerobic microbes oxidiseing hydrocarbons upwelling from
below. The hydrocarbons rise until they hit
the limestone barrier. The barrier is a consistant thickness, except
at the right hand side of the photograph, where it is cracked.

The prevailing wind in the photo is from right to left

The consistancy meters the hydrocarbons through at an even
rate, but builds some back pressure. This back pressure is relieved
somewhat at the crack, allowing a greater flow at that point. There
the microbes have more to eat than in the surrounding soil,
making the topsoil darker (richer). The crack also allows the aerobic
microbes to follow the gas through the rock layer, enabling
them to eat some of the build up of gas under the rock,
until they run out of oxygen.

This source of CO2 means that plants have always had a local
supply of CO2, which means that there has not been a risk of

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 2, 2019 9:57 pm

Not even wrong.

That’s just a typical epipedon plaggen soil profile from Northern Europe. The dark upper horizon is 100% anthropogenic. Thete is no limestone layer. Nor is there any indication of methane upwelling from deeper hydrocarbon pools

Orizzonti diagnostici is diagnostic horizons in Italian.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 3:27 am

Epipedon = surface horizon
Plaggen = manure

Foth, Henry D. Fundamentals of Soil Science. John Wiley & Sons. 6th Edition 1978 (originally published 1943). Pp 256-257.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 5:30 am

Foth is mistaken. I may be wrong about the kind of rock layer
underlying the top soil but not about the description. The
salient point about the rock layer is that it appears to be very
consistent in thickness, and builds back pressure in the rising
hydrocarbons, said pressure being relieved at the crack,
causing the anomaly in the soil above, causing Froth to
imagine that humans had a hand in the process.

Several years ago, I used this photograph to convince one of
the best and most famous geographers, and world experts on
middens that humans had not caused this effect and were
not responsible for the geologic effect in the Amazon called
Terra Preta.

March 3, 2019 5:48 am

You’re totally wrong about everything.

Plaggen is composed of reworked sod and manure. It is a common soil layer in Medieval to late 1800’s agricultural areas in Northern Europe.

Foth is my college Soil Science textbook from 1978.

March 3, 2019 6:09 am

It’s not a rock layer at all. It is a layer of sandy soil that was present when Medieval farmers started dumping cow schist on top of it.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 5:34 am

Duplicate comment.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 5:57 am

5:30 am was not duplicate comment. I was including your
claim based on old knowledge by Foth.

March 3, 2019 6:01 am

The duplicate comment was mine. I replied to the wrong comment.

March 3, 2019 5:52 am

David, please post the photo of the Canadian soil map.
Others may see, as I do, the inverse relationship of the soil bands
to the sediment rock bands. The rising plume of hydrocarbons
which escape capture by the shale layer make more hydrocarbons
available for the microbes to eat, making that soil band richer.

March 3, 2019 6:02 am

The irrelevant soil map is at the end of the long explanation of the Williston Basin and the Bakken.

March 3, 2019 6:05 am

There is no plume of hydorcarbons… Because the oil & gas are trapped below the Cretaceous in the Williston Basin. Palliser’s Triangle is in the Quaternary… Thousands of feet and 100’s of millions of years above and many miles to the northwest of the Bakken.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 6:12 am

The relevance of the soil map is that it is the soil directly
above the Bakken formation and it is easy for one with
an open mind to see the relationship.

March 3, 2019 6:20 am

David, the colors on this map of the soil above the Bakken make it
easier to corollate with the cross section and map of the Bakken.
If you could post it I would appreciate it.
comment image&exph=504&expw=648&q=canada+soil+maps&selectedindex=48&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&eim=0,1,2,6

March 3, 2019 6:23 am

This isn’t above the Bakken… It’s not even close.

There are thousands of feet of non-hydrocarbon bearing rocks between the Bakken and the soil…

Jerry Henson
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 9:09 am

As I said above, the largest of the molecule are trapped in the shale
layers below, and some of the smallest molecules, CH4, C2H6,C3H8,
and possibly other continue to rise and make it to the surface, enriching
the topsoil.

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 3, 2019 9:14 am

Not over the Bakken. The gas zones are deeper than the oil zones… Because the rocks are hotter.

Furthermore, you haven’t provided a single example of this… just a series of unrelated images, some of which you clearly had no idea what they were.

