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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Discussion on Hydrocarbons, Geology, and Origins of Life

Note: This is a compilation of my comments about the subject matter, and much of it is of a controversial nature.

Mantle Hydrocarbons

According to biotic oil theory, how exactly are diamondoids supposed to get into the petroleum?

Do volcanoes contain methane, and possibly abiotic oil and coal, and if so to what degree do they exist? If there is a correlation, then it baffles me how people don't see a relation between volcanic activities and bitumin, or diamondoids in the oil and abiotic oil origins. It seems that oil shales are often times found within the proximity of volcanism and fault lines, however, other times they are found nowhere near any fault lines that are considered to be currently active.

Volcanoes of the World v.s. Global Map of Oil Reserves

Were the map layers on the right made by utilizing fossil theory?

(1) According to What is coal and how does it form, the following is a classification of coal:

Peat: 50% Carbon; not yet coal

Lignite: from peat (soft dark-brown coal) (70% carbon)

Bituminous Coal: from lignite at higher temperatures (100-200oC) (85% carbon)

Anthracite Coal: from bituminous coal at even higher temps (200-300oC); formed at 8-10 km depth (95% carbon); burns most efficiently and clean

Graphite: found at even higher temps and pressures (100% carbon)

And (2) for oil/natural gas, it has this to say:

oil window: oil and natural gas exist only under certain T and P conditions. At T>160 C, any remaining oil breaks down to form gas and at T>250 C the remaining organic matter transforms into graphite. Under normal conditions, oil exists at depths only down to 6.5km require a long (geologic times) process to form, involving burial and an increase in temperature and pressures.

USGS Map of World Oil Endowment – notice that most of the suspected oil reserves are along currently active fault lines…

According to A Microcosm In the Sea Floor, there is carbon reducing life at least to a depth of several hundred meters beneath the sea floor. This ought to give some credence to Thomas Gold's predictions, and surely some oil is being produced by this process, but this is still dwarfed by the much deeper hundred plus kilometer deep production of abiotic oil in the upper mantle that is thought to exist.

There is nothing in that article about the microcosm in the sea floor that explicitly claims that those organisms produce oil, however, I think it would be a safe bet to say that there is SOME oil being produced at those relatively shallow few-hundred meter sea floor depths due to the biological reduction of organic matter from those microorganisms in combination with the typical sea floor temperatures of about 300 degrees celsius. Such conditions just might suffice for generating oil according to fossil theory, however, just how much fossil oil production down there would still be considered minimal though when compared to abiotic oil generation much deeper within the Earth's mantle if it happens to be there.

It is safe to assume that oil reservoirs typically come from the upper mantle of the Earth given that there is a relatively high correlation between active fault lines and the locations where the reservoirs are commonly thought to be. In addition, there is experimental evidence which suggests that the conditions in the Earth's upper mantle are sufficient to produce oil abiotically as well.

But perhaps the rare oil shales that are found to be deposited along ancient swamps, and some of them aren't even located anywhere near currently active fault lines, are made from biological swamp detritus according to this comparative study of coal maturation.

How does abiotic theory explain gas shales and coal being found in and around Kentucky or Illinois for instance? (Note – Perhaps there are inactive fault lines all over the Earth simply due to many historic collisions of the continents, according to continental drift theory, from which they came)

However, in fossil theory, highly reduced organic molecules (such as hydrocarbons or Beta-Carotene or Vitamin D) present in an anoxic or anaerobic condition ought to be considered stable since there is no further way of reducing it, and highly oxidized molecules (such as sugars or ferric/manganic oxides) are readily reduced in those conditions since they provide a source of oxygen for the hydrogen rich acids to consume. Depending on the specific water chemistry of the swamps or lakes, there can be the spontaneous formation of water soluble metal compounds due to a change in their molecular mass-charge polarities, or alcohols and oganic acids spontaneously forming with the aid of the reducing microorganisms present in those conditions.... and similarly you can also get hydrogen sulfides and methane gas in the bottom of the thermoclines of unmixed waters even though the organic sludge actually started out with a high oxidation state.

Most bio-molecules are highly oxidized when compared to minerals such as FeO and CaCO3 and water.... that would mean that biological detritus requires even more heat and pressure to form hydrocarbons than at {30 kPa, 1200K} as stated in J.F. Kenny's Paper, well, except for the fact that the transition actually occurs in stages. According to biotic oil theory, 'highly oxidized organic molecules' are reduced in steps by microorganisms consuming the oxygen in semi-stable stages. So, in fact, the biotic transformation from organic detritus to oil doesn't happen all in one giant leap from, say, sugars to octane as J.F. Kenny assumes.

Also, J.F. Kenny, perhaps erroneously, makes the assumption that beta carotene and vitamin d molecules are unstable, but perhaps they are stable in frigid anoxic conditions at the depths of the arctic ocean though. Since algea produces the most triglycerides, and perhaps there are denser algea that sink down to the bottom in the oceans, then perhaps the unnamed catalysts comes from the sudden volcanic venting on the sea floor through that frigid algal sediment as the continental crusts shift around.

Note: in fact, n-alkanes can be easily created from triglycerides that are the free fatty acids that are found in common vegetable oils. This is how biofuel is synthesized. The pressures required have been demonstrated to be much smaller than that for the iron oxide/CaCO3 + H20 that J.F. Kenny was discussing. (Coal, however, may be a completely different story). Perhaps thus far demonstrates that oil is produced by both biotic and abiotic means, there is always biofuel too, but as far as coal goes, how does one turn charcoal into coal aside from using the metal-catylitic Fischer-Tropsch method?

Centia is a company producing n-alkanes from biofuel using some sort of pressure vessel, which probably requires much smaller pressures than say FeO + CaCO3 + H2O reactions. n-alkanes have been successfully produced from free fatty acids (FFAs). NCSU has also developed and demonstrated a patent-pending burner that can safely burn the glycerol generated from Step #1, using the resulting heat as a thermal source back into the process. Figure 3 shows the results from biogasoline testing where the objective was to crack n-alkanes to resemble the carbon number distribution of traditional gasoline. This was demonstrated at a Step #3 mass conversion efficiency in excess of 90% and was not being optimized.

Speculation: Assuming abiotic oil had been produced in the early history of Earth’s formation, and since biological molecules (especially fatty acids) often do strikingly resemble hydrocarbons, then perhaps life on Earth arose in abiotic tar pits!? The existance of the first RNA and the arisal of life have historically been considered mysterious, perhaps it’s possible “abiotic tar” may have been the starting point for life to have occurred.

NASA Identifies Carbon-rich Molecules in Meteors as the 'Origin of Life' and also Life May Have Arisen in Oceanic Hydrothermal possibly there are multiple sources of the origins of life too.