Does the Ethane lake on Titan support the abiotic oil theory?

Although shallow oil wells were drilled in China as early as the 4th century, the first commercial oil well was drilled in Canada in 1858 at the height of the industrial revolution.  Since then our use of and reliance upon it has skyrocketed.  Also since then has been a continuous debate on the origin of oil.  In one corner, weighing in at 25 billion barrels a year, we have the biogenic theory, aka dead plants and animals.  In the other corner, weighing in at 900 billion gallons a year, we have the abiotic theory, aka chemical reactions inside the Earth.

The “fossil fuel” theory was first proposed by Russian scientist Mikhailo Lomonosov in 1757 who suggested that bodies of animals from prehistoric times were buried in sediments and were transformed into hydrocarbons due to extreme pressure and temperature forces over millions of years.  The argument is supported by sound biochemical processes, such as catagenesis.  In addition, the evidence of organic pollen grains in petroleum deposits implies (but does not prove) organic origin.

The abiogenic or abiotic theory actually has its origins the 1800s, when proposed by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot and Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.  According to their theory, hydrocarbons are primordial in origin and were formed by non-biological processes in the earths crust and mantle.  The theory received a modern boost by Russian geologist Kudryavtsev, studying Canadian oil sources in the 1950s and Ukrainian scientist Chekaliuk, based on thermodynamic calculations in the 1960’s, who both arrived at the same conclusion.  Esteemed and late planetary scientist Thomas Gold from Cornell University (from whom I once took a course in astronomical theories), added to the evidence in his book “The Deep Hot Biosphere.”  The theory has also attained laboratory support via experiments at Gas Resources Corporation in Houston, Texas which produced octane and methane by subjecting marble, iron oxide, and water, to temperature and pressure conditions similar to that 60 miles below the surface of the earth.  Also, deep drilling around the world has discovered oil at depths and in places where there should never have been biological remains.  Referring to natural gas wells drilled by the GHK Company in Oklahoma at 30,000 feet and Japanese wells at 4300 meters, Dr. Jerome Corsi (political scientist with a Ph.D. from Harvard University) noted:

“Even those who might stretch to argue that even if no dinosaurs ever died in sedimentary rock that today lies 30,000 feet below the surface, might still argue that those levels contain some type of biological debris that has transformed into natural gas. That argument, a stretch at 30,000 feet down, is almost impossible to make for basement structure bedrock. Japan’s Nagaoka and Niigata fields produce natural gas from bedrock that is volcanic in nature. What dinosaur debris could possibly be trapped in volcanic rock found at deep-earth levels?”

Some oil reserves even seem to have the ability to be automatically refilled, like a drink at a burger joint.  Gulf of Mexico oil field Eugene Island 330, for example, saw its production drop from 15,000 barrels a day in 1973 to 4,000 barrels a day in 1989, and then suddenly spontaneously reversed and was pumping 13,000 barrels of a “different aged” crude in 1999.  In fact, according to Christopher Cooper of the Wall Street Journal, “between 1976 and 1996, estimated global oil reserves grew 72%, to 1.04 trillion barrels.”  Considering the doubling of reserves in the Middle East alone, University of Tulsa professor Norman Hyne noted that “it would take a pretty big pile of dead dinosaurs and prehistoric plants to account for the estimated 660 billion barrels of oil in the region”

The argument is all very interesting and gets quite political as one might imagine.  But my interest revolves more around the basic question of why oil is even there at all.  Both sides propose some fairly complex theories to account for the very existence of petroleum, let alone its uncanny ability to refill known reserves automatically.  Doesn’t it almost seem like it was placed there just for our use? (see much more on Programmed Reality elsewhere on this site)

And now, there is the fact that some hydrocarbons, like methane, are known to occur throughout the solar system on supposedly lifeless planets.  Take, for example, the most recent announcement in “Nature” and “Scientific American” that a Lake Ontario-sized lake has been discovered on Saturn’s moon Titan that is composed of hydrocarbons, specifically liquid ethane.  By some estimates, the contents of this lake could be equivalent to as much as 9 trillion barrels of oil.  Even NASA suggests that Titan could have “hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth.”

Anybody see anything wrong with this picture?  Were there dinosaurs on Titan?


Therefore, it seems to me, Titan gives the abiotic theory of oil a fairly sizeable boost.

(apologies to those who have read my book, “The Universe-Solved”, as much of the background on this topic come verbatim therefrom)


4 Responses to Does the Ethane lake on Titan support the abiotic oil theory?

  1. Pingback: Does the Ethane lake on Titan support the abiotic oil theory?

  2. Gilian says:

    I do not agree with the creationist perspective that you appear to have on this subject. That being said, I also do not suspect that most of our crude oil was biological in origin.

    There is some very straightforward chemistry involving the reaction of CaCO3 and H20 that eventually leads to CH4; then some very straightforward chemistry that leads to the formation of higher valued carbon chains that leads me to suspect that most of the oil that we use came from these chemical reactions.

    Was the oil put there for our use? No, a more likely explanation, to me, seems to be that we (alas, all life on Earth) are simply scavengers taking advantage of whatever energy sources are readily available in the environment we live in.

    The idea that oil is abiogenic in origin seems very plausible.

  3. Peter says:

    I just saw a particularly gullible American redneck trumpeting this “the lack of dinosaurs on Titan proves that oil is not a fossil fuel” abuse of perfectly good science on another bulletin board that is particularly infested with scientifically illiterate social conservatives desperate to prove that science = liberals = the devil.

    Methane is not crude oil. There is no comparison – Crude is massively more complex than methane. It is produced naturally in large quantities by the very gradual decomposition of *more* complex carbon-based forms, like plant life.

    Per “Entropy”, less complex molecules routinely form from the breakdown of more complex ones, but for it to work the other way (i.e. for free carbon and hydrogen to just randomly combine into crude oil) requires such a fluke that it just couldn’t happen over and over enough to form trillions of barrels of oil deposits.

    If you don’t believe me, try a little chemistry experiment. In a high school lab, produce some methane or ethane (any 9th-grader should be able to help you).

    Then try to produce some crude oil (you will fail, because you don’t have the necessary equipment.) Mind you, it *is* possible to produce crude in an industrial setting with the right equipment… *By starting with more complex biological material, like plants or algae!* (So we can readily observe how the “fossil fuel” thing works.)

    Create crude from Hydrogen and Carbon gas, or other simple molecules? Good luck with that, because of Entropy.

    I have to scratch my head over what agenda is behind this silly lie about how magical leprechauns (or some other source) are magically filling the oil wells faster than we can pump the stuff out (10s of billions of barrels per day). You may not believe that, but that’s been the underlying reason others have had when I came across them spreading this stuff. I guess it’s part of the disinformation campaign to make the naïve believe that ever-increasing fossil fuel consumption is harmless (which is obviously false to any rational person)?

    • Dr. Evil says:

      You don’t need to produce oil from methane. You make gas and diesel directly using the Fischer–Tropsch process(GTL).

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