Jerry Henson
March 3, 2019 8:15 am

The importance of the photo of the soil map is that
it makes it easy to see the influence of various amounts
of hydrocarbons.
The tests which I describe on 3/1, 11:15 am are a simple and
easy way to test for hydrocarbons. They do require some
decent topsoil and some test meters.

My friend, Jay Leher, says that we should carry a CO2
meter with us at all times. The CO2 rising from topsoil
is an indication of hydrocarbons being oxidized.

The second test which requires much more work, will
be a direct reading of hydrocarbons, in the upwelling
plume which I mentioned above.

Areas with the shield at or near the surface have little
to no upwelling gas, so the soil is very poor, and was
formed the way the text books on soil describe. The
topsoil in Kansas and above the Bakken were not formed
as text books describe and the tests which show hydrocarbons
prove that.

My conclusions come from old fashioned observation,
hypothesis, tests, findings, and then conclusions, not text

Todays text books say that long dead plankton, with heat and
pressure can become light oil, heavy oil, even tar.

Gas crackers are or will soon be converting natural gas to low
Sulphur diesel, which I understand is currently the most profitable
product. Technology can make most if not all hydrocarbons from
natural gas.

David, we are, or were, in my case, both in the hydrocarbon business.
You found and I sold. Until an oil co bought me out and I retired, I
developed, built, owned and operated convenience stores.

From the early 70’s I have had an intense interest in supply. I had
not been in business long until we were told that here was a supply
shortage. During the second “shortage”, soo much effort was put into
alternatives to hydrocarbons that a white paper came out, supposedly
from an organ of the oil companies which said that there was as
much oil under the surface of the earth as water in the oceans.

Unfortunately, I lost my copy of the document in a divorce, and have
not found a copy of it since.

All upland rich top soils that I have tested are over plumes of upwelling
natural gas.

Diamonds bearing liquid hydrocarbons prove that hydrocarbons
form deep in the earth. Why would collections of said
hydrocarbons not be changed under the heat and pressure which
text books say that phytoplankton are?

Do the simple tests before you tell me that your text books
say that I am wrong.

I have Dimitri Mendeleev on my side.

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 3, 2019 9:03 am

Your tests have nothing to do with oil and 99% of what you have posted here has been gibberish.

Gas plumes are usually indicative of breached traps. Geochemical surveys of overlying soil are rarely useful in oil & gas exploration, in the absence of seeps.

There are no upwelling plumes of anything over the Bakken. The Williston Basin was initially drilled on the basis of large anticlines that breached the surface. There were no oil seeps, gas plumes or any other near surface geochemical anomalies. The first wells drilled were dry holes with no traces of hydrocarbons. It wasn’t until Amerada drilled deep enough on the Nesson Anticline that oil was discovered in conventional structurally trapped reservoirs.

Jerry Henson
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2019 9:22 am

As I said David, test. The orthodoxy of western geology make the
paradigm hard to escape. The theory your studies taught you are close
enough to reality to operate an industry.

Test some rich upland topsoil. Start with the simple CO2 test.

Thanks for your time David.

Best wishes and get well soon to your wife.

Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 3, 2019 9:27 am

Thanks for the kind thoughts and generally enjoyable discussion.

The “theory” was derived from over 100 years of drilling wells. The theory doesn’t “operate” the industry.

Kermit H
Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 5, 2019 6:38 am

FT process requires sulfur free natural gas and oxygen. It uses either a steam methane reformer to create turn the sulfur free gas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide or an autothermal reformer which requires addition of oxygen gas. The FT reactors are tubular reactors with very tight control of temperature of the exothermic reaction, and by control I mean within inches of every zone of the reaction heat has to be removed. The resulting synthetic crude oil is very high in wax content and has to go through a hydrocracker to obtain much in the way of diesel, kerosene and lube oil fractions, with some chemical grade naphtha, and wax. Wax being the highest per barrel revenue producer of the process, after being stabilized via hydrogenation.

Wight Mann
March 4, 2019 8:02 am

“Appellations”? Doesn’t that have to do with designation of various wines?

Reply to  Wight Mann
March 4, 2019 1:01 pm

It does… And there is a strong connection between wine and petroleum geology.


Wight Mann
Reply to  David Middleton
March 4, 2019 3:30 pm

Funny…but he means Appalachia, right? He should correct it. Terrible hit to his credibility.

Reply to  Wight Mann
March 4, 2019 6:23 pm

I’d like to think he meant some variation of Appalachians.

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