| Style over substance|
The hypothesis is mostly Soviet, mostly archaic, and mostly debunked. In the Anglophone world, abiotic oil proponents tend to cite the work of the late astrophysicist (read: not geologist) Thomas Gold.
Outline of the hypothesis
The theory's adherents believe that oil originated as carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas rising through the deep layers of the Earth's crust. The really cranky types will claim that the Earth's rotation propels these substances toward the surface of the crust. If this mixture was lucky enough to find zirconium-containing minerals, it could react and produce petroleum hydrocarbons. Some of these would move close enough to the surface to be exploitable by humanity.
This idea seems plausible because:
- Carbon monoxide and hydrogen result from volcanic activity.
- These chemicals will react and form petroleum under the right conditions.
- Modern 'coal to liquids' and synthetic motor oil are based on hydrocarbon transversion.
- Methane exists on Saturn's moon, Titan.
Proponents essentially argue that "Some hydrocarbons are formed inorganically; therefore all hydrocarbons are formed inorganically."
- Immanuel Velikovsky suggested in his book Worlds in Collision (1950) that oil was extraterrestrial in origin and came from comets.
- Velikovsky follower Robert W. Felix puts his own spin on this with hydrocarbon nano-diamonds raining down from the sky as a result of pole shifts.
- Jeffrey Wolynski proposed that oil and natural gas formation was a direct result of polymerization of hydrocarbons during intermediate stages of stellar evolution. The oil/natural gas rained down into the interior of the evolving star which was then subsequently trapped via crust deposition..
Results of application
No oil company has ever successfully found a well using the theory and it is generally considered pseudoscience on the order of global warming denialism. It originated in the Soviet Union, its major scientific supporters worked in Russia, and it has never gained a scientific following anywhere outside the Soviet Union. Having largely passed out of fashion in the former USSR, it occasionally bubbles up (pardon the pun) among the less intellectual elements of Anglophone conservatism. Among the people who have entertained the idea are Rush Limbaugh and Jerome Corsi, who wrote a book, Black Gold Stranglehold, promoting the idea. George Noory also promotes it from time to time. This generally seems to be wishful thinking in action: if petroleum is rapidly self-replenishing, we don't have to care about running out! Drill, baby, drill! This of course ignores the effects of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels, but then, these people are virtually all global warming deniers as well. Russian creationists also favour the idea.
The Swedes actually tested the idea, drilling in Siljan at Thomas Gold's behest, and only came up with 80 barrels of oily sludge over a six year period, which easily may have been residue from the lubricant used in the drilling machinery. Abiotic oil proponents, however, continue to cherry-pick minor increases in production at certain oil wells and declare it as "proof" of abiotic oil.
- Geoffrey P. Glasby. Abiogenic origin of hydrocarbons: an historical overview Resource Geology, vol. 56, no. 1, 85–98, 2006
- Hook et al. Development of oil formation theories and their importance for peak oil. Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 27, iss. 9, 2010, pp. 1995-2004. (full text available as PDF file in the link)
- No Free Lunch: A Critique of Thomas Gold's Claims for Abiotic Oil by Jean Laherrere.
- Vietnam Finds Oil in the Basement by David Brown
- The "Abiotic Oil" Controversy by Richard Heinberg
- Abiotic oil posts at The Oil Drum