Does Oil Come From Old Plankton or Old Hat?
by Liam Scheff
My radio friend and admired pot-stirrer extraordinaire – Jack Blood of Deadline Live – has challenged me to consider “abiotic oil” as a real and useful source of petrol for our toasters (yes, we use it for grain, forging metal, machining factory parts, shipping them to your house, paying Amazon.com, and running electrical power to brown your Monsanto-ized white bread.)
Here’s a quote from the article he posted on my forehead:
“A little research indicates that more than a few thinkers disagree with the scientific consensus on how oil is formed. Consensus scientists will of course reject these “quacks” as “snake oil salesmen.” (Get it?)…The short version: It is fallacious to appeal to authority or the majority opinion. It doesn’t matter who says or thinks something. It could be right or it could be wrong. Consensus science automatically jumps down your throat if you question “climate change” or “macro-evolution.” And this is one of the main blind spots of the fossil fuel bandwagoners. All alternative theories to oil formation are rejected by the majority opinion in order to protect some of modern man’s more sacred cows. Not for scientific reasons, of course. But because of ideological prejudices.” LINK
“Ah, damned consensus science!” goes the hew and cry. But, who’s arguing for consensus? Have they read my book?? (Well.. read it, already!)
This is not a technical argument – and the paper does not point to any real increase of oil supplies anywhere in the world. It’s not a technical exploration of oil drilling. It’s a pleasant philosophical argument about how science is skewed toward consensus. So, it has no real-world value as an exploration of oil movement, amounts or sources. Which I suspect Jack already knows!
There is a link to an article in the piece stating that “wells all over are refilling,” with little in the way of anything technical. It’s called, “Oil Fields Are Refilling…Naturally – Sometimes Rapidly,” with the under-title, “There Are More Oil Seeps Than All The Tankers On Earth.” Which is clever, but meaningless, as “seep” isn’t defined – but is here meant to indicate that we’re making new oil daily, so don’t worry, keep driving, and laugh at the idiot geologists who got it all wrong.
But the article concludes with the following, which explains that they’re guessing.
“It is suspected that the process of upward migration of petroleum is driven by natural gas that is being continually produced both by deeply buried bacteria and from oil being broken down in the deeper, hotter layers of sediment. The pressures and heat at great depth are thought to be increasing because the ground is sinking — subsiding — as a result of new sediments piling up on top…Analysis of the oil being driven into the reservoirs suggests they were created during the so-called Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods (100 million to 150 million years ago), even before the existing basin itself was formed. This means the source rock is buried and remains invisible to seismic imaging beneath layers of salt.” LINK.
The article states that there are seeps in deep ocean basins. It then speculates that they are very, very old, but that instead of being made out of old algae, they are somehow maid by… bacteria. Also very long ago. Or… something. Not much different than the standard view, that it’s old bacteria, long-pressurized plant-energy from the Sun, compressed, baked, heated, compressed in large and small pockets under rock and in sand and in shale, around the world.
But, it’s pure speculation, as anything and everything about more than 5 years in the past or the future tends to be. (Want to take a stock prediction about 2018? “Sell.”) Such is the overpowering influence of the human imagination.
But, who knows? So oil looks like old, broken algae under the microscope? Even a major proponent of Peak Oil theory, Kenneth Deffeyes, likes “algae” as a partial fill-in for oil, because oil…uhm…comes from…Well, read on.
Here’s another webhound, doing a review of “Hubbert’s Peak”:
“Where does oil come from? All oil beds are aquatic in origin. Oil starts out as organic material, any kind of organic material, from algae to dead fish to organic material found in fish fecal pellets. This material must sink to an oxygen-free bottom where the absence of oxygen allows it to decay. Then it must be covered with other sediment and pushed into the “oil window” which starts at a depth of 7,500 feet deep and ends at 15,000 feet in depth. Above 7,500 feet, the temperature is not hot enough to “crack” the organic material into oil molecules and below 15,000 feet, everything is cracked all the way into natural gas. Inside that window, the temperature is at “coffee pot” levels and after a few million years, the organic material is cracked into oil.” LINK
So, we’re talking fat. Fat from algae, fat from the fish that eat it, within a predictable ‘depth-window’ of reactivity or chemical processing. That’s the ‘controversial’ mainstream argument. Which makes some sense to yours truly, as fat is the most nutrient-dense, calorie-rich stuff produced by plant or animal. Collect a lot of it, bake and compress it, and maybe you get this sticky, black…uhm…”OIL.” Can I get a “duh” or an “amen, somebody?
Hey, I’m being snarky. Sorry, but, it’s tiring. Arguing alien technology is a little tiring when we’re fracking the whole country – and so is arguing this, when – yeah! We’re fracking the whole country, and the technophiles want to build 10,000 nuclear power plants (which we don’t have enough oil, coal, natural gas or uranium to do – but… never mind! Don’t be anti-progress!)
