The Five Step Origin of Oil

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Considering the importance of oil to the world, it is amazing that there is no universally accepted explanation of its origin. Because of my unique scientific background, and long-term chemical interest in fuels at several major research institutions, I have studied this question for many years. I have concluded that oil is created in five steps, only four of which are currently known. Read the following to discover the fifth step which not only shine a light on how oil was created, but also where to look for future petroleum deposits.

1) ENERGY SOURCE: The Earth is 80% covered by salt and fresh water bodies. Sunlight only penetrates the first 10-20 meters of surface, the “Epipellagic” layer. Algae and other microorganisms convert carbon dioxide, water and solar energy in this layer, first to glucose (abbreviated CH2O, the generic formula of most carbo-hydrates) and oxygen:

CO2 + H2O + Sunlight ===> CH2O + O2 (photosynthesis)

Then the glucose is converted to all needed forms of biomass in this layer, in which all life was born, and matured to a high level before venturing on to shore and on to the continents during the Devonian age, 400-360 Million years ago.

2) ENERGY SEQUESTRATION: Most of the life forms are converted back to CO2 and H2O by the dissolved oxygen in sea water when they die, the reverse of the equation above. However, a great deal of the oxygen has escaped into the air during the aeons of time they have spent there to form our 21% O2 atmosphere. And simultaneously a lot of the life has fallen to the sea floor, typically 6Km below the surface.

3) ENERGY CONVERSION: The dead life forms that sink to the bottom of the ocean
do not carry the oxygen with them necessary for aerobic digestion. So instead they undergo anaerobic digestion to methane and CO2.

2 CH2O ===> CH4 + CO2

This is the same anaerobic digestion that occurs in any compost pile. However, the methane and CO2 do not escape into the atmosphere. Instead, they form a “gas hydrate”, a molecule of methane surrounded by a cage of water molecules that looks and fizzes like dry ice (frozen CO2), but will burn as it decomposes. There is a layer of gas hydrate at the bottom of the deep oceans 1-2 km thick, that contains more energy than all the gas and oil and coal found on the continents.

4) ENERGY TRANSPORT: 200 million years ago the supercontinent Pangaea began to break up. The ocean floors are restless. There is a mid ocean trench in all the oceans at which magma is rising to form the oceanic plates and pushing them under the continents in the ~60,000 miles of subduction zones surrounding our continents.

The process of ocean floor spreading is well known as shown in the following diagrams, found online:

origin of oil 2

Subduction: shows “sediments” being subducted, but no gas hydrate forming oil

origin of oil 3

5) ENERGY CONVERSION TO OIL: As the ocean plates and gas hydrates slide under the continents, the temperature of this vast methane reservoir rises from that of the ocean floor, a few degrees C, to that of deep mines in the Earth, (about 22 C, for each km of depth, so > ) So the methane hydrate travels under the continents at a rate of 2-8 cm per year (the rate our fingernails grow). As it moves away from the ocean, the methane is “roasted” and converts to oil which has the generic formula -CH2-.

CH4 + heat ===> -CH2- + H2

In order for this reaction to proceed forward, it is necessary to remove the H2 from the products. Fortunately, hydrogen is a very small, lively molecule and easily diffuses through the surrounding silicate rock. (One test of this hypothesis would be to sample gases rising along the continental shelf near the ocean for abnormal H2 concentration.)

SUMMARY So, to review what I’ve laid out in layman’s terms, the process by which oil is created involves the conversion of the remnants of algae and other oceanic biomass to methane, far below the ocean’s surface. This converts to gas hydrate, a form of methane, forming a thick layer at the bottom of oceans. With the process of seafloor spreading, this material is slowly transported toward above-water land masses, and thrust under other tectonic plates via subduction. The immense heat of the Earth’s mantle then initiates a chemical reaction that converts it into -CH2-, the generic molecular coupling found in all hydrocarbons. To give you an idea of how the whole process plays out, I have sketched out the entire process in the following diagram:

origin of oil 1

As far as I can find out, most of the pieces of this theory are known, but no one has added the hydrate layer in the picture above and suggested that it is the source of the oil. And there has been no search for hydrogen coming up near the subduction zones.

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