Posted tagged ‘Noah’

Is oil a renewable resource?

May 30, 2011

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Virtually all oil and natural gas reservoirs are associated with salt domes or similar “piercement structures”, such as mud volcanoes and shale diapirs (not diaper, diapir!). A salt dome occurs when unbelievably thick layers of sea salts like sodium chloride (halite) and calcium sulfate (gypsum) are rapidly smothered by unbelievably thick layers of more dense sediments. Add a little shaking from tectonic activity, and the salt finds a gap and oozes its way to the surface. Below is a U. S. Geological Survey seismic image of a mud diapir off the California coast:

Seismic image of a mud diapir. Notice how the mud has pushed through layers above it.

In 2005, deep sea researchers Martin Hovland, Ian Macdonald, and others discovered what they described as an asphalt volcano in the Gulf of Mexico:

Diagram of an asphalt volcano from 1) the channel formed through the salt dome (2). 3-6 are various hydrocarbon products

Since the discovery of the Chapopte asphalt volcanoes, other asphalt volcanoes have been discovered, and while actual samples have not been collected, it sure looks like there is an asphalt volcano on Mars!

Possible asphalt volcanism on Mars. If you have Google Earth on your computer, select "Mars", then "fly to" Hebes Chasma, and you can see it.

Just like the majority of petroleum discoveries man has made, the asphalt volcanoes are associated with salt domes. But why is that? Is there a relationship between the formation of all that salt and all that oil and gas? Well, a theory being proposed by Martin Hovland suggests that both the salt and the oil are being generated next to magmatic heat engines:

Heat from the magma chamber generates warm water, which rises. Cold water rushes in through cracks in the sediments to replace this water. In the process, it reacts with hot rocks, forming petroleum products. It also turns into a supercritical fluid, which causes the sea salts to precipitate out (turn to solid).

Yes, you read the caption above correctly, water + rock + heat = oil! Actually, NOAA has studied it quite a bit at a place called Lost City in the Atlantic:

NOAA image of Lost City, where researchers found clues about serpentinization.

The reaction is usually between a rock called olivine, water, and carbon dioxide. Here is one of many complex reactions referred to as serpentinization:

one of many possible reactions

Below is a graph showing the relationship of trace metals from Brazilian crude oil compared to trace metals in serpentinized rock from the mantle. The research by Peter Szatmari and others was published in 2010 in an online textbook (click here):

Trace metals in Brazilian oil compared to their amounts in serpentinized mantle. Research by Peter Szatmari and others (see above for link to their research)

One conclusion from the graph above is that most of the crude oil in Brazil, and everywhere else (including Mars!) was formed by serpentinization that is still going on today. Oil is not a “fossil fuel”. It was probably not formed by dead dinosaurs, flamingoes, and algae dying and slowly decomposing on the ocean floor over millions of years. And even if dead plants and animals were the source, they would have to be buried rapidly, all over the world, since oil is found all over the world.

Think about what this means. If we can develop drilling techniques that can handle even more high temperature, high pressure (HTHP) situations than they do right now, we just may find more oil and gas than we could ever use! Also, notice that in the reaction shown above, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a reactant, which means that for those who believe excess carbon dioxide is heating the earth, all you need to do is find a way to pump it down to one of these undersea heat engines, and carbon dioxide will be consumed (sequestered). Researchers are already trying to figure out how to do this. And while we are on the subject of greenhouse gases, did you know that water is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide? Think about that while you are thinking about how oil and gas may not be as “evil” as some people try to make them seem.

We should be VERY glad that the formation of oil-trapping piercement structures has slowed down today from a more rapid rate in the past. The tectonic activity (earthquakes) involved as lower density salts, gases, and oils pushed through sediments all over the world must have been tremendous. I would speculate that most of this was formed rapidly during the global cataclysm described in Genesis, and most of the piercement structures moved upward during this time, before sediments had a chance to do much compacting and lithifying (turning to rock). Most of these heat engines have cooled considerably, but they do still carry out the process of serpentinization, and with the right tools, it is something we could manipulate.

