Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bob Hazen Interview

Dr. Hazen is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University: Bob Hazen: The Trumpeter Of Astrobiology.

Suzan Mazur: Are you looking at abiotic oil at all?

Robert Hazen: That is a very different subject, and there are many resources. There is a new book on oil by Eric Roston. I just chaired a conference at the Carnegie Institution, called the deep carbon cycle. It's on the Carnegie web site. We had experts from all over the world. You can see most of the lectures, including lectures by Russian scientists who believe that petroleum is virtually all abiotic. And hear lectures by American petroleum geologists who think oil is virtually all biological. It’s still an unresolved issue.
Unresolved issue? Um, not really: Dismissal of the Claims of a Biological Connection for Natural Petroleum.

Summary here.

Session four on deep abiotic synthesis of organic molecules (Thomas McCollom of the University of Colorado served as discussion leader) considered what is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the deep carbon story. Barbara Sherwood-Lollar (University of Toronto) provided an overview of the topic, and examined recent experiments that inform the ongoing abiotic-controversy. Andrew Steele (Carnegie Institution) described recent observations of abiogenic organic matter in Martian meteorites and Archean sediments, and presented new experimental data on a possible mantle synthesis mechanism. Vladimir Kutcherov (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Vitaly Flid (Moscow State Academy, Russia) presented experimental and field evidence for a significant abiotic contribution to petroleum and natural gas deposits, in the tradition of the Russian-Ukrainian school of petroleum formation.

1 comment:

Anaconda said...


The scientific paper cited here stands for the proposition that carbon deposits exist in the mantle at levels which support hydrocarbon formation.

It also suggests that various metals that have been associated in various ways with hydrocarbons are also present in the mantle.


Magnesium is a component of dolomite found in association with 80% of North American oil deposits.

And magnesium is elemetal component of serpentine. There are 'belts' of serpentine in the upper mantle.

Iron is associated with petroleum in experiments that use iron as a catalyst along with marble and water to form hydrocarbons in the laboratory, and because many deposits of oil are magnetized with trace iron present.

If oil were from organic detritus, there would be no reason for oil to be magnetized.

Of course, if iron is a catalyst for oil formation, then that would explain trace amounts of magnetized iron.

Nickle is a trace metal in oil that is rare in the crust but common in the mantle.

The below link is to the abstract of the named paper.

Grain boundary mobility of carbon in Earth's mantle: A possible carbon flux from the core

Here are several extended quotes form the paper:

"The plausibility of this process depends in part upon the mobility of carbon atoms in the solid mantle. Grain boundaries of mantle minerals could represent fast pathways for transport as well as localized sites for enrichment and storage of carbon."

"Here, we report the results of an experimental study of grain-boundary diffusion of carbon through polycrystalline periclase (MgO) and olivine ([Mg,Fe]2SiO4) that were obtained by determining the extent of solid solution formation between a graphite source and a metal sink (Ni or Fe) separated by the polycrystalline materials."

"Mobility and enrichment of carbon on grain boundaries may also explain the high electrical conductivity of upper mantle rocks, and could result in the formation of C-H-O volatiles through interactions of core-derived C with recycled H2O in subduction zones."

Scientific knowledge of the mineral interactions in the mantle are "poorly constrained," meaning scientists don't understand the chemical processes well and can't reduce the chemical reactions to mathematically expressed, chemical equations constrianed by physical and chemical laws.

Notice in the last passage quoted from the paper, "could result in the formation of C-H-O volatiles" suggests petroleum formation.

Carbon and hydrogen "volatiles" includes hydrocarbon volatiles.

Regrettably, with many in the geological community frowning on Abiotic Oil -- hydrogen and carbon -- are not combined specifically in this paper.

But the import is clear.

Maybe that's why you see this quote:

"I don't think anybody has ever doubted that there is an inorganic source of hydrocarbons." -- Michael D. Lewan, 2002

Lewan is a member of the Untied States Geological Survey.