Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Fossil Fuel and All the Dead Dinosaurs

For the last 250 years we have been told that oil is a fossil fuel. In other words the source of our petroleum and hydrocarbons is explained by the “dead dinosaur hypothesis”. This is NOT the source of crude oil.

This was first put forward by a Russian scientist named Mikhail Lomonosov, who put it this way in a 1757 paper: “Rock oil (petroleum) originates as tiny bodies of animals buried in the sediments which, under the influence of increased temperature and pressure acting during an unimaginably long period of time, transforms into rock oil.”

The idea of “fossil fuel” was rejected and repudiated as early as the 1800’s by the German naturalist and geologist Alexander von Humboldt and the French chemist and thermodynamicist Louis Joseph Gay-Lussac. They proposed that oil is a primordial material erupting from great depth and is unconnected with any biological matter near the surface of the Earth.

As the development of the Sciences continued in the 19th century, the theory of fossil fuel was undermined by the work of such scientists as Marcellin Berthelot, Biasson and Sokolov and finally by Dmitri Mendeleev. For all intents and purposes they drove a stake through the heart of the fossil fuel theory. So what does happen?

The production of hydrocarbons is a continual process that takes place deep in the Earth’s crust. It is the product of continuous high-temperature, high-pressure reactions between calcium carbonate and iron oxide in the presence of water. Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) and Iron Oxide are two of the most abundant compounds making up the earth’s crust. At temperatures of 1500°C and pressures of 50,000 atmospheres, hydrocarbons are produced continuously. It seeps up through fissures in the earths crust until it is trapped in subterranean caverns. These trapped lakes of oil are what we call oil fields.

Hydrocarbons formation is actually dependant on atmospheric CO2. CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. When reacted with Calcium it can either be used by marine organisms to form shells or it can precipitate out as a fine powder. Both will find their way to the sea floor. These sediment layers will eventually form limestone. During plate tectonic motion one plate can be subducted (buried) under another. When this occurs at sea vast quantities of limestone (CaCO3) are buried deep in the Earth’s crust.

This knowledge has been around for decades. The primary drive to develop a modern petroleum science came in the 1950’s when the Soviet government was denied access to Western and Middle Eastern sources of oil. Russian and Ukrainian scientists called their work the abiotic or abiogenic theory of hydrocarbon formation. They have been extremely successful in finding oil deposits as far down in the crust as 13 km. The deepest that Westerners have drilled is 4.5km.

This article is merely to bring these facts to your attention. I recommend the links below for anyone who wishes to learn more. I will leave you with the thought that oil is the ultimate renewable energy. It is as valid as any other link in the carbon cycle of life.

1 Essay by J F Kenney in conjunction with the Russian Academy of Sciences

2 Technical Paper on abiotic oil by J F Kenney, Vladimir A Kutcherov, Nikolai A Bendeliani & Vladimir A Alekseev

3 Article on the Geopolitical implications of this knowledge