The abiotic oil debate and "peak oil"

The following is a collection of excerpts and links concerning a recent and ongoing important debate over the contending theories of oil origins (fossil vs. abiotic) between Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness and Dave McGowan, as well as related topics pertaining to the scientific foundation of "peak oil" predictions. I do not wish to offer any final judgements, and I’m not qualified to do so, but I do think that McGowan and others have raised a great deal of documentation and argument which deserve close attention. Everything on this page is presented for informational purposes, intended as a review of the debate thus far.

– Brian Salter, 25 Mar 04 (updated 16 Apr)

[updates, 16 April: Shell to Demolish Profitable Refinery, McGowan Newsletter #59]

The following excerpt from an article by FTW energy editor Dale Allen Pfeiffer expresses the FTW position on abiotic oil:

File:Deep sea vent chemistry diagram.jpg


There is some speculation that oil is abiotic in origin — generally asserting that oil is formed from magma instead of an organic origin. These ideas are really groundless. All unrefined oil carries microscopic evidence of the organisms from which it was formed. These organisms can be traced through the fossil record to specific time periods when quantities of oil were formed.

Likewise, there are two primal energy forces operating on this planet, and all forms of energy descend from one of these two. The first is the internal form of energy heating the Earth’s interior. This primal energy comes from radioactive decay and from the heat energy originally generated during accretion of the planet some 4.6 billion years ago. There are no known mechanisms for transferring this internal energy into any secondary energy source. And the chemistry of magma does not compare to the chemistry of hydrocarbons. Magma is lacking in carbon compounds, and hydrocarbons are lacking in silicates. If hydrocarbons were generated from magma, then you would expect to see some closer kinship in their chemistry.

The second primal energy source is light and heat generated by our sun. It is the sun’s energy that powers all energy processes on the Earth’s surface, and which provides the very energy for life itself. Photosynthesis is the miraculous process by which the sun’s energy is converted into forms available to the life processes of living matter. Following biological, geological and chemical processes, a line can be drawn from photosynthesis to the formation of hydrocarbon deposits. Likewise, both living matter and hydrocarbons are carbon based.

Finally, because oil generation is in part a geological process, it proceeds at an extremely slow rate from our human perspective. Geological processes take place over a different frame of time than human events. It is for this reason that when geologists say that the San Andreas fault is due for a powerful earthquake, they mean any time in the next million years — probably less. Geological processes move exceedingly slow.

After organic matter has accumulated on the sea floor, it must be buried by the process of deposition. In geological time, in order for this matter to be a likely prospect for hydrocarbon generation, the rate of deposition must be quick. Here is an experiment you can conduct to get an idea how slow the rates of deposition are. Place a small stone on the bottom of a motionless pond. Take another stone of about the same size and place it at the mouth of a small stream, a stream where the current is not so great that it will sweep the stone away. Check both of these stones yearly until they have been buried by deposition. You might see the stone at the mouth of the stream covered over within a few years, but it is unlikely that you will see the stone in the pond buried within your lifetime.

It is a simple geological fact that the oil we are using up at an alarming rate today will not be replaced within our lifetime — or within many lifetimes. That is why hydrocarbons are called non-renewable resources. Capped wells may appear to refill after a few years, but they are not regenerating. It is simply an effect of oil slowly migrating through pore spaces from areas of high pressure to the low-pressure area of the drill hole. If this oil is drawn out, it will take even longer for the hole to refill again. Oil is a non-renewable resource generated and deposited under special biological and geological conditions.

Mike Ruppert goes into greater detail in the following:
Framing the Debate on Abiotic Oil

Part of the above article is a response to a challenge issued by Jerry Russell:
Peak Oil"??Ý Don’t buy into the hype! (3/12/04)

Dave McGowan argues for the abiotic theory, which holds that oil is generated by natural processes in the earth’s magma, and he also argues pointedly that the "fossil" theory has never been proven. The following is long and detailed, but a must-read:

March 13, 2004
Cop v CIA (Center for an Informed America)


The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is not controversial nor presently a matter of academic debate. The period of debate about this extensive body of knowledge has been over for approximately two decades (Simakov 1986). The modern theory is presently applied extensively throughout the former U.S.S.R. as the guiding perspective for petroleum exploration and development projects. There are presently more than 80 oil and gas fields in the Caspian district alone which were explored and developed by applying the perspective of the modern theory and which produce from the crystalline basement rock. (Krayushkin, Chebanenko et al. 1994) Similarly, such exploration in the western Siberia cratonic-rift sedimentary basin has developed 90 petroleum fields of which 80 produce either partly or entirely from the crystalline basement. The exploration and discoveries of the 11 major and 1 giant fields on the northern flank of the Dneiper-Donets basin have already been noted. There are presently deep drilling exploration projects under way in Azerbaijan, Tatarstan, and Asian Siberia directed to testing potential oil and gas reservoirs in the crystalline basement. (

It appears that, unbeknownst to Westerners, there have actually been, for quite some time now, two competing theories concerning the origins of petroleum. One theory claims that oil is an organic ‘fossil fuel’ deposited in finite quantities near the planet’s surface. The other theory claims that oil is continuously generated by natural processes in the Earth’s magma. One theory is backed by a massive body of research representing fifty years of intense scientific inquiry. The other theory is an unproven relic of the eighteenth century. One theory anticipates deep oil reserves, refillable oil fields, migratory oil systems, deep sources of generation, and the spontaneous venting of gas and oil. The other theory has a difficult time explaining any such documented phenomena.

So which theory have we in the West, in our infinite wisdom, chosen to embrace? Why, the fundamentally absurd ‘Fossil Fuel’ theory, of course — the same theory that the ‘Peak Oil’ doomsday warnings are based on.

I am sorry to report here, by the way, that in doing my homework, I never did come across any of that "hard science" documenting ‘Peak Oil’ that Mr. Strahl referred to. All the ‘Peak Oil’ literature that I found, on Ruppert’s site and elsewhere, took for granted that petroleum is a non-renewable ‘fossil fuel.’ That theory is never questioned, nor is any effort made to validate it. It is simply taken to be an established scientific fact, which it quite obviously is not.

So what do Ruppert and his resident experts have to say about all of this? Dale Allen Pfeiffer, identified as the "FTW Contributing Editor for Energy," has written: "There is some speculation that oil is abiotic in origin — generally asserting that oil is formed from magma instead of an organic origin. These ideas are really groundless." (

Here is a question that I have for both Mr. Ruppert and Mr. Pfeiffer: Do you consider it honest, responsible journalism to dismiss a fifty year body of multi-disciplinary scientific research, conducted by hundreds of the world’s most gifted scientists, as "some speculation"?

The following is a response by McGowan to a generally hostile email from a Ruppert supporter:

March 16, 2004
The ‘Peak Oil’ Team Sends in a Second Stringer!

McGowan then answered a response from Ruppert, raising a critique of the terms Ruppert had set in an offer for a debate:

March 18, 2004
Ruppert Responds!


The biggest problem, and the most telling aspect of the ‘offer,’ is with the framing of the question. You have chosen (and this isn’t the original topic of debate, by the way, but one that you came up with after you read my critique): "Is abiotic petroleum and natural gas readily available and making its way into commercial use in sufficient quantities to establish that there is no imminent energy shortage?î

The interesting thing about that question is that it presupposes that your side of the argument has already been proven, even though we both know that that isn’t true. It is interesting to note here that whenever people such as you and Mr. Chin mention abiotic petroleum, you are usually quick to claim that it is a "disputed" theory. However, you never attach such qualifiers to mentions of ‘fossil fuels.’ Don’t you find that odd, considering that it is actually the reverse that is true?

You have admitted that petroleum can be produced abiotically (in your response to my "kindred spirit"). In fact, no one with any credibility can deny that fact. It has been demonstrated in the laboratory and verified with unchallenged mathematical models. It is a fact. The ‘fossil fuel’ theory, on the other hand, cannot be verified and is disputed by, at the very least, a large community of Soviet and Ukrainian scientists. Since abiotic petroleum is not disputed and is verifiable, the logical presumption, until proven otherwise, is that all the natural gas and petroleum in commercial use, and in the ground, and in storage tanks, and anywhere else, is abiotic oil and gas.

In the following, McGowan re-prints an article by Walt Sheasby investigating the backgrounds of the main "peak oil" proponents. Sheasby’s analysis is quite particular and opinionated, but his research is valuable (and I have independently verified all the main points). There are different ways to interpret the connections, but Sheasby does touch on a particularly important issue: it is incorrect to assume a priori that the more alarmist or pessimistic position in this kind of debate is automatically going to represent a more radical or "anti-establishment" position. Many people seem to have trouble recognizing this.

March 19, 2004
Who Is Really Behind the ‘Peak Oil’ Scare?

Note: one important aspect of the current situation which is not mentioned in the Sheasby article is that there are mixed opinions about peak oil coming from IHS Energy, with which Petroconsultants merged several years ago. See the articles by Michael Lynch below. This is something which deserves closer examination.

At the same time, with promotion from someone like Bush energy advisor Matthew Simmons, and with coverage exploding in the mainstream media, the idea of imminent "peak oil" does not exactly qualify as a "renegade" point of view. In light of this, caution and skepticism are due.

March 24, 2004
The Debate Continues (by proxy)

McGowan continues the debate on several points with different correspondents, beginning with a defense of his challenge of Ruppert’s radical pro-population reduction stance. The final section in which he points out the conceptual blind spots of those who fail to consider the geopolitics of scarcity-based economics in weighing the arguments, and who have not addressed the fundamental credibility of the raw statistics themselves (relying on unproven premises) is essential reading. This and newsletter #52 contain most of McGowan’s most crucial arguments.

April 13, 2004
Oil News Briefs

Recent news stories bearing on some of McGowan’s points. Especially revealing are reports from industry watchdogs that the consolidation in the oil industry is part of a deliberate effort to artificially raise prices — even before any supposed "peak oil" shortages hit [!]

also related to this, see Shell to Demolish Profitable Refinery

AAPG Hedberg Conference in Vienna


The conveners for the conference are Michel T. Halbouty (Michel T. Halbouty Energy Co.), Peter Odell (Erasmus University), Barry Katz (ChevronTexaco) and Ernest A. Mancini (University of Alabama). The purpose of the conference is to bring together exploration and production geoscientists, engineers and researchers from oil companies, mineral exploration companies, research institutes and academia to discuss evidence and data for the organic origin and abiogenic origin of petroleum, and the types of tests that could be designated to determine the mechanism for the formation of petroleum. An understanding of the origin of petroleum is a crucial element in the design of successful hydrocarbon strategies and in oil and gas production. See attached Conference Announcement for further discussion on the history of this topic.

Origin of Petroleum — Biogenic and/or Abiogenic and Its Significance in Hydrocarbon Exploration and Productions

Sponsored by American Association of Petroleum Geologists

Program Committee

Michel Halbouty, Michel T. Halbouty Energy Co. Peter Odell, Erasmus University Barry Katz, ChevronTexaco Ernest A. Mancini, University of Alabama. Conference Site and Dates July 11-14, 2004 Vienna, Austria

Conference Goals

Discuss the evidence and data for an organic and abiogenic origin of petroleum; discuss the types of tests that could be designated to determine the mechanism for the formation of petroleum; discuss the similarities and differences in exploration strategies using an organic model compared to an abiogenic model for the origin of petroleum; discuss and debate these exploration strategies; discuss the ramifications of an abiogenic origin of petroleum in estimating basin resources and in determining field reserves; and discuss the significance of an abiogenic origin of petroleum to the future supplies of petroleum.


An understanding of the origin of petroleum is a crucial element in the design of successful hydrocarbon strategies and in their production. Such knowledge is also important in estimating sedimentary basin resources, in determining field reserves, and in predicting the future availability of petroleum supplies globally.

Most members of AAPG have been taught and accept that the origin of petroleum is organic. Therefore, exploration strategies are designed using geochemical data from sedimentary petroleum source rocks. Petroleum resources available in a given sedimentary basin are estimated based on the organic and physical characteristics of the source rock and their thermal and chemical alteration histories, similarly field reserves are determined based not only on structural and reservoir parameters but also upon source rock data. This methodology has been used widely by the petroleum industry. What if the source of petroleum is not from sedimentary source rocks, but from an abiogenic source that is not limited by the physical, chemical, and biological constraints that affect the type, quality and volume of petroleum derived from an organic source?

