Deep Hot Biosphere

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Deep Hot Biosphere

Postby Sean Ryan » Feb 17, 2006 4:37 pm

I'm in the middle of reading Thomas Gold's book The Deep Hot Biosphere, about the idea of huge quantities of life tthat could be living many kilometers under the ground, unconnected from the photosynthesis cycle that us surface-dwellers live by. I had heard about this theory, but didn't know how connected it was to another of Gold's theories, that of abiotic oil (i.e. oil, natural gas and coal aren't "fossil fuels" from dead biological material but have always been under the earth, slowly working their way to the surface in the pores of rocks.)

I'm realizing that I'm believing this entire book, both about the deep life and the oil, but without knowing all that much about the long-standing theories this the book is refuting. Anyone else read the book?
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Postby David_Campen » Feb 17, 2006 9:10 pm

The abiotic oil theory has been around for some time. 10-20 years ago Sweden did some deep drilling but did not come up with much. Gold was promoting his abiotic oil theory at about that time. Here is a link claiming that Gold plagiarized earlier Russian theory.

<a href="http://tinyurl.com/ytfi">http://www.gasresources.net/Gold_plagiarism(complaints).htm</a>
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Postby Teresa » Feb 19, 2006 9:47 pm

I read the book.
Methane can be formed by bacterial and abiotic processes. Look up 'methanogenesis'--methane is actually a very simple carbon/hydrogen structure. There actually are gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico which are recharging themselves from somewhere, by some process not understood--perhaps related to methane clathrates--the so called 'methane ice' below deep and cold portions of the seafloor. I don't know that Gold said much about coal--much coal contains plant fossils, and that fairly shoots the abiotic coal origin in the foot. His big splash was abiotic oil.

He claimed that oil could be produced either biotically or abiotically. However, for it to be abiotic, bacteria could not be involved, since they, by definition, are biologic. Oil is a quite complex hydrocarbon-- although 'deep and old' oil is quite possible, (it doesn't all have to be shallow and Mesozoic or younger in age) the chances that it is truly abiotic, and as a result of rock decomposition are fairly slim.

On this topic, I recently visited a website alleging to give 'shelf lives' of consumer products without a 'born on' date. They mentioned that motor oil and gasoline in closed containers should be chucked after 6 months; in opened containers 3 months. I about
:rofl: :rofl:
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Postby Dwight Livingston » Feb 20, 2006 8:49 am

Teresa wrote:On this topic, I recently visited a website alleging to give 'shelf lives' of consumer products without a 'born on' date. They mentioned that motor oil and gasoline in closed containers should be chucked after 6 months; in opened containers 3 months. I about
:rofl: :rofl:


I'd say they have it about right. Depends on the storage temperature, and how sensitive the engine is. Fuel injectors get gummed up more easily.

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Postby Phil Winkler » Feb 20, 2006 9:18 am

Teresa,

You are correct. That web site is just BS. I worked in a Petroleum Lab with Dupont for a couple of years and I guarantee oil does not become unusable after 6 months unless stored, perhaps, in a hot oven where it might break down.

And oil has nothing to do with fuel injectors.
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Postby Dwight Livingston » Feb 20, 2006 1:20 pm

Phil Winkler wrote:Teresa,
And oil has nothing to do with fuel injectors.


Oil? I was refering to the gasoline part - should have said that in my post.
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Postby Sean Ryan » Feb 21, 2006 12:28 pm

Teresa wrote:I don't know that Gold said much about coal--much coal contains plant fossils, and that fairly shoots the abiotic coal origin in the foot.


Gold brought up the "You can't argue with a fossil" argument. He said that in black coal, methane and other upwelling hydrocarbons trickle through the sediment, stealing away the oxygen molecules in the sediment until near-pure carbon is left. Petrified wood works the same way, only with silicon dioxide keeping the shape of the tree to a cellular level without preserving any of the organic material.

As the hydrocarbons trickle up, more and more hydrogan atoms are lost to loose oxygen atoms (making water). This explains why light oils are a the bottom of oil deposits, heavier oils above them, and layers of coal above the top, with methane pockets all throughout.

In the case of peat and lignite, upwelling methane gets to the oxygen atoms in stagnant biological material quicker than decompostion can work, leaving brown coals with a lot of plant matter still distinguishable. This also explains situation in Switzerland where peat has been found in high-methane areas that aren't swampy.

