Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oxygen: The Other Fossil Fuel

While arguing with some biologists about the origin of petroleum the question was asked, "what happened to all the carbon in the atmosphere?" (before the Paleoproterozoic era). As everyone knows, during photosynthesis CO2 is converted into O2. This would seem to suggest that oxygen is also biogenic in origin. However oxygen is the third most common element in the universe and any chemist or astronomer would balk at the idea oxygen is biogenic in origin. If oxygen is biogenic in origin, how can it be an element?

I'm beginning to suspect that the way one approaches the answer has something to do with the different lenses and semantic differences through which the scientists of different fields of study view the universe.

A biologist or geologist is going to say oxygen has a biogenic origin.

A chemist or astronomer is going to say oxygen has an abiotic origin.

The same is true of hydrocarbon compounds. Wallace E. Pratt writes:

...hydrogen and carbon and hydrocarbons abound throughout the universe, apparently, and certainly within our own solar system where they are known to make up the atmospheres and perhaps the outer layers of the major planets, yet, in the opinion of practically every petroleum geologist living today, all the petroleum we have found in the earth is the product of former life on earth. It is of organic origin, not of cosmic origin as the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus must be.

Another facet of this anomaly is the circumstance that among our most eminent scientists outside the petroleum industry the theory of organic origin is commonly rejected and a cosmic or inorganic theory is embraced -- Dr. Urey, the Nobel Prize winner, for example, and the eminent British atronomer-physicist, Fred Hoyle. Can these outstanding scientists be so wrong and yet so sure of themselves? Either way, the situation is disturbing to a scientist if to noone else.
Wallace E. Pratt, Letter to Dott, October 23, 1964.

Biologists and geologists seem to have what Charlie Munger calls "Man With A Hammer Syndrome." To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To biologists and geologists, all things on Earth including oxygen are biogenic.

Let us recall our Aristotle: hydrocarbons have 4 causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. And let us remind biologists and geologists not to forget the material cause, namely elemental chemistry. Hydrocarbons, like O2, are, after all, compounds comprised of abiotic chemical elements.


Anaconda said...


NASA: The Solar System's Abiotic Petroleum Factory,
J. Hunter Waite, Ph.D.
(Available by direct link at left-hand column under Hydrocarbon Moon)

This is a very detailed visual, primarily animated, presentation of Titan's abiotic processes.

An abiotic world in the solar system. Is Titan 'one of a kind'? Or are there other abiotic worlds?

Anaconda said...


Presentation given at Origin of Petroleum Conference: Juvenile Petroleum Pathway: From Fluid Inclusions via Tectonic Pathways to Oil Fields,
Alexander A Kitchka, Russian Research scientist, Member of National Academy of Science in the Ukrane, Secretary of the Association of Ukrainian Geologists, June 2005.
(Available by Google)

This scientific paper presented at the last conference dedicated to abiotic oil theory is an excellent, if highly technical, paper describing the "birth" of abiotic oil in the Earth's mantel, and how it rises via tectonic pathways through the fractures, fissures and faults eventually into the reservoir deposits in the crustal environment.

The paper also has visual depictions of the geology involved in this process.

The Russians developed the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of abiotic petroleum. Some Peak oil pushers have alleged that even in Russia, "fossil" theory is dominate, but please note the scientific paper's author is a member of the National Academy of Science in the Ukrane, and was Secretary of the Association of the Ukranian Geologists at the time of the presentation of this paper to the conference.

That kind of statement from Peak oil pushers is simply a desperate attempt to smear and marginalize abiotic oil theory.

All the abiotic oil pieces are coming together: J.F. Kenney has the analytical and laboratory proofs for abiotic oil, Eugene Coste has the descriptons and explanations of the geologic processes and deposits near and to the surface, and Alexander A. Kitchka has the geological descriptions and explanations of the abiotic processes deep in the Earth's mantel, and how the abiotic oil works its way through the tectonic conduits.

Abiotic oil theory is the best science currently available.

OilIsMastery, this writer humbly suggests the above referenced, scientific paper by Mr. Kitchka be added to the collection of Technical Papers available at this website.

If science is at times a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces missing, then abiotic oil theory is a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces fitting snugly together, forming a clear picture of Earth's petroleum geology.

This can only help in the drive to explore and produce the world's petroleum.

It's time to have another abiotic petroleum conference.