For half a century, scientists from the former Soviet Union (FSU) have recognized that the petroleum produced from fields in the FSU have been generated by abiogenic processes. This is not a new concept, being first reported in 1951. The Russians have used this concept as an exploration strategy and have successfully discovered petroleum fields of which a number of these fields produce either partly and entirely from crystalline basement. Is this exploration strategy limited to the petroleum provinces in Russia or does such a strategy have application to other petroleum provinces like the Gulf of Mexico or the Middle East? Some believe this is a possibility for fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and others argue for application to fields in the Middle East.

[QQ note: the preceding two paragraphs illustrate a problem in many anti-abiotic arguments, in which is issue in contention is limited to the "refilling" of existing fields; this misses the issue of exploration strategy and reserve estimates which have been based on biogenic geological criteria. This document clearly argues that the assumptions made about petroleum origins have a crucial effect on the way reserve statistics are calculated, and in past choices of where to drill.]

Along these lines, this Conference is designed to provide an opportunity to present the hypotheses, evidence and data for an organic origin of petroleum and for an abiogenic origin of petroleum through oral and poster presentations. Day 1 sessions mostly address the abiogenic side, whereas on Day 2, the organic and alternative origins are discussed. Day 3 addresses combination origins, as well as economic significance of the various exploration and production strategies discussed. Ample time is scheduled for discussion and debate of the hypotheses for the origin of petroleum, and the program will conclude in a summary panel discussion at the end of Day 3. The significance of an organic compared to an abiogenic origin of petroleum to the industry will be emphasized and demonstrated through presentations on exploration strategies using both organic models and abiogenic models. Ample time is scheduled to discuss and debate the similarities and differences of these exploration strategies. Also, the ramifications of basin resource estimations and field reserve determinations will be discussed, and the significance of these estimations and determinations in the prediction of the future world’s supply and price of petroleum will be debated. Other topics include the differences in modeling approaches of petroleum origin, generation, expulsion and migration under an organic origin compared to an abiogenic origin. Presentations on petroleum migration will address the timing and distance of migration under the scenario of an organic origin and under a scenario of an abiogenic origin. Ample time is scheduled to discuss and debate the significance of migration, the timing of migration, and the migration distance given an organic origin or an abiogenic origin.

For a list of participants in the conference, see posts 236-238 at this page:

both sides of the oil origins argument, with a rather good summary of the abiotic theory & evidence:
Origin of oil by Tom de Booij

contrasting viewpoints on oil reserves:

The Russians and Ukranians accuse Thomas Gold of plagiarism and misrepresenting their versions of abiotic theory:

Sometime during the late 1970’s, a British-American, one-time astronomer named Thomas Gold discovered the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins.Ý Such was not difficult to do, for there are many thousands of articles, monographs, and books published in the mainstream Russian scientific press on modern Russian petroleum science.Ý Gold reads the Russian language fluently.

ÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝ In 1979, Gold began publishing the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of petroleum origins, as if such were his own ideas and without giving credit to the Russian (then, Soviet) petroleum scientists from whom he had taken the material.Ý Gold tried to alter the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins with notions of his own in order to conceal its provenance, and gave his ‘ideas’ the (very misleading) name the ‘deep gas theory.’Ý

ÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝ Worse yet, Gold’s alterations of modern Russian petroleum science are utterly wrong. Specifically Gold’s claims that there exist large quantities of natural gas (methane) in the Earth at depths of its mantle are completely wrong, – such claims are upside-down and backwards.Ý At the pressures of the mantle, methane is unstable, and the hydrogen-carbon system there evolves the entire suite of heavier hydrocarbons found in natural petroleum, in the Planck-type distribution which characterizes natural petroleum.Ý Methane at pressures of the mantle of the Earth will decompose to evolve octane, diesel oil, heavy lubricating oils, alkylbenzenes, and the compounds found in natural petroleum.Ý [These properties of the hydrogen-carbon system have been described at greater length and rigor in a recent article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.]Ý Regrettably, Gold is as ignorant of thermodynamics as he is of ethics.

[clearly, one must be wary of arguments which set up Gold as a straw-man, whether knowingly or not… in any case, the scientific debate seems to have suffered from a lack of attention on the Russian-Ukranian theories in the english-speaking world.]

Letter from Prof. V. A. Krayushkin to Prof. John Briggs, on Thomas Gold’s plagiarism and his failure to credit Russian / Ukranian sources:

During the years 1957-1982, the leader of the Ukrainian scientific school in the field of deep abiotic petroleum origins was Professor V. B. Porfir’yev himself. Professor Porfiryev became the leader of the Soviet school of abiotic petroleum origins after the death of Professor N. A. Kudryavstev in 1972.Ý This school has during the past decade included such scientists as K. A. Anikiev, N. S. Beskrovnyi, Z. A. Buniat-Zade, I. I. Chebanenko, G. N. Dolenko, V. F. Derpgolts, V. I. Filippovskiy, I. Ya. Furman, V. A. Gorin, I. V. Grinberg, A. K. Ivanov, I. Kh. Kaveyev,Ý V. P. Klochko,Ý R. S.Ý Kopystianskiy, V. A. Krayushkin, P. N. Kropotkin, M. N. Kudryavsteva, N. R. Ladyzhenskiy, G. N. Ladyzhenskiy, A. S. Lazarenko, B. Yu. Levin, V. F. Linetskiy, V. A. Lobov, M. M. Luspey, Yu. A. Muraveynik, V. P. Palamar, L. N. Panasenko, M. Ye. Petrikovskaya, G. V. Rudakov, A. F. Shevchenko, O. I. Slenzak, V. B. Sollogub, V. I. Sozanskii, S. I. Subbotin, Je. M. Tabatadze, L. N. Yelanskiy, and V. M. Zavyalov.Ý Included among these scientist are 17 Doctors of Science, 10 Professors, 4 members of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, 3 corresponding members of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and one corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.

ÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝ The main biographical facts (the books) and the most important events (the thoughts) from the life of V. B. Porfir’yev and his scientific school for the years between 1957-1982 were reproduced in 22 monographs, 15 symposium books, about 950 articles and in his ideas presented as papers to the three International Geological Congresses, the World Petroleum Congress, three sessions of the Carpathian-Balkan Association of the International Geological Congress, five All-Union and three Republican conferences.Ý Much about these works were published in the article, Krayushkin, V. A., 1989, ‘On the way towards a new learning about petroleum’, Geol. J., No. 3, p. 130-135Ý (in Russian).

For Thomas Gold’s side, these are two of his books:
Power from the Earth: Deep Earth Gas, Energy for the Future (1987)
The Deep Hot Biosphere (1999)
Interview with Thomas Gold, 2000:

Here’s an endorsement of the Russian abiotic theory from Peter O’Dell, emeritus professor and former director of the center for international energy studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

It must be noted that is not only proponents of abiotic theory who argue that the "peak oil" argument is over-hyped. Michael Lynch has emerged as a frequently-cited contrary voice.

Closed Coffin: Ending the Debate on "The End of Cheap Oil" A commentary
Michael C. Lynch, Chief Energy Economist, DRI-WEFA, Inc.

The past five years have seen a renewed debate on the issue of oil supply and the possibility of a near-term peak in production and the concomitant adverse economic consequences. A number of articles have stated that discoveries over the past thirty years have been only a fraction of consumption and that according to the Hubbert Curve method, world oil production is close to a peak. What few people realize is that these arguments are based entirely on a very particular technical argument, and recent evidence has highlighted its fallacy.

[…] while we need be concerned about quite a number of issues related to petroleum supply — depletion, change in reserve growth, concentration of production in politically stable areas — a possible near-term peak in production (conventional or otherwise) is not one of them. It takes a lot of nails to close a coffin, but the size and quality of these will hopefully ensure that it remains closed.

The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources: Debunking the Hubbert Model (and Hubbert Modelers)
Michael C. Lynch


Recently, numerous publications have appeared warning that oil production is near an unavoidable, geologically-determined peak that could have consequences up to and including ìwar, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiensî (Campbell in Ruppert 2002) The current series of alarmist articles could be said to be merely reincarnations of earlier work which proved fallacious, but the authors insist that they have made significant advances in their analyses, overcoming earlier errors. For a number of reasons, this work has been nearly impenetrable to many observers, which seems to have lent it an added cachet. However, careful examination of the data and methods, as well as extensive perusal of the writings, suggests that the opacity of the work isóat bestóobscuring the inconclusive nature of their research.

Some of the arguments about resource scarcity resemble those made in the 1970s. They have noted that discoveries are low (as did Wilson (1977) and that most estimates of ultimately recoverable resources (URR) are in the range of 2 trillion barrels, approximately twice production to date. But beyond that, Campbell and Laherrere in particular claim that they have developed accurate estimates of URR, and thus, unlike earlier work, theirs is more scientific and reliable. In other words, this time the wolf is really here. But careful examination of their work reveals instead a pattern of errors and mistaken assumptions presented as conclusive research results.
. . . The lack of rigor in many of the Hubbert modelersí arguments makes them hard to refute. The huge amount of writing, along with undocumented quotes and vague remarks, necessitates exhaustive review and response. A later paper will provide more complete coverage of the debate, but the focus here will be on the primary substantive shortcomings.

Perhaps because they are not academics, the primary authors have a tendency to publish results but not research. In fact, by relying heavily on a proprietary database [IHS Energy], Campbell and Laherrere have generated a strong shield against criticism of their work, making it nearly impossible to reproduce or check.4 Similarly, there is little or no research published, merely the assertion that the results are good.

. . . The primary error for Hubbert modelers is the assumption of geology as the sole otivator of discovery, depletion and production. In the work of Campbell, Deffeyes, and Laherrere, they go further, equating causality with correlation. This is one ofmost basic errors in (physical or social) scientific analysis.

. . . The argument that the drop in global discoveries proves scarcity of the resource is the best example of the importance of understanding causality. While it is true that global oil discoveries dropped in the 1970s from the previous rate, this was largely due to drop inexploration in the Middle East. Governments nationalized foreign operations and cut back drilling as demand for their oil fell by half, leaving them with an enormous surplus of unexploited reserves. It is noteworthy that none of those pessimistic about oil resources show discovery over time by region, which would support this.

. . . The many inconsistencies and errors, along with the ignorance of most prior research, indicates that the current school of Hubbert modelers have not discovered new, earth-shaking results but rather joined the large crowd of those who have found that large bodies of data often yield particular shapes, from which they attempt to divine physical laws. The work of the Hubbert modelers has proven to be incorrect in theory, and based heavily on assumptions that the available evidence shows to be wrong. They have repeatedly misinterpreted political and economic effects as reflecting geological constraints, and misunderstood the causality underlying exploration, discovery and production.

The primary flaw in Hubbert-type models is a reliance on URR as a static number rather than a dynamic variable, changing with technology, knowledge, infrastructure and other factors, but primarily growing. Campbell and Laherrere claim to have developed better analytical methods to resolve this problem, but their own estimates have been increasing, and increasingly rapidly.

The result has been exactly as predicted in Lynch (1996) for this method: a series of predictions of near-term peak and decline, which have had to be repeatedly revised upwards and into the future. So much so as to suggest that the authors themselves are providing evidence that oil resources are under no strain, but increasing faster than consumption!

Michael Lynch’s analysis of the recent downgrading of reserve estimates by Royal Dutch Shell:
The Shell Reserve Downgrading: Year of the Monkey Business? (January 04)

FTW has emphatically taken the side of Bush energy advisor Matthew Simmons in a debate over Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, held at the elite US think-tank CSIS:

A Tale of Two Planets
A Report on the Conference ìFuture of Global Oil Supply: Saudi Arabia" Held at CSIS, Washington DC, February 24th 2004Ý
by Julian Darley

A few questions: given that Washington is now increasingly filled with war-cries against Saudi Arabia, and it is an open secret that one policy being considered is the destabilization of Saudi Arabia followed by a partition into two states, with the US taking control of the oil-rich eastern section as part of a general regional strategy to control oil, isn’t it worth just a little skepticism about what is coming out of an elite think-tank like CSIS (whose roster includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski), especially when any discussion of supposed Saudi overestimation of oil reserves has such an obvious political impact?

Background on CSIS:

For the sake of argument, the Saudi response:

Water, Water Everywhere (but not a drop to drink)
Author: Michael C. Lynch, President, Director Petroleum Services February 27, 2004 – Released: 3/6/2004

This week saw a most unusual spectacle, resulting in a spate of news articles that may be difficult for the uninitiated to understand. Matt Simmons, an investment banker based in Houston and a longtime oil and gas price bull, presented an extremely alarmist view of Saudi Arabiaís oil production capacity and was rebutted by two officials from Saudi Aramco, which historically has been extremely reticent to release any details of its operations. The arguments presented are interesting not for their content but for the nature of the debate (reliance on inference instead of analysis) and the provision of data from Saudi Aramco about their operations.

