Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Black Gold

Remember in grade school when you learned about how the dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years, then for one reason or another they all died, and as their bodies decomposed petroleum was formed? Hence, petroleum is considered a fossil fuel. What if I told you that the premise that petroleum being formed from organic matter near the earth's crust was a falsehood and that a newer, more scientific theory exists that proves oil is not a fossil fuel at all but a natural bi-product of a natural process much deeper in the earth?

You would probably say, "Who cares?", but here is the relevance. This new theory, called the Abiotic Theory of Oil Formation, not only disproves the original "fossil fuel" theory, but it proves that petroleum is not a limited resource after all. This is pretty controversial considering the current assumption that we are "dangerously close" to running out of oil.

This theory was developed by Russian-Ukrainian scientists and has even been used to discover oil reserves in the former U.S.S.R. A few facts about the theory:

  • Organic material cannot survive depths of over 18,000 feet while oil has been discovered using the Abiotic Theory at over 36,000 feet.

  • It is NOT new, but was brought to light by Professor Nikolai Kudryavtsev in 1951 and has undergone extensive development and refinement since then.

  • It is not untested or based solely on speculation but in fact was severely challenged by geologists at the time that held to the more traditional fossil fuel theory. The Abiotic Theory has stood the test of intense debate and scrutiny, unlike the rococo (fossil fuel) theory.

  • The original theory that oil can be formed near the earth's crust by extreme pressure and heat violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

  • Those are just a few facts, the full article where I got this data can be found here and a shorter synopsis of the basics of the theory is here.

    What I am interested in regarding this new theory is why is it not generally known that the fossil fuel theory has been debunked? Isn't this the "good news" we have all been waiting for? In who's best interest (and the answer to this is painfully obvious) is it to continue to pass on the lie that we are running out of oil? Maybe the oil companies? What if I told you that not only have oil reserves not been steadily depleting, but they have increased? There is proof that oil reserves that were once dry have been revisited because the oil has been replenished. The basics of supply and demand tell us that if the demand for a resource is greater than the available supply, then it comes at a premium. If we suddenly discover that oil is in fact a renewable resource, then we are suddenly no longer at the mercy of the oil companies and they will be forced to lower the price per barrel. As long as this fear exists they can charge us whatever they want.

    Interesting that, although everyone agrees that the U.S. needs to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we don't seem to be doing much to accomplish that. Why are we not drilling in Alaska? Environmentalists say that we will ruin a national treasure but my understanding is that the area in ANWAR that is drillable compared to the whole is like putting a postage stamp on a football field so it would certainly not taint the landscape as much as some would have us believe.

    The reality is that the oil companies have undergone a multi-million dollar campaign to make sure we all believe we are running out. Ironically, they have found an unexpected ally in their campaign of misinformation: environmentalist groups. Although they seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, it turns out they are fighting the same fight.

    To get the discussion going, here are a few questions:

    While we should be pursuing alternative fuels, like hydrogen, our dependence on oil isn't going away any time soon. Shouldn't we be using the Abiotic Theory to find oil here in the U.S. to lessen our dependence on Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia for oil?

    Are the oil companies so powerful that even the government is helping to perpetrate the falsehood that we are running out of oil?

    There is some debate about whether ANWAR will provide enough oil to help solve this problem of foreign oil dependency. Shouldn't we at least take a look and find out if the amount of oil there is worth the trouble?


    Cynthia said...

    This is an excellent piece. I've never heard this theory before.

    1. Shouldn't we be using the Abiotic Theory to find oil here in the U.S. to lessen our dependence on Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia for oil?

    I think you are so right, this theory should be explored. It seems like it would be less expensive than the alternative. And it would certainly help the people from being gouged.

    2. Are the oil companies so powerful that even the government is helping to perpetrate the falsehood that we are running out of oil?

    Yep! I think all corporations are running this government. You have to remember Bush is an oil man. It's all about profits...

    3. There is some debate about whether ANWAR will provide enough oil to help solve this problem of foreign oil dependency. Shouldn't we at least take a look and find out if the amount of oil there is worth the trouble?

    I thought someone had already done this. I also thought that Congress had given the thumbs up on the drilling in ANWR. Although I was a proponent against drilling, what you have presented here makes me think I should reconsider that position...

