[permaculture] Abiotic oil

Kevin Topek ktopek at houston.rr.com
Sun Oct 9 23:26:42 EDT 2005


A very succinct argument and the generally accepted answer for fossil fuel
development. Years ago I took a petroleum class at Rice University, from the
very respected geologist Peter Vail. One day he assigned an origin of fossil
fuels paper to the class and singled me out and said (in front of everyone),
"I can see this bores you Kevin, so your assignment will be to read all the
offprints from Tommy Gold." Tommy Gold was a professor of cosmic
geochemistry at Cornell University and was famous for non-terrestrial
theories of hydrocarbon origins. He theorized that most terrestrial
hydrocarbons were captured during carbonaceous chondrite bombardment of the
protoearth. These hydrocarbons continued to rise through the layers of the
earth's crust due to their lighter molecular weight, lower specific gravity.
The argument of biological tracers as proof of their biological origin was
countered by the fact that the pressure required to create oil would
obliterate any obvious biological tracers, and these tracers were actually
picked up from the surrounding geologic zones during hydrocarbon migration,
usually upward. His theories were not generally accepted, nor were they
popular with most geologists, especially in Houston, Texas, the world's oil

I have always appreciated the special assignment Dr. Vail gave me. I was
studying space physics in college and these theories ring quite plausible
with regard to planetary formation. In fact the early earth was bombarded
with vast amounts of carbonaceous chondrites, and they definitely carried
precursor molecules to life, if not life itself. Years later at a lecture by
Kip Thorne, gravitational expert, at Cornell I had a chance to meet Dr.
Gold, who was one of Kip's professors. He was all I had hoped for; wild
eyed, trench coat wearing, crazy question asking, a dream come true. I told
him I had read all of his published papers and he implored I should read his
books. My point is this. Do not be too hasty to dismiss alternate theories.
We by no means understand natural processes all that well. We are constantly
learning and improving our theories. Please remember, it is our job as
Permaculturists to observe our surroundings and withold judgment until a
working theory can be formulated that improves the situation. To do
otherwise is imprudent and potentially fatal.


----- Original Message -----
From: <Marimike6 at cs.com>
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 09, 2005 3:03 PM
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Abiotic oil

> The abiogenesis of oil, coal and natural gas deposits is an idea that a
> majority of petroleum geologists and engineers put into the same category
as Hollow
> Earth Theory, or the extraterrestrial origin of life.
> Not surprisingly, a great many of our sharper minds have been employed for
> very long time determining the nature of fossil fuel deposits, as a guide
> toward exploration. There are a few people, even respected scientists, who
> differ-- but their arguments tend toward the theoretical and abstruse.
They don't
> have the advantage of having much unequivocal evidence to back them up.
> Fossil fuel deposits, as a general rule, are found to occur in synclines
> where ancient bodies of water have allowed the accumulation of vast
quantities of
> dead organic matter without dispersal. Most of this matter tends to be
> which in its rotted, chemically stable form is known as kerogen.  It is
> pressure cooked over long periods of time-- and heat, pressure and time
> play a part in the nature of the deposits created. These processes are
known as
> thermal degradation and cracking.
> Generally speaking, petroleum deposits that have cooked for too long end
> as short-chain hydrocarbons, or natural gas (methane, ethane, hexane,
> Don't cook them long enough, or under enough pressure and they appear as
> shales, coal-tar, tar sands and so-called "heavy oil". These substances,
> and more viscous, are composed of long-chain hydrocarbons. They are less
> volatile, i.e. harder to burn, and make good asphalt.
> The principle problem with the deep-earth origins of such substances is
> deeper than (as I recall) about 15,000 feet, pressure and temperature are
> great as to fry the oil. All the long-chain hydrocarbons get rendered into
> lighter gases. Any explanation involving origin in the mantle would need
> explain how these volatiles, when trapped in sediments closer to the
> are able to convert themselves into longer hydrocarbon chains.
> Theoretically it is certainly possible to have natural gas pockets appear
> from mantle events. But no convincing evidence of which I'm aware has been
> forth to illustrate that many or most of the deposits we've examined are
> such a source.
> A good general introduction to the fossil fuel formation debate can be
> here:
> http://www.aapg.org/explorer/2002/11nov/abiogenic.cfm
> A caveat: I'm not an expert. Anyone with something more accurate to say,
> please jump on in.
> Michael
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