Putting Abiotic Oil To The Drill Test
But, algae, fat. So what? Just a coincidence, perhaps. Perhaps not! But, let’s hear the counter-argument: Here is a technical review (by Dale Allen Pfeiffer) of oil and its infancy from Mike Ruppert’s “From the Wilderness,” which broke the 9/11 story (or did it? Hold that thought!)
“From 1986 to 1992, two commercial wells were drilled in the Siljan crater [which was argued to be “abiotic” in origin], at a reported cost of over $60 million. Only 80 barrels of oily sludge were taken from the field. While Dr. Gold claimed this oil to have an abiotic origin, others have pointed out that the early drilling used injected oil as a lubricant, and that this is the likely origin of the oily sludge. It has also been mentioned that sedimentary rocks 20 kilometers away could have been the source of hydrocarbon seepage. Others have observed that during World War II, the Swedish blasted into the bedrock to produce caverns in order to stockpile petroleum supplies. The Swedes now face environmental problems as these petroleum stockpiles are leaking into the groundwater. These stockpiles could well provide the source of the oil produced from the Siljan crater.
Even if we grant that these hydrocarbons are abiogenic (though it is a highly dubious claim), this exploration could only be termed a success in the most attenuated sense of the word. These 80 barrels of oily sludge cost investors three quarters of a million dollars per barrel. And if they had gone to the trouble of extracting the oil from the sludge and refining it, they would have had even less oil, and their expenses would have increased by the cost of extraction and refining.” LINK
And that’s about how it goes. That’s how it always goes. It’s always a bit of crap or junk, or seepage from a field into an old well. But it ain’t all-you-can-eat hot buttered pancakes.
The Consensus Never Rests Here
I don’t hold much with consensus, as Jack knows, but field geology is not laboratory fiddling. It’s digging into rock, draining a resource, and moving onto new rock.
The argument that “oil is made anew because science by consensus is bad,” is on par with saying “because Big Bang theory is a fraud (and it is – see Ch 9 of Official Stories” for the argument), then Newtonian Physics is also a fraud.”
But, Newtonian physics works – with large and small solid objects in 3 dimensional space. Newtonian physics cannot account for electromagnetic effects – and that is the failure of ‘big bang’ theology (it excludes the EM force).
Look – oil is very old stuff. It looks like algae – ancient algae, heated, pressurized, and in large, but limited supply, located by region and depth in specific types of rock. It is generally predictable based on topography.
And if we want to skip the record, and go to ‘ad hominems,’ let me offer that these petrol geologists who have blown the whistle on the decline of the major fields are not power players, moving nations into gun sights; they are generally quiet, serious-minded researchers, doing due diligence.
In fact, Colin J. Campbell, who you can watch talking oil (above), is the first person I have seen on record (in April, 2002, hombres) explaining that 9/11 was most likely a fudge-job, based on the newly announced ‘discovery’ of 200 billion barrels of oil – some 7 years of world use – in the Caspian Sea. For which Afghanistan would be a necessary PIPELINE territory. He pointed out that the ‘man in a cave’ argument from the United States was most probably an invention, as the US needed the territory and oil. But – the Caspian was proven, by drilling to contain only a fraction of that, some 13 billion barrels, and both Exxon and BP pulled out – and the US lost all interest in Afghanistan, and suddenly became excited about Iraq – the world’s #2 resource for oil, after Saudi Arabia. LINK.
Follow? He’s not a power player, a bad guy, etc. But, you can read his data – he makes it all publicly available. No, it’s not an argument in favor of oil as plant and animal fat. I’m only trying to identify the man’s politics and funding. He is a petrol geologist – he is, in many ways, biting the hand that fed him. He’s retired. He can get away with it. He’s retired to a tiny town in rural Ireland, and he seems to intend on speaking to the world about graduating from being over-consumers of everything, to being a little gentler on the old gas pedal. LINK. LINK.
But, back to oil and its many arguments. Where does it come from? Even the CIA factbook (wikipedia) treads lightly, without political overtones here:
“Although the abiogenic hypothesis was accepted by many geologists in the former Soviet Union, it fell out of favor at the end of the 20th century because it never made any useful prediction for the discovery of oil deposits. 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). Geologists now consider the abiogenic formation of petroleum scientifically unsupported, and they agree that petroleum is formed from organic material. However, the abiogenic theory can’t be dismissed yet because the mainstream theory still has to be established conclusively.”
This is an immensely fair reading for the Wikipedia – they give a great deal of space to pro and con arguments. The trouble is, wells and fields do go quite dry – that is, they become unproductive. Sometimes, there has been some ‘creep’ of petrol into dry wells from the larger fields, but that is expected by gravity and pressure-induced movement.
The reality is, fields that were used up 100 years ago are still used up. Titusville, PA, has not returned to its glory days. Spindletop in Texas is not gushing 100,000 barrels of oil anymore. It is now a museum.