Much of the work done by Matt Simmons in the past few years on global oil and gas has relied heavily on inference, suspicion, and concerns while containing little or no real data. Yet, he claims that his new report is based primarily on readings of nearly 200 technical papers published by Saudi engineers and various publications of the Society of petroleum engineers (SPE). Although there is no reason to doubt this, the nature of the information he has collected must be questioned. A quick perusal of the draft report shows that there are virtually no tables or diagrams relating to Saudi oil fields, and the only hard information consist of scattered numbers, anecdotes and facts. Few if any are presented in any type of context.

The production practices that so concerned that Simmons, such as the use of MRC Wells, reflected the behavior of a nonprofit maximizing organization, i.e., a state oil company. The Saudis are attempting to maximize recovery, not value in their fields. They are willing to produce more slowly and with the best possible technology in virtually every instance, even if that means not producing it economically optimal rates. That is to say, the net present value of production in the field is reduced by some other practices, even though the ultimate recovery of physical oil is maximized. The Saudis pointed out that the Yibal field in Oman suffered from the use of the MRC Wells, specifically because the producing company had not done the type of expensive geological modeling which is now common practice in Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps more important, the Saudis refuted several of his interpretations (similar to arguments I have made in the past). The Saudis do not produce many of their fields because they have abundant producing capacity without them for example. Also, Saudi Arabia is not intensively explored and has large areas with petroleum potential that are virtually undrilled. (Matt responded that he was referring to aerial magnetic surveys.) it was also pointed out that Mattís reference to 1975 field reserve estimates were not relevant: the fields he referred to had already produced more than was estimated as proved reserves in the 1970s, reflecting reserve growth from better reservoir modeling, more drilling, and the use of advanced technology. (Indeed, in responding to a remark about the so-called ëspurious reserve additionsí in the 1980s, when many OPEC members raised their reported reserve levels without explanation, they responded that they had gone years without revising them even as their own expectations of recovery increased, and had merely decided the time was right to report them more accurately.)

There literally seems to be no evidence that the Saudi oil fields are facing any unusual challenges or that Saudi production will be constrained in the future by anything other than policy. All of the concerns appear to be instances where the most pessimistic interpretation has been chosen, such as fields not operating because of technical difficulties rather than weak demand. The use of vague language (ìtiredî fields, ìchallengesî) rather than specifics about efforts and costs indicate that this is one more instance of Malthusian bias.

misc. data:

THE OIL RESERVE FALLACY: Proven reserves are not a measure of future supply
C. 2003 By Bill Kovarik

The Middle East does not have two thirds of world oil reserves, as the oil industry claims, but only two thirds of one type of reserve. According to the US Geological Survey, the Middle East has only half to one third of world oil reserves. There is a large supply of oil elsewhere in the world which is available at only slightly higher prices.

The second item on the following page argues that the debate over drilling in Alaska’s ANWR is a red herring, and questions whether US domestic oil reserves may be greater than the statistics seem to represent:

more arguments against the "fossil fuel" theory:

From The End of Fossil Fuels by Thomas Brown

The Fake Oil Crisis of 1973

Some "peak oil" writers have opined that the crisis of 1972-73 was a kind of "rehearsal" for what is supposedly in our very near future. It is startling to consider, in light of this, the evidence that that crisis was likely a completely contrived affair.

In "A Century of War — Anglo American Oil Politics and the New World Order" (1992), petroleum industry expert and economist F. William Engdahl presents evidence that the 1973 OPEC "oil shock" and the accompanying oil "shortage" were secretly planned by the highest levels of the US and British elites, with Henry Kissinger playing a key role:

A concise summary of the entire book can be found here:

Corroboration of Engdahl’s account was provided a few years agb by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, who was Saudi Arabia’s OPEC minister at the time:

‘I am 100 per cent sure that the Americans were behind the increase in the price of oil. The oil companies were in in real trouble at that time, they had borrowed a lot of money and they needed a high oil price to save them.’

He says he was convinced of this by the attitude of the Shah of Iran, who in one crucial day in 1974 moved from the Saudi view, that a hike would be dangerous to Opec because it would alienate the US, to advocating higher prices.

‘King Faisal sent me to the Shah of Iran, who said: "Why are you against the increase in the price of oil? That is what they want? Ask Henry Kissinger – he is the one who wants a higher price".’

Yamani contends that proof of his long-held belief has recently emerged in the minutes of a secret meeting on a Swedish island, where UK and US officials determined to orchestrate a 400 per cent increase in the oil price.,6903,421888,00.html


Abiogenic petroleum origin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abiogenic petroleum origin is an alternative hypothesis to the prevailing theory of biological petroleum origin. Most popular in the Soviet Union between the 1950s and 1980s, the abiogenic hypothesis has little support among contemporary petroleum geologists, who argue that abiogenic petroleum does not exist in significant amounts on earth and that there is no indication that an application of the hypothesis is or has ever been of commercial value.[1]

The abiogenic hypothesis argues that petroleum was formed from deep carbon deposits, perhaps dating to the formation of the Earth. The presence of methane on Saturn’s moon Titan is cited as evidence supporting the formation of hydrocarbons without biology. Supporters of the abiogenic hypothesis suggest that a great deal more petroleum exists on Earth than commonly thought, and that petroleum may originate from carbon-bearing fluids that migrate upward from the mantle.

Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by some geologists in the former Soviet Union, most geologists now consider the biogenic formation of petroleum scientifically supported.[1] Although evidence exists for abiogenic formation of methane and hydrocarbon gases within the Earth,[2][3] studies indicate they are not produced in commercially significant quantities (i.e. a median abiogenic hydrocarbon content in extracted hydrocarbon gases of 0.02%).[4] The abiogenic origin of petroleum has also recently been reviewed in detail by Glasby, who raises a number of objections, including that there is no direct evidence to date of abiogenic petroleum (liquid crude oil and long-chain hydrocarbon compounds).[1]

Although the biogenic theory for petroleum was first proposed by Georg Agricola in the 16th century, various abiogenic hypotheses were proposed in the nineteenth century, most notably by Alexander von Humboldt, the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleevand the French chemist Marcellin Berthelot. Since that time, the abiogenic hypotheses have lost ground to the view that petroleum is a fossil fuel.

Abiogenic hypotheses were revived in the last half of the twentieth century by Russian and Ukrainian scientists, and more interest was generated in the West by the publication in 1999 of The Deep Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold. Gold cited the discovery of thermophile bacteria in the Earth’s crust as new support for the postulate that these bacteria could explain the existence of certain biomarkers in extracted petroleum.[5]

History of abiogenic hypothesis

The abiologic theory for the origin of petroleum is usually traced to the early part of the 19th century. The hypothesis was developed well before the field of organic chemistry, much less that of biochemistry, was established so the chemical nature of the petroleum was not known. Absent intellectual framework of organic and biological chemistry, abiologic theories were inevitable. In the early 1800s, Phlogiston theory was the dominant model for explaining chemical phenomena. Furthermore, the formal study of paleontology had only started in the early 1800s. It is within this scientifically primitive but changing environment that theories on the origin of petroleum originated.

Alexander von Humboldt was the first to propose an inorganic abiogenic hypothesis for petroleum formation after he observed petroleum springs in the Bay of Cumaux (Cumana) on the northeast coast of Venezuela.[6] In 1804 he is quoted as saying, "petroleum is the product of a distillation from great depth and issues from the primitive rocks beneath which the forces of all volcanic action lie." Abraham Gottlob Werner and the proponents of neptunism in the 1700s believed basaltic sills to be solidified oils or bitumen. While these notions have been proven unfounded, the basic idea that petroleum is associated with magmatism persisted. Other prominent proponents of what would become the abiogenic hypothesis included Mendeleev[7] and Berthelot.

Russian geologist Nikolai Alexandrovitch Kudryavtsev proposed the modern abiotic hypothesis of petroleum in 1951. On the basis of his analysis of the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, he concluded that no "source rocks" could form the enormous volume of hydrocarbons, and that therefore the most plausible explanation is abiotic deep petroleum. However, humic coals have since been proposed for the source rocks.[8] Kudryavtsev’s work was continued by Petr N. Kropotkin, Vladimir B. Porfir’ev, Emmanuil B. Chekaliuk, Vladilen A. Krayushkin, Georgi E. Boyko, Georgi I. Voitov, Grygori N. Dolenko, Iona V. Greenberg, Nikolai S. Beskrovny, and Victor F. Linetsky.

Astronomer Thomas Gold [5] was the most prominent proponent of the abiogenic hypothesis in the West until his death in 2004. Currently, Jack Kenney of Gas Resources Corporation is a prominent proponent in the West.[9][10][11]

State of current research

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Little research is directed on establishing abiogenic petroleum or methane, although the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesized under conditions of the upper mantle.[12] Research mostly related to astrobiology and the deep microbial biosphere and serpentinite reactions, however, continue to provide insight into the contribution of abiogenic hydrocarbons into petroleum accumulations.

  • rock porosity and migration pathways for abiogenic petroleum [13]
  • ocean floor hydrothermal vents as in the Lost City hydrothermal field;
  • Mud volcanoes and the volatile contents of deep pelagic oozes and deep formation brines
  • mantle peridotite serpentinization reactions and other natural Fischer-Tropsch analogs
  • Primordial hydrocarbons in meteorites, comets, asteroids and the solid bodies of the solar system
    • Primordial or ancient sources of hydrocarbons or carbon in Earth [14][15]
      • Primordial hydrocarbons formed from hydrolysis of metal carbides of the iron peak of cosmic elemental abundance (Cr, Fe, Ni, V, Mn, Co) [16]
  • isotopic studies of groundwater reservoirs, sedimentary cements, formation gases and the composition of the noble gases and nitrogen in many oil fields
  • the geochemistry of petroleum and the presence of trace metals related to Earth’s mantle (Ni, V, Cd, As, Pb, Zn, Hg and others)

Similarly, research into the deep microbial hypothesis of hydrocarbon generation is advancing as part of the attempt to investigate the concept of panspermia and astrobiology, specifically using deep microbial life as an analog for life on Mars. Research applicable to deep microbial petroleum theories includes

  • Research into how to sample deep reservoirs and rocks without contamination
  • Sampling deep rocks and measuring chemistry and biological activity [17]
  • Possible energy sources and metabolic pathways which may be used in a deep biosphere [18][3]
  • Investigations into the reworking primordial hydrocarbons by bacteria and their effects on carbon isotope fractionation

A 2006 review article by Glasby presented arguments against the abiogenic origin of petroleum on a number of counts.[1]

Foundations of the hypotheses

Within the mantle, carbon may exist as hydrocarbons, chiefly methane,[citation needed] and as elemental carbon, carbon dioxide and carbonates. The abiotic hypothesis is that the full suite of hydrocarbons found in petroleum can be generated in the mantle by abiogenic processes,[11] and these hydrocarbons can migrate out of the mantle into the crust until they escape to the surface or are trapped by impermeable strata, forming petroleum reservoirs.

Abiogenic theories reject the supposition that certain molecules found within petroleum, known as biomarkers, are indicative of the biological origin of petroleum. They contend that some of these molecules could have come from the microbes that the petroleum encounters in its upward migration through the crust, that some of them are found in meteorites, which have presumably never contacted living material, and that some can be generated abiogenically by plausible reactions in petroleum.[10]

The hypothesis is founded primarily upon:


The presence of methane on other planets, meteors, moons and comets [19][20]

Gold, Kenney
Proposed mechanisms of abiotically chemically synthesizing hydrocarbons within the mantle [9][10][11]

Kudryavtsev, Gold
Hydrocarbon-rich areas tend to be hydrocarbon-rich at many different levels[citation needed]

Kudryavtsev, Gold
Petroleum and methane deposits are found in large patterns related to deep-seated large-scale structural features of the crust rather than to the patchwork of sedimentary deposits[citation needed]

Interpretations of the chemical and isotopic composition of natural petroleum[citation needed]

Kudryavtsev, Gold
The presence of oil and methane within non-sedimentary rocks upon the Earth [21]

The existence of methane hydrate deposits[citation needed]

Perceived ambiguity in some assumptions and key evidence used in the orthodox biogenic petroleum theories [9]

Bituminous coal creation is based upon deep hydrocarbon seeps[citation needed]

Surface carbon budget and oxygen levels stable over geologic time scales[citation needed]

Kudryavtsev, Gold
Biogenic theories do not explain some hydrocarbon deposit characteristics[citation needed]

The distribution of metals in crude oils fits better with upper serpentinized mantle, primitive mantle and chondrite patterns than oceanic and continental crust, and show no correlation with sea water[22]

The association of hydrocarbons with helium, a noble gas[citation needed]

Deep microbial hypothesis of hydrocarbon generation

Conventional theories

Main article: Petroleum#Formation

According to generally accepted theory, petroleum is derived from ancient biomass.[23] The theory was initially based on the isolation of molecules from petroleum that closely resemble known biomolecules (Figure).