    Rahelio said...

    This is definitely an excellent post. Interesting and....hmmm, provocative.

    My first thought is that converting from oil itself to better, cleaner technologies is the future, so why wait? We simply do not invest enough in going that route because of the oil lobby.

    But you make a good point about Big Oil also benefitting from a false belief (if it truly is false) that oil is finite.

    As far as Alaska goes, from what I understand there is enough oil there to end our dependency on the Mideast - for about 3 days.

    I have to ask, is there anything regional about the Abiotic process, meaning, if the Earth naturally produces this produce organically, is it equally distributed? Does climate play a part. Is there the possibility that we are sitting on our own vast stock of oil without knowing it?

    Bullfrog said...

    I think we can all agree that cleaner (I say this with the assumption that burning fuel is bad for the environment, which is also being challenged by some) and cheaper is the way to go ultimately, but we also have to be realistic about when alternatives will be used on a large scale. My guess is it will be some time.

    As far as the Abiotic process being regional, nothing I have found indicates that environmental factors like climate, altitude, etc. have anything to do with it. I assume since this process happpens deep in the earth far below the crust that what goes on "up top" has little affect.

    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

    02 23 06

    Interesting post Bullfrog. I will research this theory some more. A formidable opponent to this theory is the Provost at Caltech who wrote this book. Thanks for asking these tough questions. After I gather more information on this abiotic theory, I can further comment.

    Ultimately, fossil fuels aren't very efficient. We should build a more efficient engine that doesn't waste so much energy to heat and pollution, imho. Ethanol is only a temporary fix, Biodiesel emits nitrates into the atmosphere, so traditional "fuels" don't make much sense. Hydrogen fuel cells, electric cars and hybrids are far more efficient. That is why I like living in CA, The Governator wants to have a hydrogen highway by 2010 with 2000 hydrogen cars on the roads. COOOOL!

    "The goal of the California Hydrogen Highway Network initiative is to support and catalyze a rapid transition to a clean, hydrogen transportation economy in California, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and protecting our citizens from health harms related to vehicle emissions. We have an opportunity to deal with these problems by investing in California's ability to innovate our way to a clean hydrogen future, thus bringing jobs, investment, and continued economic prosperity to California. We have an opportunity to prove to the world that a thriving environment and economy can co-exist." (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Hydrogen Highway Network Action Plan).

    Bullfrog said...

    @Mahndisa - David Goodstein, the Provost at Caltech you mentioned, pretty much follows the "Peak Oil" line, which is based on the fossil fuel theory. I am unable to find where he directly challenges the Abiotic Theory. I did find some good info though, thanks for the link!

    I anxiously await your findings!

    EmergingPhoenix said...

    This is amazing, I had never heard of this theory before. It was also a new thing for my SO, who is always a cornucopia of information.

    My thoughts on your questions:

    1. Probably, but I don't think that the oil companies feel like they have a "dependence" on these countries, so much as having a profitable business arrangement.

    I am all for finding alternative energy sources to oil...we need to start now, before we completely destroy this rock we call home (or it destroys us).

    2. YES!!

    3. We (meaning the economic top 1% of the population) would have to have a vested interest in doing so, first.

    Great Discussion said...

    I think it is excellent that you discussed this issue. It is certainly worth looking into.

    The Abiotic Theory of Oil Formation is not really new, as you’ve already noted. But just as important to note is the fact that the theory of fossil fuel has NOT been “debunked.” The Abiotic Theory is an interesting one which has led to some interesting prospects. However, it is important to note:

    1. There have not been ANY substantial oil discoveries rooted in the use of this particular theory. Even the theory’s most zealous proponents such as Thomas Gold, from Cornell University, have failed to offer substantiated evidence that can replace the theory of fossil fuel.

    2. I am not aware of ANY substantiated proof that dry oil wells have once again come online. The only evidence I have seen is the use of more advanced and costly secondary and tertiary recovery techniques to recover oil of lesser quality (medium and heavy grades of oil).

    The oil recovered during these secondary attempts contain a high level of both poor quality oil and even more water (something detrimental to profitable oil production), which makes their separation for commercial use even more costly.

