Monday, September 21, 2009

Evidence of Abiogenic Hydrocarbons

One of the paradoxes of hydrocarbons is they are ubiquitous in the universe,eg Titan.The mechanism of their production has been a matter of some robust debate(in the west,)it is important to also note that this is an additional source.

An interesting paper on this has been released in nature.

Researchers at KTH have been able to prove that the fossils of animals and plants are not necessary to generate raw oil and natural gas. This result is extremely radical as it means that it will be much easier to find these energy sources and that they may be located all over the world.

“With the help of our research we even know where oil could be found in Sweden!” says Vladimir Kutcherov, Professor at the KTH Department of Energy Technology in Stockholm.

Together with two research colleagues, Professor Kutcherov has simulated the process of pressure and heat that occurs naturally in the inner strata of the earth’s crust. This process generates hydrocarbons, the primary elements of oil and natural gas.

According to Vladimir Kutcherov, these results are a clear indication that oil supplies are not drying up, which has long been feared by researchers and experts in the field.

He adds that there is no chance that fossil oils, with the help of gravity or other forces, would have been able to seep down to a depth of 10.5 kilometres in, for example the US state of Texas, which is rich in oil deposits. This is, according to Vladimir Kutcherov, in addition to his own research results, further evidence that this energy sources can occur other than via fossils - something which will cause a lively discussion among researchers for a considerable period of time.

“There is no doubt that our research has shown that raw oil and natural gas occur without the inclusion of fossils. All types of rock formations can act as hosts for oil deposits,” asserts Vladimir and adds that this applies to areas of land that have previously remained unexplored as possible sources of this type of energy.

This discovery has several positive aspects. Rate of success as concerns finding oil increases dramatically – from 20 till 70 percent. As drilling for oil and natural gas is an extremely expensive process, costs levels will be radically changed for the petroleum companies and eventually also for the end user.

“This means savings of many billions of kronor,” says Vladimir.

Nikolai Kudryavtsev formulated the discussions in the early 1950's,and the Russian oil company has around 350 deep wells in production after first drilling in 1970 (a wildcat well)

The nature paper is here

Methane-derived hydrocarbons produced under upper-mantle conditions

Anton Kolesnikov1,2, Vladimir G. Kutcherov2,3 & Alexander F. Goncharov1


There is widespread evidence that petroleum originates from biological processes1, 2, 3. Whether hydrocarbons can also be produced from abiogenic precursor molecules under the high-pressure, high-temperature conditions characteristic of the upper mantle remains an open question. It has been proposed that hydrocarbons generated in the upper mantle could be transported through deep faults to shallower regions in the Earth's crust, and contribute to petroleum reserves4, 5. Here we use in situ Raman spectroscopy in laser-heated diamond anvil cells to monitor the chemical reactivity of methane and ethane under upper-mantle conditions. We show that when methane is exposed to pressures higher than 2 GPa, and to temperatures in the range of 1,000–1,500 K, it partially reacts to form saturated hydrocarbons containing 2–4 carbons (ethane, propane and butane) and molecular hydrogen and graphite. Conversely, exposure of ethane to similar conditions results in the production of methane, suggesting that the synthesis of saturated hydrocarbons is reversible. Our results support the suggestion that hydrocarbons heavier than methane can be produced by abiogenic processes in the upper mantle.


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