Structure of a biomarker extracted from petroleum and simplified structure of chlorophyll a.

Most petroleum geologists prefer theories of oil formation, which holds that oil originated in shallow seas as vast quantities of marine plankton or plant materials died and sank into the mud. Under the resulting anaerobic conditions, the resulting organic compounds remained in reduced state. Under these conditions, anaerobic bacteria converted the lipids (fats, oils and waxes) into a waxy substance called kerogen.

As the source rock was buried deeper, overburden pressure raised temperatures into the oil window, between 80 and 180 °C. Most of the organic compounds degraded into the straight-chain hydrocarbons that comprise most of petroleum. This process is called generation kitchen.[citation needed] Once crude oil formed, it became very fluid and migrated upward through the rock strata. This process is called oil expulsion. Eventually it was either trapped in an oil reservoir or oil escaped to the surface and wasbiodegraded by soil bacteria.

Oil buried deeper entered the "gas window" of more than 160 °C and was converted into natural gas by thermal cracking. Thus, theory predicts that no oil will be found below a certain depth, only unassociated gas. At greater depths, even natural gas would be pyrolyzed.

Proposed mechanisms of abiogenic petroleum

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Primordial deposits

Thomas Gold’s work was focused on hydrocarbon deposits of primordial origin. Meteorites are believed to represent the major composition of material from which the Earth was formed. Some meteorites, such as carbonaceous chondrites, contain carbonaceous material. If a large amount of this material is still within the Earth, it could have been leaking upward for billions of years. The thermodynamic conditions within the mantle would allow many hydrocarbon molecules to be at equilibrium under high pressure and high temperature. Although molecules in these conditions may disassociate, resulting fragments would be reformed due to the pressure. An average equilibrium of various molecules would exist depending upon conditions and the carbon-hydrogen ratio of the material.[24]

Creation within the mantle

Russian researchers concluded that hydrocarbon mixes would be created within the mantle. Experiments under high temperatures and pressures produced many hydrocarbons, including n-alkanes through C10H22, from iron oxide, calcium carbonate, and water.[11] Because such materials are in the mantle and in subducted crust, there is no requirement that all hydrocarbons be produced from primordial deposits.

Hydrogen generation

Hydrogen gas and water have been found more than 6 kilometers deep in the upper crust, including in the Siljan Ring boreholes and the Kola Superdeep Borehole. Data from the western United States suggests that aquifers from near the surface may extend to depths of 10 to 20 km. Hydrogen gas can be created by water reacting with silicates, quartz and feldspar, in temperatures in the 25° to 270°C range. These minerals are common in crustal rocks such as granite. Hydrogen may react with dissolved carbon compounds in water to form methane and higher carbon compounds.[25]

One reaction not involving silicates which can create hydrogen is:

Ferrous oxide + Water → Magnetite + hydrogen

3FeO + H_2O \rarr Fe_3O_4 + H_2

The above reaction operates best at low pressures. At pressures greater than 5 GPa almost no hydrogen is created.[14]

Serpentinite mechanism

One proposed mechanism by which abiogenic petroleum is formed was first proposed by the Ukrainian scientist, Prof. Emmanuil B. Chekaliuk in 1967. He proposed that petroleum could be formed at high temperatures and pressures from inorganic carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and/or methane.

This mechanism is supported by several lines of evidence which are accepted by modern scientific literature. This involves synthesis of oil within the crust via catalysis by chemically reductive rocks. A proposed mechanism for the formation of inorganic hydrocarbons[26] is via natural analogs of the Fischer-Tropsch process known as the serpentinite mechanism or the serpentinite process [22][27].

CH_4 + \begin{matrix} \frac{1}{2} \end{matrix}O_2 \rarr 2 H_2 + CO
(2n+1)H_2 + nCO \rarr C_nH_{2n+2} + nH_2O

Serpentinites are ideal rocks to host this process as they are formed from peridotites and dunites, rocks which contain greater than 80% olivine and usually a percentage of Fe-Ti spinel minerals. Most olivines also contain high nickel concentrations (up to several percent) and may also contain chromite or chromium as a contaminant in olivine, providing the needed transition metals.

However, serpentinite synthesis and spinel cracking reactions require hydrothermal alteration of pristine peridotite-dunite, which is a finite process intrinsically related to metamorphism, and further, requires significant addition of water. Serpentinite is unstable at mantle temperatures and is readily dehydrated to granulite, amphibolite, talcschist and even eclogite. This suggests that methanogenesis in the presence of serpentinites is restricted in space and time to mid-ocean ridges and upper levels of subduction zones. However, water has been found as deep as 12 km,[28] so water-based reactions are dependent upon the local conditions. Oil being created by this process in intracratonic regions is limited by the materials and temperature

Serpentinite synthesis

A chemical basis for the abiotic petroleum process is the serpentinization of peridotite, beginning with methanogenesis via hydrolysis of olivine into serpentine in the presence of carbon dioxide[27]. Olivine, composed of Forsterite and Fayalite metamorphoses into serpentine, magnetite and silica by the following reactions, with silica from fayalite decomposition (reaction 1a) feeding into the forsterite reaction (1b).

Reaction 1a:
Fayalite + water → Magnetite + aqueous silica + Hydrogen

3Fe_2SiO_4 + 2H_2O \rarr 2Fe_3O_4 + 3SiO_2 + 2H_2

Reaction 1b:
Forsterite + aqueous silica → Serpentinite

3Mg_2SiO_4 + SiO_2 + 4H_2O \rarr 2Mg_3Si_2O_5(OH)_4

When this reaction occurs in the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) at temperatures above 500 °C Reaction 2a takes place.

Reaction 2a:
Olivine + Water + Carbonic acid → Serpentine + Magnetite + Methane

(Fe,Mg)_2SiO_4 + nH_2O + CO_2 \rarr Mg_3Si_2O_5(OH)_4 + Fe_3O_4 + CH_4

or, in balanced form: 18Mg2SiO4 + 6Fe2SiO4 + 26H2O + CO2 → 12Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 4Fe3O4 + CH4

However, reaction 2(b) is just as likely, and supported by the presence of abundant talc-carbonate schists and magnesite stringer veins in many serpentinised peridotites;

Reaction 2b:
Olivine + Water + Carbonic acid → Serpentine + Magnetite + Magnesite + Silica

(Fe,Mg)_2SiO_4 + nH_2O + CO_2 \rarr Mg_3Si_2O_5(OH)_4 + Fe_3O_4 + MgCO_3 + SiO_2

The upgrading of methane to higher n-alkane hydrocarbons is via dehydrogenation of methane in the presence of catalyst transition metals (e.g. Fe, Ni). This can be termed spinel hydrolysis.

Spinel polymerization mechanism

Magnetite, chromite and ilmenite are Fe-spinel group minerals found in many rocks but rarely as a major component in non-ultramafic rocks. In these rocks, high concentrations of magmatic magnetite, chromite and ilmenite provide a reduced matrix which may allow abiotic cracking of methane to higher hydrocarbons during hydrothermal events.

Chemically reduced rocks are required to drive this reaction and high temperatures are required to allow methane to be polymerized to ethane. Note that reaction 1a, above, also creates magnetite.

Reaction 3:
Methane + Magnetite → Ethane + Hematite

nCH_4 + nFe_3O_4 + nH_2O \rarr C_2H_6 + Fe_2O_3 + HCO_3 + H^+

Reaction 3 results in n-alkane hydrocarbons, including linear saturated hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, aromatics, and cyclic compounds.[27]

Carbonate decomposition

Calcium carbonate may decompose at around 500 °C through the following reaction:[14]

Reaction 5:
Hydrogen + Calcium carbonate → Methane + Calcium oxide + Water

4H_2 + CaCO_3 \rarr CH_4 + CaO + 2H_2O

Note that CaO (lime) is not a mineral species found within natural rocks. Whilst this reaction is possible, it is not plausible.

Laboratory experiments

Some research and laboratory experiments explore possible mechanisms, but there is little related geological evidence.

Carbonate reduction

Methane has been formed in laboratory conditions via carbonate reduction at pressures and temperatures similar to that in the upper mantle, but a large amount of water was provided to the reaction in excess of that which is typical in mantle lithology. Nonatural rocks with a wustitecalcite composition are known to exist, which precludes this reaction from occurring in nature. Likely reactions include:

Reaction 6a:
Ferrous oxide + Calcium carbonate + Water → Hematite + Methane + Calcium oxide

8FeO + CaCO_3 + 2H_2O \rarr 4Fe_2O_3 + CH_4 + CaO

Reaction 6b:
Ferrous oxide + Calcium carbonate + Water → Magnetite + Methane + Calcium oxide

12FeO + CaCO_3 + 2H_2O \rarr 4Fe_3O_4 + CH_4 + CaO

Methane formation is favored under 1,200 °C at 1 GPa. At 1,500 °C hydrogen production was prevalent. Methane production is most favored at 500 °C and pressures <7 GPa; higher temperatures are expected to lead to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide production through a reforming equilibrium with methane.

This is cited as evidence of the plausibility of methanogenesis under mantle conditions.[14]

Calcite decomposition

One carbon compound, carbon dioxide, can be created by calcite decomposition at 1,500 °C:[14] Reaction 7:
Calcium carbonate → Calcium oxide + Carbon dioxide

CaCO_3 \rarr CaO + CO_2

Calcite is likely molten at these temperatures, being a mixture of CaO ions and CO2.

Ethane and Ethylene synthesis

Deep sea vent biogeochemical cycle diagram

The synthesis of ethane and ethylene has been done at 800 °C, using electric discharges in laboratory experiments. This experiment was in a hot gas, rather than hot mantle fluids. The calculated reactions are:[29]

Carbon dioxide + Methane → Carbon monoxide + Ethane + Water

CO_2 + 2CH_4 \rarr CO + C_2H_6 + H_2O

Carbon dioxide + Ethane → Carbon monoxide + Ethylene + Water

CO_2 + C_2H_6 \rarr CO + C_2H_4 + H_2O
Evidence of abiogenic mechanisms
  • Scaled particle theory for a simplified perturbed hard-chain, statistical mechanical model predicts that methane compressed to 30 or 40 kbar at 1000 °C (conditions in the mantle) yields hydrocarbons having properties similar to petroleum [10][11]
  • Experiments in diamond anvil high pressure cells have confirmed this theory[11]

Biotic (microbial) hydrocarbons

The "deep biotic petroleum hypothesis", similar to the abiogenic petroleum origin hypothesis, holds that not all petroleum deposits within the Earth’s rocks can be explained purely according to the orthodox view of petroleum geology. Thomas Gold used the term the deep hot biosphere to describe the microbes which live underground.[5][30][31]

This hypothesis is different from biogenic oil in that the role of deep-dwelling microbes is a biological source for oil which is not of a sedimentary origin and is not sourced from surface carbon. Deep microbial life is only a contaminant of primordial hydrocarbons. Parts of microbes yield molecules as biomarkers.

Deep biotic oil is considered to be formed as a byproduct of the life cycle of deep microbes. Shallow biotic oil is considered to be formed as a byproduct of the life cycles of shallow microbes.

Microbial biomarkers

Extremophile organisms living within the crust (deep heat-loving bacteria thermophiles) are considered a plausible source of biomarkers which are not sourced from kerogen.

Hopanoids, called the "most abundant natural products on Earth", were believed to be indicators of oil derived from ferns and lichens but are now known to be created by many bacteria, including archaea.

Sterane was thought to have come from processes involving surface deposits but is now known to be produced by several prokaryotes including methanotrophic proteobacteria.

The case for shallow bacterial life creating petroleum is apparent from circumstantial evidence at "tar seeps" in sandstone outcrops where live oil is encountered down-dip (e.g. Midway-Sunset field, San Joaquin Valley, California). Bacteria are considered to have "degraded" higher gravity oil to bitumens.

Extrapolation of bacterial degradation to still higher gravity oils and finally to methane leads to the suggestion that all petroleum up to tar and most of the carbon in coal are derivatives of methane, which is progressively stripped of its hydrogen by bacteria and archaea. The resultant partial methane molecules, CH3, CH2, CH, may be called "an-hydrides". Anhydride hypothesis, a New Theory of Petroleum and Coal Generation, is offered by C. Warren Hunt (1999).[citation needed]

Due to the difficulty in culturing and sampling thermophilic bacteria little was known of their chemistry. As more is learned of bacterial chemistry, more biomarker chemicals can be attributed to bacterial sources. Although extremophile micro-organisms exist deep underground and some metabolize carbon, some of these biomarkers are so far only known from surface plants and remain the most reliable chemical evidence of biogenic genesis of petroleum.

