July 29, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Oil Can Come from Rock

Methane and other hydrocarbons can be produced in the mantle, reported Science Daily.  This disputes earlier beliefs that oil and gas are products of organisms that lived and died.  Carnegie Institute scientists have produced ethane, propane, butane, molecular hydrogen, and graphite in high-pressure equipment simulating conditions 40 to 95 miles deep in the crust and mantle.  “The transformations suggest heavier hydrocarbons could exist deep down,” the article said.  Geologists need to study conditions in which hydrocarbons formed in the mantle could migrate into reservoirs in the crust – an idea promoted by Russian and Ukrainian scientists years ago.  “The synthesis and stability of the compounds studied here as well as heavier hydrocarbons over the full range of conditions within the Earth’s mantle now need to be explored,” one of the lead authors of the study said.  “In addition, the extent to which this ‘reduced’ carbon survives migration into the crust needs to be established (e.g., without being oxidized to CO2).  These and related questions demonstrate the need for a new experimental and theoretical program to study the fate of carbon in the deep Earth.”

This story touches on a number of subjects; the amount of biomass in the crust, the age of hydrocarbon reservoirs, geopolitics and predictions of a coming oil shortage, climate change, and the number of things scientists still don’t know.  We’ll leave this one to our astute readers to sort out or pursue further.  If it turns out that oil is predominantly geological in origin, will Sinclair Oil have to change their dinosaur logo?

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