Again, I'm just learning this stuff myself, so I don't know which horse to back here. But as of 1960, only crackpots believed in plate tectonics. By 1965, only crackpots DIDN'T believe in plate tectonics. Just because four out of five dentists agree on something doesn't mean further study won't change accepted views of the world.
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Postby Teresa » Feb 21, 2006 3:05 pm

http://www.ukooa.co.uk/issues/storyofoi ... cal-01.htm
This tells the conventional oil and gas story fairly succinctly.

Gold was an astronomer who got into geoscience largely through exogeology.

If his argument holds, why do exploration O&G professionals drill thousands of mile of core, looking for specific fossils and bacterial signatures in order to successfully find oil? Why is 99.99+% of all energy-bearing strata sedimentary (not igneous or metamorphic)? How come there is a close correlation between prehistoric 'swampy' environments and modern energy-bearing deposits? Science is ultimately pragmatic, if nothing else.

If Gold had restricted himself to abiotic methane, trapped, presumably from the initial planetary nebula (a concept itself under fire, as some now believe planets accreted at relatively low temperatures) he might have been taken somewhat seriously. As others have indicated, he basically stole his concept from the Russian Mendeleev --the fellow who assembled the periodic table of the elements, but who who also had a number or other, very strange ideas.

Sean, read Gold, by all means, but do some investigation of oil and gas geology from conventional sources too. Arguments by analogy such as 'in 1960 no one believed in plate tectonics and everyone believed it in 1965' are also untrue. The earth's crust conceived as discrete movable plates started about the time the first good maps were made, won a convert in Alfred Wegener about 1915 (based on biology and fossils) puttered through to the 1940s when Hess and Vine worked on oceanfloor soundings and found a mechanism, didn't 'make the textbooks' as virtual fact until after 1978 (when I took geology) and is under revision by geoscientists and attack by all sorts of geo-kooks to this very day.

The devils of science are in the details. So you gotta dig for the details.

By the way--there isn't anything such as brown coal or black coal. Coal is a continuum from peat to lignite to bituminous to anthracite. The divisions are entirely artificial, based on assay of BTU output of the substance. It is true most anthracite is formed under metamorphic conditions, but bituminous and anthracite can be found contiguously as well.
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Postby bigalpha » Feb 21, 2006 4:04 pm

Teresa,

Don't forget that over 85% of coal is found in carboniferous aged sedimentary beds.

That is cool about the recharging methane beds in the Gulf.

Up in the Scandanavia area, hasn't there been instances of massive methane loss from the seafloor due to underwater mass movements/ earthquakes?
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Feb 21, 2006 4:29 pm

I never followed this topic closely. A friend of mine who is an oil company geologist has. But I don't recall his opinions. I think he dismissed the abiotic argument for the most part. Not that there isn't ANY, just not all that much.

I think the answer to it is in isotopic ratios. I think the biotic processes fractionate stable isotopes differently than the abioitic processes. But since I haven't thought of stable isotopes in quite some time, I can't recall the details.
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Postby David_Campen » Feb 21, 2006 5:39 pm

C12/C13 ratio:
http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/w ... _pt3.shtml

or Google "C12 C13 ratio oil"
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Postby Teresa » Feb 21, 2006 9:05 pm

bigalpha wrote:Teresa,

Don't forget that over 85% of coal is found in carboniferous aged sedimentary beds.



This is why I said 'energy-bearing sedimentary strata'. To include all hydrocarbons...including coal, oil shale, kerogen, etc., etc..
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Postby bigalpha » Feb 21, 2006 10:43 pm

I just wanted to sound smart and impress everyone!
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Postby Sean Ryan » Feb 22, 2006 1:12 pm

I'm getting through the earthquake chapter now, which brings up some complementary theories about how quakes are formed. (This only requires acceptance that there are upwelling pockets on methane in the earth, regardless of where that methane came from.)

Old theories as to earthquakes - we're talking Aristotle old - involved "air" from under the earth venting. (Pliny even recommended that tunnels be dug in cave-poor regions so the escaping "air" has someplace to vent rather than rumble the whole countryside.) Methane venting before an earthquake can explain why animals seem to vacate an area before earthquakes: their noses smell the change in air before we do. It also works as an early detection system: if your location has a sudden increase in methane and/or a sharp rise in temperature (from gases venting at the mean earth temperature), get the hell out of the area.

When tectonics came into vogue, a lot of gas-based theories on earthquakes were written off, even though they could be used hand-in-hand with the idea of crustal plates rubbing against each other. The methane and other gases can act as friction nullifiers, which could explain how a huge volume of rock manages to move so much in a matter of seconds. The upwelling gases can also explain why smaller earthquakes occur along the Mississippi and St. Lawrence Rivers - nowhere near known fault lines - as well as the "earth mounds" that lump around these areas.
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