This evidence is consistent with the biogenic hypothesis, although it might be true that these hydrocarbons have merely been in contact with ancient plant residues. There also is evidence that low-temperature relatives of hyperthermophiles are widespread, so it is also possible for biological deposits to have been altered by low-temperature bacteria which are similar to deeper heat-loving relatives.

It must also be acknowledged that, if extremophilic bacteria prove to be the source of some parts of known oils, that this remains a biological process.

Thorough rebuttal of biogenic origins based on biomarkers has been offered by Kenney, et al. (2001).[10]Isotopic evidence

Methane is ubiquitous in crustal fluid and gas [3]. Research continues to attempt to characterise crustal sources of methane as biogenic or abiogenic using carbon isotope fractionation of observed gases (Lollar & Sherwood 2006). There are few clear examples of abiogenic methane-ethane-butane, as the same processes favor enrichment of light isotopes in all chemical reactions, whether organic or inorganic. δ13C of methane overlaps that of inorganic carbonate and graphite in the crust, which are heavily depleted in 12C, and attain this by isotopic fractionation during metamorphic reactions.

One argument for abiogenic oil cites the high carbon depletion of methane as stemming from the observed carbon isotope depletion with depth in the crust. However, diamonds, which are definitively of mantle origin, are not as depleted as methane, which implies that methane carbon isotope fractionation is not controlled by mantle values.[32]

Commercially extractable concentrations of helium (greater than 0.3%) are present in natural gas from the Panhandle-Hugoton fields in the USA, as well as from some Algerian and Russian gas fields.[citation needed]

Helium trapped within most petroleum occurrences, such as the occurrence in Texas, is of a distinctly crustal character with an Ra ratio of less than 0.0001 that of the atmosphere.[33][34]

The Chimaera gas seep, near Antalya (SW Turkey), new and thorough molecular and isotopic analyses including methane (~87% v/v; D13C1 from -7.9 to -12.3 ‰; D13D1 from -119 to -124 ‰), light alkanes (C2+C3+C4+C5 = 0.5%; C6+: 0.07%; D13C2 from -24.2 to -26.5 ‰; D13C3 from -25.5 to -27 ‰), hydrogen (7.5 to 11 %), carbon dioxide (0.01-0.07%; D13CCO2: -15 ‰), helium (~80 ppmv; R/Ra: 0.41) and nitrogen (2-4.9%; D15N from -2 to -2.8 ‰) converge to indicate that the seep releases a mixture of organic thermogenic gas, related to mature Type III kerogen occurring in Paleozoic and Mesozoic organic rich sedimentary rocks, and abiogenic gas produced by low temperature serpentinization in the Tekirova ophiolitic unit.[35] [1]

Biomarker chemicals

Certain chemicals found in naturally occurring petroleum contain chemical and structural similarities to compounds found within many living organisms. These include terpenoids, terpenes, pristane, phytane, cholestane, chlorins and porphyrins, which are large, chelating molecules in the same family as heme and chlorophyll. Materials which suggest certain biological processes include tetracyclic diterpane and oleanane.

The presence of these chemicals in crude oil is assumed to be as a result of the inclusion of biological material in the oil. This is predicated upon the theory that these chemicals are released by kerogen during the production of hydrocarbon oils.

However, since the advent of abiogenic hypothesis, the veracity of these assumptions has been called into question and new lines of evidence used to provide alternative explanations. Some are provided by many scientists from around the world including Russia.

Trace metals

Nickel (Ni), vanadium (V), lead (Pb), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg) and others metals frequently occur in oils. Some heavy crude oils, such as Venezuelan heavy crude have up to 45% vanadium pentoxide content in their ash, high enough that it is a commercial source for vanadium. These metals are common in Earth’s mantle, thus their compounds in oils are often called as abiomarkers.[citation needed]

Analysis of 22 trace elements in 77 oils correlate significantly better with chondrite, serpentinized fertile mantle peridotite, and the primitive mantle than with oceanic or continental crust, and shows no correlation with seawater.[22]

Reduced carbon

Sir Robert Robinson studied the chemical makeup of natural petroleum oils in great detail, and concluded that they were mostly far too hydrogen-rich to be a likely product of the decay of plant debris.[24] However, several processes which generate hydrogen could supply kerogen hydrogenation which is compatible with conventional petroleum generation theories.[36]

Olefins, the unsaturated hydrocarbons, would have been expected to predominate by far in any material that was derived in that way. He also wrote: "Petroleum … [seems to be] a primordial hydrocarbon mixture into which bio-products have been added."

This has however been demonstrated later to be a misunderstanding by Robinson, related to the fact that only short duration experiments were available to him. Olefins are thermally very unstable (that is why natural petroleum normally does not contain such compounds) and in laboratory experiments that last more than a few hours, the olefins are no longer present.

The presence of low-oxygen and hydroxyl-poor hydrocarbons in natural living media is supported by the presence of natural waxes (n=30+), oils (n=20+) and lipids in both plant matter and animal matter, for instance fats in phytoplankton, zooplankton and so on. These oils and waxes, however, occur in quantities too small to significantly affect the overall hydrogen/carbon ratio of biological materials. However, after the discovery of highly aliphatic biopolymers in algae, and that oil generating kerogen essentially represent concentrates of such materials, no theoretical problem exists anymore. Furthermore, the millions of source rock samples that have been analyzed for petroleum yield by the petroleum industry have eliminated any pre-existing doubt about the enormous quantities of petroleum generated in sedimentary basins by thermal cracking of kerogen.

Field observations

The following observations have been used to argue for the abiogenic hypothesis.

Lost City Hydrothermal Vent Field

The Lost City Hydrothermal Vent Field was determined to have abiogenic hydrocarbon production. Proskurowski et al. wrote, "Radiocarbon evidence rules out seawater bicarbonate as the carbon source for FTT reactions, suggesting that a mantle-derived inorganic carbon source is leached from the host rocks. Our findings illustrate that the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in nature may occur in the presence of ultramafic rocks, water, and moderate amounts of heat."[37]

Siljan Ring, Sweden

The Siljan Ring meteorite crater, Sweden, was proposed by Thomas Gold as the most likely place to test the hypothesis because it was one of the few places in the world where the granite basement was cracked sufficiently (by meteorite impact) to allow oil to seep up from the mantle; furthermore it is infilled with a relatively thin veneer of sediment, which was sufficient to trap any abiogenic oil, but was modelled as not having been subjected to the heat and pressure conditions (known as the "oil window") normally required to create biogenic oil. However, some geochemists concluded that geochemical analysis showed that the oil in the seeps came from the organic-rich Ordivician Tretaspis shale, where it was heated by the meteorite impact.[38]

Drilling of the Siljan Ring with the Gravberg-1 7,500 m borehole penetrated the lowest reservoirs. Some eight barrels of magnetite paste and hydrocarbon-bearing sludge were recovered from the well; some said that the hydrocarbons were derived from the diesel fuel-based drilling fluid used in the drilling. Gold maintained that the hydrocarbons were chemically different from and not derived from those added to the borehole, an interpretation disputed by others.[39] This well also sampled over 13,000 feet (4,000 m) of methane-bearing inclusions. [2]

A second hole was drilled a few miles away with no diesel fuel based drilling fluid and this produced (according to Gold) 15 tons of oil. [3] However, no documentation of any such discovery has ever been provided. The "discovery" is not mentioned in any well log, including the well completion log. No other personnel at the drilling location ever reported anything apart from some additional magnetite-rich mud contaminated with minor organics from the Gravberg well.

Bacterial mats

Direct observation of bacterial mats and fracture-fill carbonate and humin of bacterial origin in deep boreholes in Iran, Australia[40], Sweden and Canada

Example proposed abiogenic methane deposits

Panhandle-Hugoton field (Anadarko Basin) in the south-central United States is the most important gas field with commercial helium content.[33][34][41][42]

The White Tiger oil field in Vietnam has been proposed as an example of abiogenic oil because it is 4,000 m of fractured basement granite, at a depth of 5,000 m.[43]. However, others argue that it contains biogenic oil which leaked into the basement horst from conventional source rocks within the Cuu Long basin [21][44].

A major component of mantle-derived carbon is indicated in commercial gas reservoirs in the Pannonian and Vienna basins of Hungary and Austria.[45]

Natural gas pools interpreted as being mantle-derived are the Shengli Field[46] and Songliao Basin, northeastern China.[47][48]

The Chimaera gas seep, near Antalya (SW Turkey), has continuously been active for millennia and it is known to be the source of the first Olympic fire in the Hellenistic period. Chimaera represents the biggest emission of abiogenic methane on land discovered so far; deep and pressurized gas accumulations necessary to sustain the gas flow for millennia, likely charged by an active inorganic source, may be present.[35]

The geological argument for abiogenic oil

Given the known occurrence of methane and the probable catalysis of methane into higher atomic weight hydrocarbon molecules, the abiogenic hypothesis considers the following to be key observations in support;

  • The serpentinite synthesis, graphite synthesis and spinel catalysation models prove the process is viable [22][27]
  • The likelihood that abiogenic oil seeping up from the mantle is trapped beneath sediments which effectively seal mantle-tapping faults [26]
  • Mass-balance calculations for supergiant oilfields which argue that the calculated source rock could not have supplied the reservoir with the known accumulation of oil, implying deep recharge (Kudryavtsev, 1951)
Incidental evidence

The proponents of abiogenic oil use several arguments which draw on a variety of natural phenomena in order to support the hypothesis

  • The modelling of some researchers which shows the Earth was accreted at relatively low temperature, thereby perhaps preserving primordial carbon deposits within the mantle, to drive abiogenic hydrocarbon production [49]
  • The presence of methane within the gases and fluids of mid-ocean ridge spreading centre hydrothermal fields[50]

The geological argument against

Oil deposits are not directly associated with tectonic structures.

Key arguments against chemical reactions, such as the serpentinite mechanism, as being the major source of hydrocarbon deposits within the crust are;

  • The lack of available pore space within rocks as depth increases
    • This is contradicted by numerous studies which have documented the existence of hydrologic systems operating over a range of scales and at all depths in the continental crust.[51]
  • The presence of no commercial hydrocarbon deposits within the crystalline shield areas of the major cratons especially around key deep seated structures which are predicted to host oil by the abiogenic hypothesis [32]
  • Limited evidence that major serpentinite belts underlie continental sedimentary basins which host oil
  • Lack of conclusive proof that carbon isotope fractionation observed in crustal methane sources is entirely of abiogenic origin (Lollar et al. 2006)[3]
  • Mass balance problems of supplying enough carbon dioxide to serpentinite within the metamorphic event before the peridotite is fully reacted to serpentinite
  • Drilling of the Siljan Ring failed to find commercial quantities of gas[32], thus providing a counter example to Kudryavtsev’s Rule and failing to locate the predicted abiogenic gas
    • Helium in the Siljan Gravberg-1 well was depleted in 3He and not consistent with a mantle origin[52]
  • The distribution of sedimentary basins is caused by plate tectonics, with sedimentary basins forming on either side of a volcanic arc, which explains the distribution of oil within these sedimentary basins
  • Kudryavtsev’s Rule has been explained for oil and gas (not coal): Gas deposits which are below oil deposits can be created from that oil or its source rocks. Because natural gas is less dense than oil, as kerogen and hydrocarbons are generating gas the gas fills the top of the available space. Oil is forced down, and can reach the spill point where oil leaks around the edge(s) of the formation and flows upward. If the original formation becomes completely filled with gas then all the oil will have leaked above the original location.[53]
  • Ubiquitous presence of diamondoids in natural hydrocarbons such as oil, gas and condensates are composed of carbon from biological sources, unlike the carbon found in normal diamonds.[54]
Arguments against the incidental evidence
  • Gas ruptures during earthquakes are more likely to be sourced from biogenic methane generated in unconsolidated sediment from existing organic matter, released by earthquake liquefaction of the reservoir during tremors
  • The presence of methane hydrate is arguably produced by bacterial action upon organic detritus falling from the littoral zone and trapped in the depth due to pressure and temperature
  • The likelihood of vast concentrations of methane in the mantle is very slim, given mantle xenoliths have negligible methane in their fluid inclusions; conventional plate tectonics explains deep focus quakes better, and the extreme confining pressures invalidate the hypothesis of gas pockets causing quakes
  • Further evidence is the presence of diamond within kimberlites and lamproites which sample the mantle depths proposed as being the source region of mantle methane (by Gold et al.).[24]

