Sunday, June 13, 2010


Where does oil come from and more importantly, what have we drilled into in the Gulf? These are two questions that seem as though they should be relatively easy to answer yet when I read up on the subject I find cloudiness and further, it seems to me anyway, that scientific fact is once again obscured by political and economic forces.

One the one side we have the proponents of "Peak Oil". This is an interesting assortment of those that profit from oil speculation, academics, environmentalists and many on the left that are convinced that capitalism cannot survive. I tend to accept many of the core beliefs of the peak oil movement, but not because I believe that we are running out of oil, just the political will to exploit the resource. Whether we run out of oil or just refuse to drill for it, the results are the same. The American capitalist economy will collapse. Without abundant and cheap oil we will revert to a life much closer to that of the 1880's. Of course, in the process, we'll experience massive societal unrest and destruction, opening the door to strongmen rulers to destroy our freedoms in the name of security.

"Peak Oil" has a another effect. It allows speculators an excuse to run up the price of oil based on the faulty assumption that the resource is limited and that demand far outstrips supply. I've a customer that has worked in the oil business as an engineer in the Middle East his entire career. He' retired now yet he stays in touch with people still active in the business. He's told me that the known supplies of oil are vast and that most of it is relatively easy to get to. A friend of his in the industry that does cost analysis said in 2008, when oil was at $147 per barrel that if we were to remove the manipulation of the markets oil should be priced around $40 per barrel. Amazingly, about 7 months later oil prices had collapsed to nearly that. Peak oil and the biomass theory of the origins of oil play into the hands of those that profit from scarcity.

The abiogenic oil theory would work against excessive manipulation and profit because it states that oil is not finite but instead is created deep within the earth as part of a natural and on going process. If this is the case then oil should and would be cheap. All we'd have to do is to figure out the best way to tap into this resource and off we go. The Russians believe that the abigenic theory is the correct theory and they have acted accordingly.

Most scientist say that abiogenic oil is a pipe dream and that oil comes from bio-mass origins; rotted dinosaurs and leaves. The question is whether this is an honest assessment or one driven by funding. I had some other customers that worked for a major biochemistry lab in St. Louis. One of them headed up research on alternative sources of energy; biomass such as corn and algae. We talked quite a bit about how their business (that's what science has become, after all) functions. They both told me that their research is shaped entirely by funding sources. They said that the biggest part of their day is spent in doing the paperwork necessary to justify the results they achieve in relation to the object of those that provide their funding. In other words, the funding directs the research and molds the results achieved, not the search for the truth.

So, can we trust the opinion of the scientists in relation to the origins of oil? Or anything, for that matter?

So what if the abiogenic theory is correct and we've tapped into one of it's sources in the Gulf? What happens if the hole we drilled has penetrated a main supply area for the worlds oil instead of a finger coming off that supply area, where pressure would be much reduced and more controllable? What if, no matter how much effort we use, we can't shut this thing down?

What if we've slashed the earth's aorta and it's bleeding out?

This article from the New York Times was published in 1995:

"COULD it be that many of the world's oil fields are refilling themselves at nearly the same rate they are being drained by an energy-hungry world?

A geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts says she believes that hitherto undetected gas and oil reservoirs lying at very great depths within the earth's crust could stave off the inevitable oil depletion much longer than many experts have estimated.

The scientist, Dr. Jean K. Whelan, whose research is part of a $2 million Department of Energy exploration program in the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans, has found evidence of differences in the composition of oil over periods of time as it flows from greater to shallower depths. By gauging degradative chemical changes in the oil resulting from action by oil-eating bacteria, she infers that oil is moving in quite rapid spurts from great depths to reservoirs closer to the surface.

Skeptics of Dr. Whelan's hypothesis acknowledge that oil is almost certainly flowing into certain reservoirs from somewhere, but say her explanation remains to be proved, as does the exact extent of the phenomenon.

A site in the gulf of particular interest to the Pennzoil Exploration and Production Company and several independent scientific teams, including Dr. Whelan's group, is Eugene Island Block 330, which is not an island but a patch of sea floor 700 feet beneath the water's surface. Discovered in 1972, an oil reservoir some 6,000 feet beneath Eugene Island 330 is one of the world's most productive oil sources; it has yielded more than one billion barrels, or 42 billion gallons, and is still going strong.

But Eugene Island 330 is remarkable for another reason: Its estimated reserves have declined much less than experts had predicted on the basis of its production rate."
New York Times

Abiogenic petroleum origin is an alternative hypothesis to the prevailing theory of biological petroleum origin. Most popular in the Soviet Union between the 1950s and 1980s, the abiogenic hypothesis has little support among contemporary petroleum geologists, who argue that abiogenic petroleum does not exist in significant amounts on earth and that there is no indication that an application of the hypothesis is or has ever been of commercial value.

The abiogenic hypothesis argues that petroleum was formed from deep carbon deposits, perhaps dating to the formation of the Earth. The presence of methane on Saturn's moon Titan is cited as evidence supporting the formation of hydrocarbons without biology. Supporters of the abiogenic hypothesis suggest that a great deal more petroleum exists on Earth than commonly thought, and that petroleum may originate from carbon-bearing fluids that migrate upward from the mantle.

Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by some geologists in the former Soviet Union, most geologists now consider the biogenic formation of petroleum scientifically supported. Although evidence exists for abiogenic formation of methane and hydrocarbon gases within the Earth, studies indicate they are not produced in commercially significant quantities (i.e. a median abiogenic hydrocarbon content in extracted hydrocarbon gases of 0.02%). The abiogenic origin of petroleum has also recently been reviewed in detail by Glasby, who raises a number of objections, including that there is no direct evidence to date of abiogenic petroleum (liquid crude oil and long-chain hydrocarbon compounds).

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