Revolutionary discovery means world may not run out of crude

Posted Sep 13, 2009 by Stephanie Dearing
A team of scientists based at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have made a "revolutionary" discovery about how hydrocarbon is formed, learning that animal and plant fossils are not necessary to form crude oil.
The discovery, the scientists say, means that the world will never run out of crude oil. Currently, theory states that crude oil is formed very slowly - over millions of years - from the remains of dead plants and animals. Buried under rock, over time the pressure and temperature of natural earth processes results in the creation of crude oil. But that theory is now old news, as the scientists, led by Vladimir Kutcherov, say they have proven that fossilized plants and animals are not needed to create hydrocarbons. “Using our research we can even say where oil could be found in Sweden,” Kutcherov told Science Daily.
The article, titled Methane-derived hydrocarbons produced under upper mantle conditions, and published in Nature Geoscience, states that "Whether hydrocarbons can also be produced from abiogenic precursor molecules under the high-pressure, high-temperature conditions characteristic of the upper mantle remains an open question. It has been proposed that hydrocarbons generated in the upper mantle could be transported through deep faults to shallower regions in the Earth’s crust, and contribute to petroleum reserves." Kutcherov has said that his next step is to conduct experiments that will help him refine his new method for finding drilling points.
The idea of endless oil might be a bane to environmentalists and high-stakes oil production fields, such as Canada's oil sands, but most of the world's population will thrill to the idea that they will not have to give up their beloved automobiles. Not only will it be a much simpler matter to find and extract petroleum fuels, but, as Kutcherov's theories become reality, prices for natural gas and gasoline products should decrease. Kutcherov said the world is reliant on crude oil and natural gas, which makes up 61% of fuels currently used.
Kutcherov had recently proven that hydrocarbons can be created out of water, calcium carbonate and iron, and this means that crude oil is a sustainable, renewable resource, according to reports. However, this discovery does not mean that emissions from the combustion of hydrocarbons do not create climate change.
Kutcherov is a professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.
Last year Science Magazine published an article that said crude oil is created by an abiotic process and not from fossil fuels. These recent discoveries were found by building on a German process referred to as the Fischer-Tropsch type (FTT) genesis. Germany had plenty of coal but very little petroleum, which prompted a serious push by German scientists to find a way to create a substitute fuel. The FTT process was developed and patented in the 1920s, and was subsequently used throughout World War II by Germany and Japan. The process has been the basis for the creation of jet fuel made from water in the United States, as reported by Wired magazine.
While Kucherov's experiments have been proven in the laboratory, they have yet to be translated into reality, and there is no word on how long the world might have to wait to take advantage of the new discoveries.