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View Full Version : Is oil really "fossil fuels"



Z28Jerry
2005-Sep-10, 04:41 AM
O.K. I don't really believe this myself, but as I am driving and look out over the landscape I can't help but wonder if oil really comes from dead organic matter compacted by heat and stress over many thousands of years. I mean, there's alot of oil down there, but how much oil could you squeeze out of, say, a dead elephant? A few drops, a few gallons? You'd need a BUNCH of dead elephants. I am not ignoring plant matter either. Say a tree is food for a pint of oil, that would require alot of trees over thousands of years to build up the types of reserves the Earth has.

Could it be possible that oil is indeed a renewable resource? Perhaphs generated within the planet in a way we don't understand jst yet? I have seen many news stories about wells that have gone dry, only to come back to life after 20 or so years. Maybe it's like magma, flowing up through rifts and cracks in the mantle/crust from mpoints unknown?

Thoughts?

Jerry

RBG
2005-Sep-10, 05:59 AM
Just focusing on trees, exclusive of everything else, for the moment. Think about how much energy is contained in one forest. (ie: Think about how long you could burn the logs from one large tree in your fireplace.) Now think about the number of forests throughout the earth. Now think about millions of years of forests. That is a lot of energy that has to be somewhere.

RBG

Fraser
2005-Sep-10, 06:20 AM
From what I understand, the oil comes mostly from ocean phytoplankton. Built up over millions of years.

dgruss23
2005-Sep-10, 12:51 PM
Thomas Gold proposed that oil may have an inorganic origin. Here (http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38645) is an article on the topic.

Fram
2005-Sep-10, 12:59 PM
Can you give a few example of dry oil wells returning to live after some years?

dgruss23
2005-Sep-10, 02:59 PM
Can you give a few example of dry oil wells returning to live after some years?

Are you asking me? No, I haven't done any research into that. I saw this thread and recalled reading that Thomas Gold had published a controversial theory that oil has a chemical origin. I'm just sharing that information, not advocating that Gold (deceased) was correct.

Z28Jerry
2005-Sep-11, 12:32 AM
I can't. I have only heard of "dry" wells (that were not really dry, just dropped significantly in crude output over the years) returning to higher output after several years. Possibly indicating that oil is a renewable byproduct of the Earth's inner workings.

The article that dgruss23 posted a link to seems to point out what I was trying to say. I believe I must have heard someone talking about that same article a while back which brought this thread up.

Fram
2005-Sep-11, 08:39 PM
I've heard about that theory as well, it has been discussed here before (abiogenesis, I believe it's called). But I hadn't heard of those semi-dry wells, and I hoped you could give a source for it.
No problem that you don't have it though, I give information here that I have heard somewhere all the time, and I'm mostly lucky that no one asks me to back it up :)

JonClarke
2005-Sep-11, 09:57 PM
This topic was discussed extensively on the old Bad astronomy forum. Don't know if it is still archived. It might be worth rereading if you are interested and it is available.

Just some points raised in this discussion.

Oil is derived from three types of organic matter - cyanobacteria, plankton (especially phytonplankton), and land plants. each as its specific chemical signature.

I haven't heard about dry wells reflowing but it could occur several ways. Overpumping might do it, just as with water. Also improvments in extraction technology may make it possible to extract oil from formerly abandoned wells.

There is very little evidence in favour of Gold's hypothesis, and lot's against it.

Jon

Enzp
2005-Sep-13, 05:54 AM
When I go to Arby's for a Jamocha shake, when I get to the bottom, I suck air, but if it let is sit a few minutes, the dregs slide down off the walls of the cup and collect enough that I can get an additional suck out of it. The cup does not refill itself, the remaining material just seeks its level at the bottom.


When you pump most of the oil out of a rock stratum, the well goes dry eventually, but there can remain some oil away from the drill hole and in extremities of the stratum. Over time, seking their level, they will flow into the area that was pumped dry, and there will be some more to pump out. But it is not as though the oil renewed itself.

jkmccrann
2005-Oct-21, 04:56 PM
Well, in one sense there is a similar renewable resource, and that would be ethanol. Grown in the sugar-cane of Brazil it is a mandated part of their automobile fuel in Brazil, and it is renewable. But no, I'd have to disagree with the contention that oil is not a fossil fuel. The evidence is overwhelming I would have thought Jerry.

NanC
2005-Oct-22, 11:05 PM
When I go to Arby's for a Jamocha shake, when I get to the bottom, I suck air, but if it let is sit a few minutes, the dregs slide down off the walls of the cup and collect enough that I can get an additional suck out of it. The cup does not refill itself, the remaining material just seeks its level at the bottom.
To make that a renewable resource would be a boon to humanity :) Also Pumpkin shakes from Burgerville.

