Rapid formation of petroleum: article from Associates for Biblical Research

From: Hon Wai Lai <honwai@bumble.u-net.com>
Date: Sun Apr 17 2005 - 04:57:05 EDT

Is the mechanism involved in the formation of natural gas very similar
to the formation of crude oil?
From my limited knowledge of chemistry, it seems to me the creation of
methane from inorganic materials under high pressure in the laboratory
(maybe with added catalyst) is a well established fact. So what's new
about Prof. Herschbach's findings?

Vol. 5, Issue 4
April 15, 2005

Feature Article

Stephen Caesar

"The Rapid Formation of Petroleum"

Most geologists believe that the world's supply of petrochemicals such
as oil and natural gas comes from the decay of ancient plant and animal
matter over the course of millions of years (O'Donnell 2005: 10). Those
who adhere to a Genesis-centered view of origins, on the other hand,
have maintained that petroleum was formed rapidly during a
high-pressure, catastrophic event. Recent research suggests that the
latter group may be correct.

Dudley Herschbach, research professor of science at Harvard and
recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry, published an article in
the autumn 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences describing how researchers created methane (one of the most
common petrochemicals) rapidly under high-pressure conditions. The
scientists combined three abiotic (non-living) materials - water,
limestone, and iron oxide - and then crushed them together "with the
same intense pressure found deep below the earth's surface. This process
created methane (CH4), the major component of natural gas," reported
Harvard Magazine (ibid. 10-11).

Prof. Herschbach actually revived an earlier theory that had fallen out
of favor. For quite some time, Russian and Ukrainian geologists had
maintained that reactions of water with other abiotic compounds deep
below the surface of the earth produce petroleum, which then bubbles up
toward the surface of the planet. Mainstream science rejected this
theory, since petroleum contains organic matter, a fact which currently
leads scientists to believe that petroleum derives from once-living
matter. However, Cornell astrophysicist Thomas Gold, who embraced the
Russian/Ukrainian theory in a book titled The Deep, Hot Biosphere,
proposed that the organic matter found in petroleum is actually waste
matter from microbes that feed on the petrochemicals as they head upward
to the earth's surface (ibid. 11).

The scientific world ignored the book, but not Herschbach, who contacted
Dr. Russell Hemley, a Harvard Ph.D. who now works at the Geophysical
Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC, and suggested
that the two of them conduct the methane experiment. They were joined by
Henry Scott of Indiana University and other scientists, and together
they created the same conditions found 140 miles below the earth's
surface. At this depth, pressures mount to more than 50,000 times those
at sea level. According to Herschbach, "The experiment showed it's easy
to make methane" (ibid.).

Harvard Magazine reported: "The new findings may serve to corroborate
other evidence, cited by Gold, that some of the earth's reservoirs of
oil appear to refill as they're pumped out, suggesting that petroleum
may be continually generated" (ibid.). With results like that, it is no
wonder that the magazine subtitled its article "Hydrocarbon Heresy."

O'Donnell, E. 2005. "Rocks into Gas." Harvard Magazine 107, no. 4.

Stephen Caesar holds his master's degree in anthropology/archaeology
from Harvard. He is a staff member at Associates for Biblical Research
and the author of the e-book The Bible Encounters Modern Science,
available at www.authorhouse.com.
Received on Sun, 17 Apr 2005 09:57:05 +0100

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