If there is really a whole lot more oil and gas than we are led to believe by major media outlets and many government leaders, this also means that gasoline prices should drop once we learn how to get to more of this oil. It also means that America’s current desires to make ethanol from corn could be a waste of time. If you are a person who thinks we should halt all oil drilling to “save the planet”, I encourage you to think again. Think instead about encouraging better and safer technology to extract oil and gas from deeper, hotter sections of salt domes in places like the Gulf of Mexico. We don’t need to “save the planet”, we need to manage the planet wisely, and we all need to think harder about how to do that.

Reforming the story of Palo Duro Canyon

January 7, 2011

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How do giant canyons form? With water. Lots of it, coming from both above AND below the surface. How do I know this? Well, I don’t know for sure, because I’ve never witnessed the formation of a giant canyon like Palo Duro Canyon or Grand Canyon. However, there sure is a lot of evidence that makes it look like a high energy, short duration megaflood formed Palo Duro Canyon, contrary to ALL the other low energy, million-plus year ideas I have read about. For example the Texas Parks and Wildlife page on Palo Duro Canyon State Park says the canyon was “formed primarily by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, which began to carve the canyon less than one million years ago”.

Other places describe the canyon as even older, but none describe the possibility of it forming rapidly, but why? Is it because there is no evidence for rapid formation, or is it because many of today’s geologists are reluctant to interpret the evidence around them in a way that does not promote long ages? Well, take a look at this picture of Palo Duro Canyon:

Picture of a small section of Palo Duro Canyon. Copyright 2010, David E. Shormann.

You may not have known this, but Palo Duro Canyon is about 120 miles long, up to 20 miles wide, and averages 800 feet deep. That is HUGE! In the United States, it is second in size only to the most incredible canyon of them all, the Grand Canyon:

About 10 Palo Duro Canyons could fit inside the Grand Canyon! Copyright 2010, David E. Shormann, PhD

Walt Brown, Steve Austin, Tom Vail and Mike Oard are just a few of several researchers who have written extensively on the possibility of the Grand Canyon forming rapidly either immediately after the global flood described in Genesis, or hundreds of years later when the dams on ancient lakes burst. However, there is no current literature suggesting that Palo Duro Canyon formed rapidly. In order to form a canyon rapidly, a large amount of water is usually necessary. The Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River flows through the length of Palo Duro Canyon, and some believe it carved the canyon. Take a look at this video clip of the river:

That’s right, I just jumped across the river that supposedly formed a 120-mile long by 20-mile wide by 800-foot deep canyon! I have a very hard time believing that river carved Palo Duro Canyon, and I hope you do, too. Uniformitarian ideas almost always assume low-energy, long-time processes created the geologic formations we see around us. Fortunately, the idea is becoming less popular, even among secular fundamentalists. Major exceptions to uniformitarian dogma are the Missoula Floods from ancient Lake Missoula and Lake Columbia, whose catastrophic flows formed canyons, scablands and other features over a considerable portion of the Northwest United States:

Yellow is ancient Lake Missoula and Lake Columbia, orange is extent of flood damage.

Now, it is interesting that geologic maps of Texas clearly show outlines of two large, ancient lakes, sitting at the headwaters of Palo Duro Canyon:

Google Earth image with a Texas Geologic Map overlay, clearly showing the outline of two ancient lakes. An elevation profile between the lakes reveals some uplift, suggesting that the two lakes may have been one large lake.

The two lakes could have also been one large lake, with a surface area of about 200,000 acres. It is also interesting that Palo Duro Canyon is carved into one of the world’s largest sources of subsurface water, the Ogallala Aquifer. Consider a scenario such as heavy rains, or maybe tectonic activity, or both, causing the dam(s) on the ancient lake(s) to burst, initiating the carving of Palo Duro Canyon. As the floodwaters cut deeper, water from the Ogallala Aquifer began spilling out as well, adding even more momentum to the already high-energy flow coming from the breached dam. Is such a scenario possible? It is impossible to know for sure what caused this amazing event in Earth’s history, but I hope to find more evidence supporting a rapid formation hypothesis, and reform the story of Palo Duro Canyon.

How do you think Palo Duro Canyon formed? ¬†If you have a question or comment, post it and let’s discuss.