Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Origin And Natural Abundance Of Hydrocarbons

“The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen
from some transformation of squashed fish or
biological detritus is surely the silliest notion
to have been entertained by substantial numbers
of persons over an extended period of time.”
Fred Hoyle, 1982
Since 150 years modern industrial civilization entirely rests upon the permanent and sufficient availability of hydrocarbons for fuel, power generation and the chemical transformation into an endless array of indispensable synthetical products. Yet, amazingly, there still coexist two opposing and politically very controversial theories on the origin of hydrocarbons such as petroleum, natural gas or black coal: the biogenic theory (Western School) and the abiogenic theory (Russian-Ukrainian School). The biogenic theory suggests that remnants of buried plants and animals somehow converted into hydrocarbons, and therefore crude oil, coal and natural gas were to be considered scarce, finite and hence expensive 'fossil fuels'. This view of course was always dear to Big Oil and in line with M. King Hubbert's malthusian-quack peak oil theory, forecasting the nearby exhaust and collapse of crude supplies ever since the 1950s. Meanwhile the abiogenic theory explains that deep deposits of primordial hydrocarbons were trapped during the formation of our planet, and hydrocarbon molecules (mostly methane) constantly migrate from the mantle to the crust. The element carbon is the fourth in order of abundance in the universe, preceded only by hydrogen, helium and oxygen. Therefore methane and other hydrocarbons are found not only on Earth but basically everywhere in our solar system and beyond: on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and their moons as well as on Comet Halley, Comet Hyakutake, on cosmic dust, in nebulae and interstellar gas.

Prof. Nikolai Alexandrovitch Kudryavtsev (1893 - 1971)
The Russian geologist Nikolai Alexandrovitch Kudryavtsev was the first proponent of the modern theory of abiotic oil. In 1951 he argued that no petroleum resembling the chemical composition of natural crudes has ever been made from plant material in the laboratory under conditions resembling those in nature. He analyzed the geology of the Athabasca bituminous sands in Alberta, Canada, and concluded that no organic débris could have formed that huge volume of oil. The most plausible explanation was that oil is abiogenic, inorganic and it comes through faults from deep inside the Earth. Kudryavtsev's Rule states that "any region in which hydrocarbons are found at one level will also have hydrocarbons in large or small quantities at all levels down to and into the basement rock. Thus, where oil and gas deposits are found, there will often be coal seams above them. Gas is usually the deepest in the pattern, and can alternate with oil. All petroleum deposits have a capstone [or permafrost soils and ice], which is generally impermeable to the upward migration of hydrocarbons. This capstone leads to the accumulation of the hydrocarbon." He gave many examples of substantial quantities of petroleum being found in crystalline or metamorphic basements, or in sediments directly overlying those. Developing this approach, exploration companies like Rosneft, Exxonmobil and Tullow Oil are quite successful.

Mud volcano on Malan Island, emerged in 2011 in Balochistan,
Pakistan, producing methane, ethane, propane and butane.
Outside the Soviet Union the Austrian-American astrophysicist Thomas Gold (1920 - 2004) was the most prominent proponent of the abiogenic theory. His Deep Hot Biosphere Theory and the Deep-Earth Gas Theory propose that crude oil and natural gas are primordial materials, formed deep inside the Earth as well as in other planets. The rise of methane, sometimes along with helium and nitrogen, act as carrier gases, bring together heavier hydrocarbons and reach shallower areas in the crust, where deep microbial life interact with the hydrocarbons and contaminates the primordial oil. Natural oil and gas seeps are found worldwide, e.g. in the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and in the Gulf of Mexico, where more than 600 natural seeps leak one to five million barrels of oil per year. Ships and aircrafts disappear in the Bermuda Triangle due to the presence of large fields of methane hydrates, underwater gas seeps and gas eruptions. Refilling is a common phenomenon in oil and gas fields throughout the Middle East, Indonesia, on Eugene Island (Alaska), in the Gulf of Mexico, the Prudhoe Basin, Russia's Romashkinokoye supergiant oilfield, and many others. Enormous amounts of methane hydrate have been found beneath Arctic permafrost, beneath Antarctic ice and in sedimentary deposits along continental margins worldwide. In some parts they are much closer to high-population areas than any natural gas field, and might allow countries currently importing natural gas to become self-sufficient. The United States, Canada, Germany, Japan and India all have vigorous research programs working to discover viable technologies for producing gas hydrates.

From the analysis of a ketchup stain on a tie can not
be concluded that the tie would be made ​​from tomatoes.