I agree with so many trees and forests over so many millions of years you have time for making much oil, but not all oil pulled up is used for gasoline. We make plastics, heating oil, diesel and a thousand other uses. Thinking of how much we go through the forests over millions of years dont seem as big in the long run.

I wonder has any scientist ever made oil from plankton in a lab?

Tunga
2005-Oct-25, 03:11 PM
In Russia and the Ukraine, over a thousand research and technical papers have been published over the past 50 years supporting the theory that petroleum does not come from fossils but from something much earlier, from the hydrocarbons that are found in the building blocks that created the planets - asteroids and comets.

http://www.gasresources.net/toc_articles.htm

Z28Jerry
2005-Oct-25, 09:09 PM
I am now so smart it hurts. Thanks to you guys, I am too full to remember my phone number, home address, or that I can in fact pee standing up.

Gillianren
2005-Oct-25, 09:46 PM
Er . . . you're welcome?

eburacum45
2005-Oct-25, 10:17 PM
Wikipedia has a good page about this;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin
some interesting data and links.

the fact that the abiogenic theory of petroleum production is popular in Russia and not elsewwhere reminds me of the Lysenko affair somewhat...

the consensus ouside Russia seems to be that some abiogenesis may take place, but it is insignificant compared to bioogenic petroleum.
since Thomas Gold's death, there are few supporters of the theory in the west.

hammo1j
2005-Oct-26, 12:54 PM
Have to admit I always struggled with oil production from plants at school - how did it get so far down? Why isn't it continuously distributed? Do remember seeing a fossil once in my gran's coal though as evidence for biogenesis.

Surprised it abio theory is so prevalent as I had not heard of it before. I hope they are the correct ones, but we have to work on the bio basis until then.

JohnD
2005-Oct-26, 01:27 PM
Hammo,
Another of Darwins contributions to science was 'On the formation of vegetable mould' (see :http://pages.britishlibrary.net/charles.darwin/texts/vegetable_mould/mould03.html )
In a field in which lime had been spread, the layer of white chalk was still visible in the wall of a trench many years later, some distance down. (See Chapter 4) Darwin calculated that in that field, worm casts contributed a quarter of an inch of soil to the surface every year.

But this is only one of many means by which surface objects get buried. Ever seen a yard that has been unswept for a year? Leaves, moss gather, dust falls among them and weeds lock it in with roots. On an alluvial plain, the river will flood and leave a layer of earth. Let alone more catastrophic events, like landslides, or to us incredibly slow events such as the accumulation of seabed layers.

JOhn

Swift
2005-Oct-26, 03:43 PM
Have to admit I always struggled with oil production from plants at school - how did it get so far down? Why isn't it continuously distributed? Do remember seeing a fossil once in my gran's coal though as evidence for biogenesis.

Surprised it abio theory is so prevalent as I had not heard of it before. I hope they are the correct ones, but we have to work on the bio basis until then.
As I understand it, fossils in coal are not that rare. I've seen some lovely ones at our local natural history museum - you could actually seen the fronds of the fern in one of them.

Having worked for many years with hydrothermal chemistry (hot water) I can tell you that given the right conditions (water, a little dissolved salts, 200 to 300C), you can easily convert all kinds of organic material into carbon. For example, Teflon under those conditions will turn into a charcoal bricket (this had been determined experimentally). Such conditions are common in the interior of the Earth.

pghnative
2005-Oct-26, 05:01 PM
What's the mechanism for fossils in coal? I can understand fossil formation from sediments or lava covering living things, but if the coal is formed in extreme conditions, how did the palm frond survive in the first place? (in other words, why didn't the frond just turn to coal instead of leaving an imprint.

Maybe I'm just missing something obvious...

RBG
2005-Oct-26, 05:31 PM
My educated guess is that fossils are more than just imprints. All the organic material in the original organism is slowly and completely replaced by minerals which leached into proximity. It turns into stone. So then the question becomes: how could a rock be imbedded in coal? which is easier to accept.

RBG

Swift
2005-Oct-26, 06:22 PM
My educated guess is that fossils are more than just imprints. All the organic material in the original organism is slowly and completely replaced by minerals which leached into proximity. It turns into stone. So then the question becomes: how could a rock be imbedded in coal? which is easier to accept.

RBG
You're close RBG, but the fossil is not a rock (mineralized) fossil. The coal is the fossil, only in this case it retained the shape of the original object.

The first picture on this page (http://www.scsc.k12.ar.us/2000backeast/ENatHist/Members/Reynolds/Default.htm) was the best I could quickly google up (it is not a very good picture and it doesn't have a particular explanation). But I believe it is a fossilized tree or fern trunk, where the whole cross-section has been turned to coal and it has retained its form.