See also


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  6. ^ Stanton (2005)
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  • Kudryavtsev N.A., 1959. Geological proof of the deep origin of Petroleum. Trudy Vsesoyuz. Neftyan. Nauch. Issledovatel Geologoraz Vedoch. Inst. No.132, pp. 242–262 (Russian)

External links



The ‘Abiotic Oil’ Controversy

By Richard Heinberg

The debate over oil’s origin has been going on since the 19th century. From the start, there were those who contended that oil is primordial – that it dates back to Earth’s origin – or that it is made through an inorganic process, while others argued that it was produced from the decay of living organisms (primarily oceanic plankton) that proliferated millions of years ago during relatively brief periods of global warming and were buried under ocean sediment in fortuitous circumstances.
During the latter half of the 20th century, with advances in geophysics and geochemistry, the vast majority of scientists lined up on the side of the biotic theory. A small group of mostly Russian scientists – but including a tiny handful Western scientists, among them the late Cornell University physicist Thomas Gold – have held out for an abiotic (also called abiogenic or inorganic) theory. While some of the Russians appear to regard Gold as a plagiarist of their ideas, the latter’s book The Deep Hot Biosphere (1998) stirred considerable controversy among the public on the questions of where oil comes from and how much of it there is. Gold argued that hydrocarbons existed at the time of the solar system’s formation, and are known to be abundant on other planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and some of their moons) where no life is presumed to have flourished in the past.
The abiotic theory holds that there must therefore be nearly limitless pools of liquid primordial hydrocarbons at great depths on Earth, pools that slowly replenish the reservoirs that conventional oil drillers tap.
Meanwhile, however, the oil companies have used the biotic theory as the practical basis for their successful exploration efforts over the past few decades. If there are in fact vast untapped deep pools of hydrocarbons refilling the reservoirs that oil producers drill into, it appears to make little difference to actual production, as tens of thousands of oil and gas fields around the world are observed to deplete, and refilling (which is indeed very rarely observed) is not occurring at a commercially significant scale or rate except in one minor and controversial instance discussed below.
The abiotic theorists also hold that conventional drillers, constrained by an incorrect theory, ignore many sites where deep, primordial pools of oil accumulate; if only they would drill in the right places, they would discover much more oil than they are finding now. However, the tests of this claim are so far inconclusive: the best-documented "abiotic" test well was a commercial failure.
Thus even if the abiotic theory does eventually prove to be partially or wholly scientifically valid (and that is a rather big "if"), it might have little or no practical consequence in terms of oil depletion and the imminent global oil production peak.
That is the situation in a nutshell, as I understand it, and it is probably as much information as most readers will need or want on this subject. However, as this summary contradicts some of the more ambitious claims of the abiotic theorists, it may be helpful to present in more detail some of the evidence and arguments on both sides of the debate.
Oil at the Core?
Gold is right: there are hydrocarbons on other planets, even in deep space. Why shouldn’t we expect to find primordial hydrocarbons on Earth?
This is a question whose answer is only partly understood, and it is a complicated one. The planets known to have primordial hydrocarbons (mostly in the form of methane, the simplest hydrocarbon) lie in the further reaches of the solar system; there is little evidence of primordial hydrocarbons on the rocky inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars). On the latter, possibly the hydrocarbons either volatized and escaped into space early in the history of the solar system, or – as Gold theorizes – they migrated to the inner depths. (Note: very recent evidence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars is being viewed as evidence of biological activity, probably in the distant past. (1)) There is indeed evidence for deep methane on Earth: it vents from the mid-oceanic ridges, presumably arising from the mantle, though the amount vented is relatively small – less than the amount emitted annually in cow farts (incidentally, there are persuasive biotic explanations for the origin of this vented methane).
A new study by the US Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore Lab suggests that there may be huge methane deposits in Earth’s mantle, 60 to 120 miles deep. (2) But today oil companies are capable of drilling only as deep as six miles, and this in sedimentary rock; in igneous and metamorphic rock, drill bits have so far penetrated only two miles. (3) In any attempt to drill to a depth remotely approaching the mantle, well casings would be thoroughly crushed and melted by the pressures and temperatures encountered along the way. Moreover, the DOE study attributes the methane deposits it hypothesizes to an origin different from the one Gold described.
More to the point, Gold also claimed the existence of liquid hydrocarbons – oil – at great depths. But there is a problem with this: the temperatures at depths below about 15,000 feet are high enough (above 275 degrees F) to break hydrocarbon bonds. What remains after these molecular bonds are severed is methane, whose molecule contains only a single carbon atom. For petroleum geologists this is not just a matter of theory, but of repeated and sometimes costly experience: they speak of an oil "window" that exists from roughly 7,500 feet to 15,000 feet, within which temperatures are appropriate for oil formation; look far outside the window, and you will most likely come up with a dry hole or, at best, natural gas only. The rare exceptions serve to prove the rule: they are invariably associated with strata that are rapidly (in geological terms) migrating upward or downward. (4)
The conventional theory of petroleum formation connects oil with the process of sedimentation. And, indeed, nearly all of the oil that has been discovered over the past century-and-a-half is associated with sedimentary rocks. On the other hand, it isnít difficult to find rocks that once existed at great depths where, according the theories of Gold and the Russians, conditions should have been perfect for abiotic oil formation or the accumulation of primordial petroleum – but such rocks typically contain no traces of hydrocarbons. In the very rare instances where small amounts of hydrocarbons are seen in igneous or metamorphic rocks, the latter are invariably found near hydrocarbon-bearing sedimentary rocks, and the hydrocarbons in both types of rock contain identical biomarkers (more on that subject below); the simplest explanation in those cases is that the hydrocarbons migrated from the sedimentary rocks to the igneous-metamorphic rocks.
Years ago Thomas Gold recognized that the best test of the abiotic theory would be to drill into the crystalline basement rock underlying later sedimentary accumulations to see if there is indeed oil there. He persuaded the government of Sweden in 1988 to drill 4.5 miles down into granite that had been fractured by a meteorite strike (the fracturing is what permitted drillers to go so deep). The borehole, which cost millions to drill, yielded 80 barrels of oil. Even though the project (briefly re-started in 1991) was a commercial failure, Gold maintained that his ideas had been vindicated. Most geologists remained skeptical, however, suggesting that the recovered oil likely came from drilling mud.
The Russians (I must remind the reader that I am actually talking about a minority even with the community of Russian geologists) claim successes in drilling in basement rock in the Dneiper-Donets Basin in the Ukraine. Professor Vladilen A. Krayushkin, Chairman of the Department of Petroleum Exploration, Institute of Geological Sciences, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kiev, and leader of the exploration project, wrote:
The eleven major and one giant oil and gas fields here described have been discovered in a region which had, forty years ago, been condemned as possessing no potential for petroleum production. The exploration for these fields was conducted entirely according to the perspective of the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of abyssal, abiotic petroleum origins. The drilling which resulted in these discoveries was extended purposely deep into the crystalline basement rock, and it is in that basement where the greatest part of the reserves exist. These reserves amount to at least 8,200 M metric tons [65 billion barrels] of recoverable oil and 100 B cubic meters of recoverable gas, and are thereby comparable to those of the North Slope of Alaska. (5)
However, independent assessments of the situation do not support these claims. First, the US Geological Survey does not agree that the Dneiper-Donets reserves are that large (it cites 2.7 billion barrels for total oil endowment). Second, the appearance of oil in basement rocks is unusual but not unheard of, and there are various ways in which oil can appear in basement rock. In the process of drilling through overlying sedimentary rock, oil can be expelled downward so that it appears to come from below. Then there are situations where igneous or metamorphic rocks have migrated upward, or sedimentary rocks have migrated downward, so that basement rock covers sedimentary rock (in some cases, the overthrust may be hundreds of square kilometers in extent). In his paper "Oil Production from Basement ReservoirsóExamples from USA and Venezuela," Tako Koning of Texaco Angola, Inc., cites source rocks such as marine shales in nearly all instances. (6) More to the point, numerous studies cite the existence of sedimentary source rocks in the Dneiper-Donets region. (7)
Refilling Fields?
Abiotic theorists often point out evidence of fields refilling. The most-cited example is Eugene Island, the tip of a mostly submerged mountain that lies approximately 80 miles off of the coast of Louisiana. Here is the story as related by Chris Bennett in his article "Sustainable Oil?" on
A significant reservoir of crude oil was discovered nearby in the late ’60s, and by 1970, a platform named Eugene 330 was busily producing about 15,000 barrels a day of high-quality crude oil. By the late ’80s, the platform’s production had slipped to less than 4,000 barrels per day, and was considered pumped out. Done. Suddenly, in 1990, production soared back to 15,000 barrels a day, and the reserves which had been estimated at 60 million barrels in the ’70s, were recalculated at 400 million barrels. Interestingly, the measured geological age of the new oil was quantifiably different than the oil pumped in the ’70s. Analysis of seismic recordings revealed the presence of a "deep fault" at the base of the Eugene Island reservoir which was gushing up a river of oil from some deeper and previously unknown source. (8)
A "river of oil" from an unassociated deep source? This does sound promising. But closer examination yields more prosaic descriptions and explanations.
According to David S. Holland, et al., in Search and Discovery, the reservoir is characterized by
1. Structural features dominated by growth faults, salt domes, and salt-related faulting.
2. Thick accumulations of predominantly deltaic deposits of alternating sand and shale.
3. Young reservoirs (less than 2.5 m.y. old) with migrated hydrocarbons whose origins are in deeper, organic-rich marine shales.
4. Rapidly changing stratigraphy, due to deposition and subsequent reworking.
5. Numerous oil and gas fields with stacked reservoirs, long hydrocarbon columns, and high producing rates. (9)
While it is true that the estimated oil reserves of Eugene have increased, the numbers are not extraordinary. The authors note that "From 1978 to 1988, these operations, activities, and natural factors [including better exploration and recovery technology] have increased ultimate recoverable reserves from 225 million bbl to 307 million bbl of hydrocarbon liquids and from 950 bcf to 1.65 tcf of gas." Other estimates now put the estimate of total recoverable oil as high as 400 Mb.
None of this is especially unusual for a North American oil field: most fields report reserve growth over time as a consequence of Securities and Exchange Commission reporting rules that require reserves to be booked yearly according to what portion of the resource is actually able to be extracted with current equipment in place. As more wells are drilled into the same reservoir, the reserves "grow." Then, as they are pumped out, reserves decline and production rates dwindle. No magic there.
Production from Eugene Island had achieved 20,000 barrels per day by 1989; by 1992 it had slipped to 15,000 b/d, but recovered to reach a peak of 30,000 b/d in 1996. Production from the reservoir has dropped steadily since then.
The evidence at Eugene Island suggests the existence of deep source rocks from which the reservoir is indeed very slowly refilling – but geologists working there do not hypothesize a primordial origin for the oil. In "Oil and Gas – ‘Renewable Resources’?" Kathy Blanchard of PNL writes, "Recent geochemical research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has demonstrated that the wide range in composition of the oils in different reservoirs of the Eugene Island 330 field can be related to one another and to a deeper source rock of Jurassic-Early Cretaceous age." (10) Her article explains that this kind of migration from nearby source rocks is hardly unique, and discusses it in the context of conventional biotic theory. A technical paper by David S. Holland, et al., "Eugene Island Block 330 Field – U.S.A. Offshore Louisiana," published by AAPG, notes that the Eugene Island oils show
abundant evidence of long-distance vertical migration. Based on a variety of biomarker and gasoline-range maturity indicators, these oils are estimated to have been generated at depths of 4572 to 4877 m (15,000 to 16,000 ft) at vitrinite reflectance maturities of 0.08 to 1.0% and temperatures of 150 to 170C (300 to 340F). Their presence in shallow, thermally immature reservoirs requires significant vertical migration. This is illustrated on Figure 36, which represents a burial and maturation history for the field at the time of petroleum migration, that is, at the end of Trimosina "A" time approximately 500,000 years ago. A plot of the present measured maturity values versus depth is superimposed on the calculated maturity profile for Trimosina "A" time to illustrate the close agreement between measured and predicted maturity profiles. The clear discrepancy between reservoir maturity and oil maturity is striking and suggests that the oil migrated more than 3650 m (12,000 ft) from a deep, possibly upper Miocene, source facies. Petroleum migration along faults is indicated based on the observed temperature and hydrocarbon anomalies at the surface and the distribution of pay in the subsurface. These results are consistent with those of Young et al. (1977), who concluded that most Gulf of Mexico oils originated 2438 to 3350 m (8000 to 11,000 ft) deeper than their reservoirs, from source beds 5 to 9 million years older than the reservoirs. (11)
The claims for the abiotic theory often seem overstated in other ways. J. F. Kenney of Gas Resources Corporations, Houston, Texas, who is one of the very few Western geologists to argue for the abiotic theory, writes, "competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men knowledgeable of thermodynamics have known that natural petroleum does not evolve from biological materials since the last quarter of the 19th century." (12) Reading this sentence, one might assume that only a few isolated troglodyte pseudoscientists would still be living under the outworn and discredited misconception that oil can be formed from biological materials. However, in fact universities and oil companies are staffed with thousands of "competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men [and women!] knowledgeable of thermodynamics" who not only subscribe to the biogenic theory, but use it every day as the basis for successful oil exploration. And laboratory experiments have shown repeatedly that petroleum is in fact produced from organic matter under the conditions to which it is assumed to have been subjected over geological time. The situation is actually the reverse of the one Kenny implies: most geologists assume that the Russian abiotic oil hypothesis, which dates to the era prior to the advent of modern plate tectonics theory, is an anachronism. Tectonic movements are now known to be able to radically reshuffle rock strata, leaving younger sedimentary oil- or gas-bearing rock beneath basement rock, leading in some cases to the appearance that oil has its source in Precambrian crystalline basement, when this is not actually the case.
Geologists trace the source of the carbon in hydrocarbons through analysis of its isotopic balance. Natural carbon is nearly all isotope 12, with 1.11 percent being isotope 13. Organic material, however, usually contains less C-13, because photosynthesis in plants preferentially selects C-12 over C-13. Oil and natural gas typically show a C-12 to C-13 ratio similar to that of the biological materials from which they are assumed to have originated. The C-12 to C-13 ratio is a generally observed property of petroleum and is predicted by the biotic theory; it is not merely an occasional aberration. (13)
In addition, oil typically contains biomarkers – porphyrins, isoprenoids, pristane, phytane, cholestane, terpines, and clorins – which are related to biochemicals such as chlorophyll and hemoglobin. The chemical fingerprint of oil assumed to have been formed from, for example, algae is different from that of oil formed from plankton. Thus geochemists can (and routinely do) use biomarkers to trace oil samples to specific source rocks.
Abiotic theorists hypothesize that oil picks up its chemical biomarkers through contamination from bacteria living deep in the Earth’s crust (Gold’s "deep, hot biosphere") or from other buried bio-remnants. However, the observed correspondences between biomarkers and source materials are not haphazard, but instead systematic and predictable on the basis of the biotic theory. For example, biomarkers in source rock can be linked with the depositional environment; that is, source rocks with biomarkers characteristic of land plants are found only in terrestrial and shallow marine sediments, while petroleum biomarkers associated with marine organisms are found only in marine sediments.
The Bottom Line
The points discussed above represent a mere sampling of the issues; it would be difficult if not impossible for me to address all of the arguments put forward by the abiotic theorists in a brief essay of this nature. I circulated a draft of this essay on two energy-related email newsgroups and received about a dozen thoughtful comments, one defending the abiotic theory but most of the others critiquing it. About half of the comments were from physicists, geophysicists, or geologists. It quickly became apparent to me that a book-length treatment of the subject is called for.
J. F. Kenney has put forward a succinct and persuasive paper arguing for the abiotic theory (5), but there is no prominently published rebuttal piece that systematically discusses or attempts to refute his assertions. A reader of Kenney’s web site might find fault with some of my statements in this essay (for example, as a counter to my description of the depth "window" of oil formation, a reader might refer to Kenneyís discussion of Russian experiments that have shown that oil can be formed at high temperatures and high pressures – conditions similar to those that must exist in the Earthís mantle). Yet among the draft comments I received from scientists were convincing criticisms of Kenney’s claims (returning to my example: even if oil were formed in the mantle, as more than one commenter pointed out, abiotic theorists have suggested no plausible means by which it could rise to the depths at which we find it without passing through intermediary regions in which the temperature would be too high and pressure too low for liquid hydrocarbons to survive). Many other assertions made by Kenney and critiqued by the experts are more technical in nature and more difficult to summarize.
So, rather than continuing along these lines, I would prefer now to pull back from a focus on details and again emphasize the bigger picture.
There is no way to conclusively prove that no petroleum is of abiotic origin. Science is an ongoing search for truth, and theories are continually being altered or scrapped as new evidence appears. However, the assertion that all oil is abiotic requires extraordinary support, because it must overcome abundant evidence, already cited, to tie specific oil accumulations to specific biological origins through a chain of well-understood processes that have been demonstrated, in principle, under laboratory conditions.
Now, I like scientific mavericks; I tend to cheer for the underdog. Peak oil is itself a maverick idea, and for the past several years I have been promoting a view that the Wall Street Journal recently described as "crackpot." (14) So I feel a bit unaccustomed and even uncomfortable now to be on the side of the scientific "establishment" in arguing against the abiotic oil theorists. The latter certainly deserve their day in the court of scientific debate.
Perhaps one day there will be general agreement that at least some oil is indeed abiotic. Maybe there are indeed deep methane belts twenty miles below the Earthís surface. But the important question to keep in mind is: What are the practical consequences of this discussion now for the problem of global oil depletion?
I have not personally inspected the oil wells in Saudi Arabia or even those in Texas. But nearly every credible report that I have seen – whether from the industry or from an independent scientist – describes essentially the same reality: discoveries are declining, and have been since the 1960s. Spare production capacity is practically gone. And the old, super-giant oil fields that the world depends upon for the majority of its production are nearing or past their all-time production peaks. Not even the Russian fields cited by the abiotic theorists as evidence for their views are immune: in June the head of Russia’s Federal Energy Agency said that production for 2005 is likely to remain flat or even drop, while other officials in that country have said that growth in Russian production cannot be sustained for more than another few years. (15)
What if oil were in fact virtually inexhaustibleówould this be good news? Not in my view. It is my opinion that the discovery of oil was the greatest tragedy (in terms of its long-term consequences) in human history. Finding a limitless supply of oil might forestall nasty price increases and catastrophic withdrawal symptoms, but it would only exacerbate all of the other problems that flow from oil dependency – our use of it to accelerate the extraction of all other resources, the venting of CO2 into the atmosphere, and related problems such as loss of biodiversity. Oil depletion is bad news, but it is no worse than that of oil abundance.
Given the ongoing runup in global petroleum prices, the notion of peak oil hardly needs defending these days. We are seeing the phenomenon unfold before our eyes as one nation after another moves from the column of "oil exporters" to that of "oil importers" (Great Britain made the leap this year). At some point in the very near future the remaining nations in column A will simply be unable to supply all of the nations in column B.
In short, the global energy crisis is coming upon us very quickly, so that more time spent debating highly speculative theories can only distract us from exploring, and applying ourselves to, the practical strategies that might preserve more of nature, culture, and human life under the conditions that are rapidly developing.
4. See Kenneth Deffeyes, Hubbertís Peak, pp. 21-22, 171; Walter Youngquist, Geodestinies, p. 114.
7. (link expired; click on "cached")
12. See footnote 9.
14. "As Prices Soar, Doomsayers Provoke Debate on Oil’s Future," 9/21/2004
– Richard Heinberg is the author of Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World and The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies; he is a Core Faculty member of New College of California in Santa Rosa.