“Production at Spindletop began to decline rapidly after 1902, and the wells produced only 10,000 barrels per day (1,600 m3/d) by 1904. On November 14, 1925, the Yount-Lee Oil Company brought in its McFaddin No. 2 at a depth of about 2,500 feet (800 m), sparking a second boom, which culminated in the field’s peak production year of 1927, during which 21 millions barrels (3.3 GL) were produced. Over the ten years following the McFaddin discovery, more than 72 million barrels (11.4 GL) of oil were produced, mostly from the newer areas of the field. Spindletop continued as a productive source of oil until about 1936. It was then mined for sulfur from the 1950s to about 1975.” LINK
Or, I should say, the museum is a mile and a half from where it started. So, what happened to the most productive gusher in the U.S.?
“The Lucas Gusher monument, derrick simulator and Historical markers are located at the museum, but the actual location of the gusher that started it all is about 1.5 miles south of the museum at an out of the way place named Spindletop Park which is at these coordinates N30° 00.718 W94° 04.626. There are no structures or markers at this location to indicate its significance and (as of April 15, 2012) there was no sign on the main road indicating where you should turn off to reach this remote nondescript park.”
Well, we’re heartless bastards, aren’t we? Not even a gravestone to announce the death of a nation. (By the way – Sulfur – is precisely what’s coming out of Tar Sands and Shale Oil. Because that’s what you find at the bottom of old wells or in “heavy crude.” It makes the oil very hard to use, and expensive – and even more toxic – to refine.)
What’s Wrong with Abiotic Oil?
Nothing. Or, it’s irrelevant, because it doesn’t impact oil use or production – at all. So, what’s this big, long, hairy freaking article about? What’s my freaking problem??
My problem with this argument is that it leads people, or could lead them, to a dangerous position of complacency or false optimism about the amount of oil produced, used – and the need to make significant changes. It induces stupor – and I am against that.
But I am oh-so-fair and generous. I am! Just ask.. well. Me. But. And. So. I will certainly include a sub-chapter on the arguments against Peak Oil or in favor of Abiotic Oil in my book… and I’ll include the various analysis from geologists, which will feature findings like the above, with specific references to the few small fields that were argued to be “abiotic,” but later were demonstrated to be most likely just local seepage.
The point is: it’s all fucking old shit. The oil, the argument, etc. The oil is old, old stuff. It looks like algae. That’s what it looks like under the microscope. Which is probably because that’s what it is, or likely is.
“It is believed that the majority of oil and natural gas originates from algae in ancient oceans. Oil (petroleum) consists of liquid hydrocarbons which arc compounds composed of carbon and hydrogen. At least 80% w/w of oil is carbon. The remainder is principally hydrogen, but sulfur and oxygen may each account for up to 5% of the weight of oil. The burning heating volume of oil is relatively high owing to its liquid state, and is comparable to that of coal.”
Note that the natural scientists in this field are not dogmatic. The world used is “believed” not “known.” These are not virus-hunters. They are many degrees more practical. They are field geologists. Their laboratory is REALITY. Which is where I suggest you go to do your reading. Because ignoring a REALITY of sea-water pumped by the megaton into Saudi Arabia would be to convince them of a lie. (LINK and Search “Sea water pumping into Ghwar, Saudi Arabia”)
And, let me ask – please don’t do that. I’m sure it’s not Jack’s intention, and don’t let it be yours. Don’t let hypothetical, argumentative or wishful thinking take your eye of the ball. Because the ball is in play.
Why Does It Matter?
Oil – It’s What’s For Dinner. It’s in everything you do, wear, eat and enjoy, here at the Western World. And we’re not brewing more of it, it’s not bubbling out anew from the la Brea tar pits or Canadian tar sands. What’s there is there, still and stagnant, and being used, when we dig it out and up, at 90 million barrels per day, worldwide.
That’s a depletion of a total reserve at the level of 90 million barrels per day. That is many hundreds of thousands of tons. No one is brewing that out of good wishes, or the bowels of the Earth, or any other place, at that rate. The rate of well-refilling is approximately zero, as far as anyone can tell.
So, what’s it all about? We are rapidly depleting cheap, easily-available, light, sweet crude oil.
Here is a list of countries that have, by their own production and exports, peaked and either fallen into hard economic times, got into the production of other sources of energy, or became a net importer and held onto oil by other means. LINK
Well… it’ll be in the book. But, I’m afraid the other arguments – nuclear versus solar/wind/hydro – have my attention. Because that’s the argument that the parasites that be are going to give us – and many will argue for nuclear. Which should perhaps startle a bit.
After all, what does it matter? Ghwar has peaked. The decline will most likely be much faster than anybody wants it to be. We’re digging and boiling tar and blowing up shale to hold off the inevitable. The techno-crowd wants us to believe that carbon and plastic cars and houses with better faucets and plumbing will save us.
Meanwhile…we’re all getting fracked.
And, just to let you know how recent this all is – how new it is – I had to ask my computer to ‘learn new spelling’ for that word. This is an emergency. And any argument about origins of oil are going to have to get in line. We’ve got bigger fat to fry, presently.
Fair? Fair. Now, go plant a permaculture forest, and do something fracking useful, why don’t you??
Whew. Hopefully Jack keeps me on the show – it’s always a blast. Look for the archives for our soon-to-be famous on-air almost-good-humor debates. Much appreciated, Jack for the challenge.