As I mentioned, I've seen these things up close and personal at our local natural history museum (The Cleveland Museum of Natural History). There are pieces of coal, but they have retained the form of the plant material they came from.

RBG
2005-Oct-26, 06:48 PM
I've seen these coal fossils too, essentially tree trunk shapes sticking out of river banks.

But I didn't think those were the type of fossils being asked about. I thought the question was more - how can you find an animal fossil in the middle of a coal bed? I think I misunderstood.

RBG

pghnative
2005-Oct-26, 08:40 PM
I've seen these coal fossils too, essentially tree trunk shapes sticking out of river banks.

But I didn't think those were the type of fossils being asked about. I thought the question was more - how can you find an animal fossil in the middle of a coal bed? That's the essence of my question, though I was referring to Swift's "fern fronds".

I'm not doubting that it occurs, I'm trying to understand the mechanism.

eburacum45
2005-Oct-26, 10:01 PM
If I recall correctly, the fossil plants found in coal are often thin layers of iron pyrites, which will be a replacement mineral.

Aha! here is something about the process concerned;

In stagnant or poorly circulated waters large amounts of hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas) are created by decaying animal matter. Together with iron salts in the sediment, this gas forms iron sulphide or pyrite,
from here
http://www.minerals.nsw.gov.au/prodServices/minfacts/minfact_61

publiusr
2005-Oct-27, 06:52 PM
All I know is that overseas, its the gov't that tells the oil companies what to do, not vice versa--otherwise, you go to Siberia and become an oil deposit yourself:

http://www.terradaily.com/news/energy-tech-05zzzzzzzo.html

Bathcat
2005-Oct-29, 04:07 AM
...a research project which demonstrated that organic garbage (chicken carcasses, brown slimy lettuce, etc) can be turned into an oil of sorts?

::googles::

Ah yes, [i]thermal depolymerization. See this article (http://www.acfnewsource.org/science/turkey_trash.html).

Ken G
2005-Oct-29, 07:39 AM
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Titan yet, which appears to rain methane instead of water. So there's one pretty clear example of abiogenesis, though I don't doubt the apparently overwhelming evidence that here on Earth the dominant mechanism is biogenesis. Here's another issue to bear in mind-- I would presume that biogenesis would at some level involve taking in CO2 and making CH4, which we now burn and return to CO2. In a hundred years we've burned up an appreciable fraction of the accessible oil reserves, and it has increased the atmospheric CO2 levels (many would contend). But that is CO2 that took up to a billion years to incorporate into the oil, and we'll unlock it in a few hundred. So taken from the point of view of the CO2 bookkeeping, does it really seem like all that much fossil fuel?

Damburger
2005-Nov-01, 08:43 AM
Firstly, raining methane on titan does not prove an inorganic origin for much more complex hydrocarbons.

Secondly, I was under the impression that theories such as these were widely considered quackery designed to compliment a certain political agenda (similar to 'Intelligent Design'). Shouldn't this go in ATM?

doltish
2005-Nov-01, 01:13 PM
I can't claim to be any expert in just about anything, but I have taken several geology and environmental science classes in University. Not once was an abio-option even so much as mentioned by a professor or a book.

As mind-boggling as it may seem, oil is indeed made by dead microscopic marine animals. No trees, no plants, no elephants. Little animals floating in the ocean dying on massive scales makes oil.

Though if it weren't frustrating enough to think of oil coming from that stuff, imagine the tiny chances of that dead stuff ever getting into the right environment to become oil! It needs to die, it needs to settle to the ocean floor, and before it decomposes it needs to be trapped beneath layers of sediment. That sediment then has to get buried very deap, resulting in the magical pressure that helps destroy and create the hydrocarbon chains. Those sediments need to have a very specific shape and composition: the sediments need to be impurvious to liquids. Oil is very light, and the constant pressure will force the oil to trickle up towards the surface of the earth (where it will decompose extremely quickly). One of the most popular places to find oil is beneath dense sediment layers that are shaped like an umbrella because they trap the oils as they make their way up to the surface.

It's also important to note that coal and oil are fundamentally quite different. Oil is only found beneath oceans where there was an abundance of life which subsequently died in large waves. Coal is found beneath former swampland. Coal is formed from plants that get buried beneath swamps and bogs and decompose anerobically (sp?) over a long period of time. Some of the most major coal deposits come from swamps that were covered up over a very short period of time due to some sort of geological event. The reason why it comes up in chunks instead of ooze is because of the cellulose cell-walls that don't decompose.