Abiotic Oil: Science or Politics?

Ugo Bardi

[Ugo Bardi is professor of Chemistry at the University of Florence, Italy. He is also member of the ASPO (Association for the study of peak oil). He is the author of the book "La Fine del Petrolio" (the end of oil) and of several studies on oil depletion.

Ugo Bardi offers a simple assessment of the abiotic theory. His logic is so clear, and the culmination of his argument is so cogent, that even a child could understand it. And the conclusion is inescapable – at least to honest enquiry – abiotic theory is false, or at best irrelevant. -DAP]
OCTOBER 4, 2004: 1300 PDT (FTW) — For the past century or so, the biological origin of oil seemed to be the accepted norm. However, there remained a small group of critics who pushed the idea that, instead, oil is generated from inorganic matter within the earth’s mantle.

The question might have remained within the limits of a specialized debate among geologists, as it has been until not long ago. However, the recent supply problems have pushed crude oil to the center stage of international news. This interest has sparked a heated debate on the concept of the "production peak" of crude oil. According to the calculations of several experts, oil production may reach a maximum within a few years and start a gradual decline afterwards.

The concept of "oil peak" is strictly linked to a view that sees oil as a finite resource. Several economists have never accepted this view, arguing that resource availability is determined by price and not by physical factors. Recently, others have been arguing a more extreme view: that oil is not even physically limited. According to some versions of the abiotic oil theory, oil is continuously created in the Earth’s mantle in such amounts that the very concept of "depletion" is to be abandoned and, by consequence, that there will never be an "oil peak."

The debate has become highly politicized and has spilled over from geology journals to the mainstream press and to the fora and mailing lists on the internet. The proponents of the abiotic oil theory are often very aggressive in their arguments. Some of them go so far as to accuse those who claim that oil production is going to peak of pursuing a hidden political agenda designed to provide Bush with a convenient excuse for invading Iraq and the whole Middle East.
Normally, the discussion of abiotic oil oscillates between the scientifically arcane and the politically nasty. Even supposing that the political nastiness can be detected and removed, there remains the problem that the average non-specialist in petroleum geology can’t hope to wade through the arcane scientific details of the theory (isotopic ratios, biomarkers, sedimentary layers and all that) without getting lost.

Here, I will try to discuss the origin of oil without going into these details. I will do this by taking a more general approach. Supposing that the abiogenic theory is right, then what are the consequences for us and for the whole biosphere? If we find that the consequences do not correspond to what we see, then we can safely drop the abiotic theory without the need of worrying about having to take a course in advanced geology. We may also find that the consequences are so small as to be irrelevant; in this case also we needn’t worry about arcane geological details.
In order to discuss this point, the first task is to be clear about what we are discussing. There are, really, two versions of the abiotic oil theory, the "weak" and the "strong":

The "weak" abiotic oil theory: oil is abiotically formed, but at rates not higher than those that petroleum geologists assume for oil formation according to the conventional theory. (This version has little or no political consequences).

The "strong" abiotic theory: oil is formed at a speed sufficient to replace the oil reservoirs as we deplete them, that is, at a rate something like 10,000 times faster than known in petroleum geology. (This one has strong political implications).

Both versions state that petroleum is formed from the reaction of carbonates with iron oxide and water in the region called "mantle," deep in the Earth. Furthermore, it is assumed (see Gold’s 1993 paper) that the mantle is such a huge reservoir that the amount of reactants consumed in the reaction hasn’t depleted it over a few billion years (this is not unreasonable, since the mantle is indeed huge).

Now, the main consequence of this mechanism is that it promises a large amount of hydrocarbons that seep out to the surface from the mantle. Eventually, these hydrocarbons would be metabolized by bacteria and transformed into CO2. This would have an effect on the temperature of the atmosphere, which is strongly affected by the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in it. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is regulated by at least two biological cycles; the photosynthetic cycle and the silicate weathering cycle. Both these cycles have a built-in negative feedback which keeps (in the long run) the CO2 within concentrations such that the right range of temperatures for living creatures is maintained (this is the Gaia model).

The abiotic oil-if it existed in large amounts-would wreak havoc with these cycles. In the "weak" abiotic oil version, it may just be that the amount of carbon that seeps out from the mantle is small enough for the biological cycles to cope and still maintain control over the CO2 concentration. However, in the "strong" version, this is unthinkable. Over billions of years of seepage in the amounts considered, we would be swimming in oil, drowned in oil.

Indeed, it seems that the serious proponents of the abiotic theory all go for the "weak" version. Gold, for instance, never says in his 1993 paper that oil wells are supposed to replenish themselves.1 As a theory, the weak abiotic one still fails to explain a lot of phenomena, principally (and, I think, terminally): how is it that oil deposits are almost always associated to anoxic periods of high biological sedimentation rate? However, the theory is not completely unthinkable.
At this point, we can arrive at a conclusion. What is the relevance of the abiotic theory in practice? The answer is "none." The "strong" version is false, so it is irrelevant by definition. The "weak" version, instead, would be irrelevant in practice, even if it were true. It would change a number of chapters of geology textbooks, but it would have no effect on the impending oil peak.

To be sure, Gold and others argue that even the weak version has consequences on petroleum prospecting and extraction. Drilling deeper and drilling in areas where people don’t usually drill, Gold says, you have a chance to find oil and gas. This is a very, very weak position for two reasons.

