Keith Hisey, Geologist, Researcher, Senior Manager, Historian at Consulting (1980-present)
As a petroleum geologist with 40 years experience let me say this about that.
The prevailing ideas in the petroleum industry is akin to religious dogma. One scientist who is deceased wrote a book on a theory contrary to the dogma that prevails. The book The Deep Hot Biosphere posits several interesting ideas.
First, since hydrocarbons are so prevalent throughout not only our solar system, but the galaxy, why do we think that our petroleum resources are all biogenic in origin? Does Venus or any of the other frozen hydrocarbon moons of the solar system have biological life from which to generate hydrocarbons? No they don’t.
Gold also puts forth the notion that the life on the surface of the earth are not the norm, but that what we consider extremophiles, the bacteria in the deep ocean smoker vents that can live in superheated water are not the extremophiles, but that we are. Life on the surface of the earth depends on a paper thin layer of atmosphere for survival and at that, we can only withstand a very narrow temperature range.
He presented the idea that all hydrocarbons are generated deep in the mantle and migrate to the surface to be trapped in serendipitous petroleum reservoirs.
He also raised money and drilled a deep well in Scandinavia in Granite and recovered hydrocarbons.
Current dogma states that all hydrocarbons formed through the burial and maturation of biologic materials, usually algae or other planktonic organisms in ocean waters where it was buried and preserved in “source” rock. Where it was later expelled by heat and pressure, migrated into “traps” formed by deformed rock with the proper amount of porosity, permeability and structure to “trap” the migrating oil.
Now we have ample examples of oil and gas leaking to the surface where traps were not present to contain it. La Brea Tar Pits in Downtown LA is an example. Natural “eternal flames” of Persia and the Baku area are another.
What we don’t see is the depletion of petroleum along every measured prediction of “peak oil.” We continue to find more using technology not available in the past.
Horizontal Drilling and Fracking is allowing us to tap oil and gas that was known but not recoverable by “conventional means” of vertical drilling in past decades. This is the old source rock that never had the petroleum it contained expelled and trapped.
The Russians first came up with the idea of mantle generation of oil and gas. Gold in his book just advanced the theory. As an instructor on the Petroleum System I found that there were areas that required a lot of arm waving to explain the gaps in our knowledge. Petroleum migrating over tens of miles from source rock to reservoir would, you think fractionate as it moved and would leave some traces of its passing. If we have discovered such evidence I have never see it. Yet we can fingerprint petroleum in source rocks and in reservoirs to link the two.
We have never to my knowledge been able to replicate in the lab the generation of petroleum from marine kerogen, although that is what we say nature does.
I take a middle ground. I don’t think we know enough about how petroleum forms and from whence it comes. I know of reservoirs that should have been long depleted based on the engineering science of reservoirs but aren’t. What if some reservoirs ARE being recharged by hydrocarbon movement from the mantle?
It isn’t that we won’t run out, it will just become more scarce due to the rapidity of our use. It took millions of years to fill all the reservoirs we have been depleting over the last 100 years of the “petroleum interval” in which we live. We depend on it so much for so many things, plastics for one, yet we waste it in so many ways. Nothing we know aside from nuclear fuel is so energy rich in so light and compact a form. Air travel for instance would not be possible at the speed and to the degree we expect if not for avgas or jet fuel.
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