Petroleum – the Big Mystery

Wei Yu

PureInsight | March 15, 2004

[] Generally, scientists of our era believe that petroleum has come from decomposed vegetation and animal matter that existed during a remote pre-historical time and that was buried and subjected, through a slow process over a long period of time, to high heat and pressure. However more and more of today's scientists question this assertion and find the mystery surrounding this premise rather intriguing, given that the quantity of "living matter" required to produce the volume of petroleum found today could not have existed in pre-historic times.

Although this issue was discussed in a previously published excerpt, "Unveiling Prehistoric Civilizations: (Part 11) Petroleum and the Theory of Evolution," evidence to uphold certain theories is scarce. Interestingly, some scientific reports were published at the end of November 2003 [1,2] that shed light on the mystery of the origin of petroleum.

The scientific paper by Mr. Jeffrey S. Dukes of Utah State University presented calculations based on present available biological and geochemical information, as well as industrial data. He found that to produce one U.S. gallon of raw petroleum requires as much as 90 tons of raw material, i.e., of ancient "living materials." A liter of gasoline required the decomposition of 23.5 tons of ancient organic materials. To more clearly illustrate, calculations have shown that 23.5 tons of vegetation are equal to the total quantity of wheat crops produced on a 16,200 square feet field, with nothing wasted, including leaves, stems and roots.

This poses the question, why does conversion to petroleum require such a high quantity of ancient organisms? The usual response is that only under high temperature and high pressure can petroleum be produced. But there is a problem in that if the ancient organisms were not buried immediately after they died, would they decay? The question arises as to the probability of ancient organisms being converted to fossil energy. The author suggests that the probability is less than one in ten thousand since, during the process of decomposition, most of the carbon would be decomposed and produce various gases and products that are either emitted to the atmosphere or absorbed by different types of smaller life forms, and only an extremely minute amount would be converted into fossil fuels. It, too, is interesting that the author states that, "based on the global petroleum consumption in 1997, the total consumption of fossil energy in the world of that year was equivalent to 400 times the total biomass of all plants on earth at that time."

From a different perspective, geological data is quite clear in that the remote ancient earth couldn't possibly have been much bigger than today's. Moreover, the ancient atmosphere was of higher oxygen content (about 30%) and temperature, which implies clearly that the speed of an organism's decay would be much faster [Oxidation might have been faster but microbial decay may not have been, since it is largely anaerobic – Ed.]. If petroleum is converted through carbon circulation of organisms' dead bodies, the probability of a large-scale rapid burial is very low, especially if the body size was relatively large as, for example, dinosaurs. Presently, only small numbers of partial dinosaur skeletons are found during digs or had become exposed due to some shifts in their surroundings. This implies, that if it was so difficult to preserve a single full dinosaur, how could a large-scale and rapid burial process of dinosaurs' bodies have occurred without a complete geologic shift over a large area?

Thus, we deduce from the reasoning promoted by modern science that the hypothesis of dead dinosaurs being converted into petroleum is flawed. [Even if one includes conversion of the marine biomass, only 1% of which ever finds its way into marine sediment, there still hasn't been enough life to account for the petroleum already found. More compelling evidence against the biological origin of petroleum comes from the finding of huge pools of light petroleum at depths of several hundred meters, far below the sedimentary layers that contain biomass degradation products. This is not oil that sank since il floats and some of these pools have no known fault lines and are full of helium gas. There is also a question about whether the molecular composition of petroleum more closely resembles pure hydrocarbons or organism-derived molecules. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that petroleum came with the planet's formation, rather than subsequent biomass processing (3). - Ed.] From the spiritual point of view, wouldn't the theory of petroleum's creation by the gods in their wisdom be more plausible?

1. J. S. Dukes, Climatic Change, 61: 31-44 (2003).
2. B. Mason, Nature Science Update, 29th. October 2003.

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