    3. These theories are fairly well-known among petroleum engineers.

    Many of these theories, like that of using shale in Utah and Wyoming to produce synthetic oil (it is theorized that if the shale in the U.S. were commercially viable, it would be greater than the proven oil reserves in the entire middle east), were abandoned because they were not seen to be cost-efficient.

    Production of this shale was used as an alternative fuel supply for the U.S. military. Although, companies are once again interested in developing these kinds of new potential sources.

    Energy is a very serious topic. There is so much confusion and so many theories out there.

    Ultimately, I favor all attempts to have more progressive energy policies and alternatives.

    But for casual observers, such as myself, it’s not easy to separate fact from fiction. But I do know that petroleum engineers are doing their best. And because of the technical nature of the oil business, many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the world oil markets are just plain incorrect because they are rooted in technical problems, not political ones.

    Mimi said...

    I REALLY liked this post! I was not aware of this theory and I do try to follow what is going on in the world. I am not as knowledgeable as those who comment here. But I enjoy this blog and plan to keep reading!

    Bullfrog said...

    @greatdiscussion: I disgree that there is no substantial discoveries of oil using the Abiotic Theory, check out the following quote:

    "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."

    As far as the Fossil Fuel theory, it wasn't researched nearly as much as the Abiotic Theory and was not given the critical eye or much debate at it's inception or before it's subsequent acceptance as the "gospel truth". Some even say that we should call ALL oil Abiotic because more science was used to prove this theory than the original.

    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

    02 28 06

    I have been researching this issue and still haven't formed an opinion as to whether there isn't a happy medium between both theories. What I mean by that is, how long does it take to form oil and can it be created at a faster rate than it can be consumed? And even it that is the case, there is usually some limiting that takes place, there is no perpetual machine;) These are the questions that I am looking to answer. It is taking me a bit of time, as I have other obligations. But I have found quite a bit of information so far, particularly onthe Russian Petroleum Resources site. Thanks for sharing this intriguing information.

    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

    02 28 06

    OH, and I will place a link to this post on my current Blog Alert post;)

    nikki said...

    very, VERY interesting and thought-provoking post. i also didn't know about this theory until now. it just goes to show how important it is to keep the american public ignorant of things such as this so that big business can continue to profit from said ignorance.

    now i can't help but wonder if there isn't a cure for aids out there that's being suppressed so that the pharmacutical companies can continue to profit from sale of the cocktail drugs.

    Bullfrog said...

    @mahndisa: thanks for the link! I look forward to hearing your conclusions and agree that there is no perpetual source, but at the very least, the abiotic theory suggests we will not run out for thousands of years, quite contrary to what we are hearing in the media.

    Great Discussion said...

    While the quote you cited is accurate in the sense that oil was found in what would be considered unusual rock formations under the traditional biogenic theory of oil formation, the oil found in the handful of potentially promising oil-fields were not found at the depths suggested by the Abiotic theory.

    New oils fields are being found in the middle east all the time, though most are not promising, or become "wet" extremely quickly. They are not significant.

    While it is possible that oil is formed in the Earth's mantle, there is still no substantial discovery at that level. More research is definately needed. And more drilling and testing.

    However, the number of oil fields are not significant. The vast majority of those cited by that quote were huge disappointments.

    Consider this: The Ghawar oil field (the largest ever found in the entire world) in Saudi Arabia produces between 6 - 8% of the entire planet's oil supply. It probably produces between 4 - 5.5 million barrels per day (though the numbers cannot be verified anymore because Aramaco does not issue field by field reports).

    Once again, I think that the conventional wisdom must be challenged. But I also think it's far too soon to have so much wishful thinking.

    Ultimately, there is no reigon in the world that has produced or provided proven reserves anything remotely close to those found in the middle east. And since oil is trades on a commodities market, a fall in their production affects ALL oil prices. Oil is never sold below market price (obviously).

    I do have a question though: Are you aware of how much oil per day, or the proven reserves, of the "giant" oil field found in that basin?

    I don't have any information on that. Plus, I think the definition of "giant" can shift from about 300,000+ to 500,000 barrels per day. But since I'm a casual observer, I'm not positive on those definitions of "giant" either.

    Bullfrog said...

    What constitutes "Giant" seems to be relative to the person writing the article. I have seen some who say 100,000 barrels proven reserves, and others who say 500 million. Obviously a big difference in what demand could be met.