First, digging is more expensive the deeper you go, and in practice it is nearly impossible to dig a commercial well deeper than the depth to which wells are drilled nowadays, that is, more than 10 km.

Secondly, petroleum geology is an empirical field which has evolved largely by trial and error. Petroleum geologists have learned the hard way where to drill (and where not to drill); in the process they have developed a theoretical model that WORKS. It is somewhat difficult to believe that generations of smart petroleum geologists missed huge amounts of oil. Gold tried to demonstrate just that, and all that he managed to do was to recover 80 barrels of oil in total, oil that was later shown to be most likely the result of contamination of the drilling mud. Nothing prevents others from trying again, but so far the results are not encouraging.
So, the abiotic oil theory is irrelevant to the debate about peak oil and it would not be worth discussing were it not for its political aspects. If people start with the intention of demonstrating that the concept of "peak oil" was created by a "Zionist conspiracy" or something like that, anything goes. In this case, however, the debate is no longer a scientific one. Fortunately, as Colin Campbell said, "Oil is ultimately controlled by events in the geological past which are immune to politics."

Oil Is NOT A Fossil Fuel – It Is Abiotic By Jerry Mazza Online Journal Contributing Writer 9-29-5

It seems so easy to believe this idea. Oil contributes greatly

to polluting the environment. The industrial age has

intensified its use greatly. The more we use, the more we lose

fresh air, even the ozone. And therefore it seems almost

divine justice that we are about to exhaust this so-called

"fossil fuel" within several decades and two hundred years,

this cursed blessed hydrocarbon which took millions of years

to produce.

And, therefore, it almost seems we get what we deserve: a

petro-powered society in which once the oil supposedly runs

out we will suffer mass annihilations of population, famine,

war, total deceleration, a withdrawal into the caves. And,

therefore, we should have our prophet From the,

Michael Ruppert, predict this on an ongoing basis. And his

biblical tome, Crossing the Rubicon shall subhead the big

idea: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age

of Oil. Well, no, not so, kimosabe, not by a long shot.

To begin with, oil is not a fossil fuel. This is a theory put

forth by 18th century scientists. Within 50 years, Germany and

France’s scientists had attacked the theory of petroleum’s

biological roots. In fact, oil is abiotic, not the product of

long decayed biological matter. And oil, for better or for

worse, is not a non-renewable resource. It, like coal, and

natural gas, replenishes from sources within the mantle of

earth. This is the real and true science of oil. Read all

about it.

In fact, working in the 1950s, Russian and Ukrainian

scientists, cut off from the Western World’s oil supply,

applied their keen minds to the problem and, by the 1960s, had

thoroughly demolished the idea of oil as a ‘fossil fuel,’ Is

it any wonder then that Russia is one of if not the leading

producers and exporters of oil. The isolation of the Cold War

forced Russia to dig deeper, literally, to find oil deeper in

the earth in some places, and to look in other places where no

one had thought to look to reveal more. This while America

feels incumbent upon itself, since it claims oil production

and discovery has peaked and will fade to nothing in several

decades, that America’s feels it must make war to take other

people’s oil: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Caspian Basin,

Sudan, etcetera.

And to others who have oil, it must either rattle its saber,

as with Venezuela, threaten to kill its president who will not

buckle and sell all his oil to America. And with the Saudis we

will protect them from their own terrorists and any Saddam

that comes along. And we will get in bed with them so long as

we can have the lion’s share of their oil, and the say-so as

to who gets the rest. And therein lays the evil genius, secret

and sham of the ‘Peak Oil’ put on.

If oil, as coal, and natural gas, restores itself by nature,

if we will more likely run into it then out of it, how do we

continue to make money on it? Certainly not by giving oil away

at some reasonable price. After World War II, oil was about 25

cents a gallon at the pump. Even given the spiraling inflation

since then-last week I paid $3.50 a gallon for it in New York

City, 14 times that price. A week after the summer holiday

season ended (the peak usage season), oil is down to $3 a

gallon. I doubt if I’m the only one who notices oil’s price

shoot up every summer, then slither down a bit after, and then

climb up in the middle of the winter when the heating bills

waft in, and old and poor people who can’t afford the hikes

begin to freeze and die in their own homes.

Someone is shilling for the American petro-brokers, because

‘Peak Oil’ is a wonderful concept to use to go out and war for

"the control" of oil resources. So that a barrel of crude can

suddenly jump from $20 to $70 to $100 a barrel, or to two,

three or four hundred dollars a barrel, therefore providing

exponentially expanding profits for oil companies and oil

suppliers who relish the idea of having an "inelastic demand"

for their gasoline. ‘Peak Oil,’ as writer Dave McGowan points

out in his priceless Newsletters, which you can find at, ‘Peak Oil’ will even drive oil companies

like Shell, to attempt to shut down an incredibly profitable

facility, like the one it owns in Bakersfield, California,.

This Bakersfield facility, like others in California, runs

along the San Andreas fault line, which abounds along its

route through the state with rich crude oil and natural gas

fields, products of seepage from the earth’s mantle, from the

tectonic plates, as Dave would say, ‘passing gas’ and rumbling

as they move. In fact, oil and the family of hydrocarbons are

often found at volcanoes and fault lines, as they are in

deserts, watery gulfs, and sea basins. Let’s demystify it all.

The real reason a company like Shell Oil would close a

facility like Bakersfield-to bulldoze it, stop it-is to halt

the production, refining, and supply to drive up the price of

oil. It’s that goddamn simple and ugly. And we’re doing the

same thing today in Iraq, bulldozing a country, to control and

reduce its oil supply. Never mind supplying a botched

democracy that we can’t even supply for ourselves in America.

Concurrently, we are also bringing apocalypse to its

population, thinning it with more than 100,000 dead, tearing

its infrastructure apart, water, sewage, power, media,

hospitals, name it. We are decentralizing Iraq’s cities,

driving people out of them or out of the country, or bombing

them back to the Stone Age as our generals are so found of

saying. And Iraq, like Afghanistan, is the paradigm of the

future, of how we will engulf and devour countries, cities,

even our own, like New Orleans for instance, whose Gulf is a

rich source of oil, and through whose ports pass a large

percentage of our nation’s supply.

The U.S. political henchmen are thinning the Iraq population

to fatten the profits of the oil barons like David

Rockefeller. In McGowan’s own inimical words, from page three

of another Newsletter:


jail for selling fraudulently priced items as well as cheating

on generations of their corporate taxes (due to tax write off

‘depletion allowances,’ which they knew were lies. This

abiotic oil story is perhaps the largest underground ((no pun

intended)) scam story of the past 200 years: an ongoing

corporate success of pricing abiotic renewable oil to act out

an artificial scarcity, combined with all the related

ideologies required to sell that motif of artificial scarcity,

and all the millions they have made and still make on the

fraud, and all the tax dollars they have, stolen, etc."

In this concept of ‘Peak Oil’ you have the system’s secret to

hold the world hostage. Not that we shouldn’t take care to not

overuse oil, not that we should avoid conservation, or even to

stop poking the planet, and actually seek purely organic ways

in which to live. But now, now that we are here, and have

billions of people to sustain, we must not let vast numbers of

them be harmed, murdered, abused, because of feigned

shortages, economies overturned by outrageous prices, everyday

working people be bankrupted by same, to get to work, to warm

their homes, to cook their families’ food, to participate in

an organized society. We must not make the beasts, the

Bilderbergers, the elites, the oligarchs use the ‘Peak Oil’

lever to bend the backs of the world on its wrack.

Believing in ‘Peak Oil’ is not a price to pay to avoid the

price of drilling for oil in new ways, for setting fair and

unwavering commodity prices. The cost of blood and lives and

the future of nations are too much to pay for the folly of

‘Peak Oil.’ In fact, realizing that oil is a self-renewing

resource puts the neocon agenda into a new perspective.

Instead of seeing ‘Peak Oil’ as the end days of technological

civilization literally losing its power, see this idea as the

further manipulation towards fascist power and subjugation

that it is: still another way to scare the world into

believing its resources are terminally finite, and that we

must be led into another and another war that must be waged to


If we do not accept the lie, the manipulation of ‘Peak Oil,"

it is not to say we can’t devise new systems to bring life and

the world forward. It is only to put the petroleum barons on

notice. It then gives us a chance to bring people together, to

tear away the false scarcity, to share resources, to

experience peace, to alleviate poverty with the abundance of

renewable hydrocarbon resources, as with the abundance of the

human imagination. Or else we end up with another Ruppert

rubric, Sizing Up the Competition – Is China the Endgame?,

another piece of priceless paranoia to peddle for perdition,

another dark ops for a bright new generation of believers.

More war, endless war it is, to enrich the already rich, to

impoverish the already poor.

Do not let this happen, even in the short run. As reported by

the Energy Information Administration, International Energy


"Before hurricane Katrina reached the shores of the Gulf of

Mexico, most oil companies had taken the precautionary measure

of evacuating their 30,000 offshore employees and shuttering

their platforms and oil rigs. Therefore, it was not a surprise

that on Aug. 30, some 95% of the Gulf’s production of 1.5

million barrels of oil per day was ‘shut.’ By Sept. 6, that

figure had dropped to 58%, with close to half of the oil

production capacity having been restored.

"On Sept. 2, the 26-nation International Energy Agency agreed

to make Available to the U.S., 2 million barrels of oil per

day, half petroleum and half gasoline. In other words, when

the gasoline shipments start arriving from Europe in the next

week or so, along with the 1 million barrels per day from the

U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which are being released

under IEA guidelines, the U.S. will be swimming in oil."

And then there’s this from the LaRouche Executive Intelligence

Report News Service: "When Sen. Byron Dorgan (ND-N.D.)

introduced his Windfall Profits Act on Sept. 7, he estimated

that the major oil companies were stealing $7 billion more per

month in profits than they had been 18 months ago. There is no

shortage of oil." Again from EIRNS:



THROUGH $70 PER BARREL. Key to this is that the oil cartel

controls all the critical facets of the industry, as a single

integrated system: (1) in the U.S., the oil production system

(aside from the imports); (2) the oil refinery network; (3)

the oil distribution network; and (4) international, the oil

derivatives market. It extracts a margin of $40 per barrel of

petroleum in pure theft to try to bail out the bankrupt world

financial-monetary system."

From the Observer, 9/11/05: THE OBSERVER OF LONDON DESCRIBED


has risen 10% since Katrina on expectation of "Iraq-style"

contracts-no-bid, cost-plus bonanzas. The Observer notes that

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who leads the fight against the

massive corruption by Halliburtn and other Bush/Cheney cronies

in Iraq, is ‘keeping a very close eye’ on the contracts now

being put together for Katrina reconstruction.

The Observer also notes that Joe Allbaugh, Bush’s first FEMA

chief and now a lobbyist in D.C., with Halliburton’s KBR as a

client, is known as the "Karl Rove" of contracting."

And on and on it goes. And thanks to men of good will like

Dave McGowan, Lyndon LaRouche, geologist Thomas J. Brown, and

many others, for their knowledge, their courage, and their

guiding light. Let us follow wherever it shines, far from the

"Peak Oil’ precipice to a level playing field for humanity. We

have nothing to lose but our shortages.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer residing in New York. Reach

him at


New study appears to support theory of abiotic oil

You may have heard of abiotic oil, the notion that oil is not the result of ancient biomass –hence the term fossil fuels — but rather from compressed methane seeping up from the Earth’s mantle.

Most petroleum engineers spurn abiotic oil as a crackpot idea, but the notion has percolated along and been popularized by books such as Thomas Gold’s Deep Hot Biosphere.


Not from dead dinos?

Setting aside the climate issue of burning petroleum, the idea of naturally replenished oil supplies is alluring considering oil is by far the most portable, energy dense fuel around.

With this in mind, a new paper (see .pdf) published in Energy & Fuels, a peer-reviewed publication, supports the theory of abiotic oil.

For their study geochemists at the Carnegie Institution of Washington combined the key ingredients for the abiotic synthesis of methane in a device and then simulated the high pressures and temperatures near the interface between the Earth’s crust and mantle.

They found it highly plausible that methane could form from chemical reaction in this environment, writing that their experiment "strongly suggests that it is likely that, in deep earth geologic systems, some methane generation is inevitable."

The theory of abiotic oil holds that rapidly rising streams of compressed methane gas reach the crust from the mantle, and when they strike pockets of high temperature they condense into heavier hydrocarbons like crude oil.

The new findings are interesting. What their impact on the community of petroleum engineers will be I cannot say.