How long does it take the Earth to form one gallon of oil?

  1. Like the title says. I"m guessing tens of thousands of years?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    In a lab it can take hours or days.
    But you mean, "naturally", right?

    The actual process (catogenesis) is quite fast - getting the raw materials into the situation where it can start in the first place is the hard part and that is the bit that takes a long time. This means that natural oil production is not like an industrial process that is done a gallon at a time ... but millions of barrels in one setup.

    n a typical petroleum system such as the Mississippi River delta, it may take 10 million years to bury the material deep enough for it to reach temperatures of catagenesis. Add in some volcanic activity that makes a high geothermal gradient and that timing may be quite short and no longer in millions of years. So your estimate (~10000y) is way too long for the process itself and way too short for it to happen naturally.

    Caution. This is a question that comes up a lot in young-earth creationist circles - with the shorter answers being paraded about as evidence that the scientists have got it wrong yet again.
     
  4. Thanks for the quick reply.

    Just speculating on whether it might be possible to...geoengineer new petroleum deposits, or if maybe this is happening naturally right now at a rate that could be a fraction of world consumption.

    Yes, creationists are annoying. I swear, Richard Dawkins has devoted his life to opposing them.
     
  5. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Well, you can make oil faster than it is being consumed ... that's easy.
    It just takes more energy to do that than you get back from the oil.
    You thinking of maybe burying a bunch of forests by a volcano and hoping for the best?
    Factor in the energy cost of cultivating the forest and digging the hole. Oh, and then there's the energy per square mile of the forest: is this an efficient use of land?

    The trick isn't making the oil, the trick is getting more energy, economically, faster than you can consume it; which is why there's all this emphasis on renewable sources. To turn oil into a renewable source, you need to get the energy input from a(nother) renewable source which is also economically efficient. But, if you've got one of those, you don't need oil.

    qv.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  6. Actually, since you talk about microorganisms getting buried, I'll be that there are regions of the ocean which are forming oil in this sort of way. An interesting tangentially related fact is that single-celled organisms in the ocean produce like 50% (still) of the Earth's O2.

    I've heard that peak oil hit in 2005 and that production isn't increasing anymore. And even with aggressive implementation of renewable sources (which being a collective politics action, is unlikely) oil will still be central.
     
  7. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Please start posting mainstream sources for all statements of fact.
     
  8. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not really sure why this thread is still open, the OP's question was already answered.
     
  9. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Who? Me? Are forests micro-organisms now?
    vjk2 is OP - I gather vjk2 has some specific method of geoengineering new oil deposits in mind or some idea that more oil may be getting made quickly as we write.

    The guardian article is a bit alarming: it looks like an unintended negative consequence of a carbon-trading scheme. There is nothing about any of the statements of fact in previous posts and, specifically, nothing about crude oil.

    The statements needing mainstream citations were:

    1. I'll be that there are regions of the ocean which are forming oil in this sort of way
    2. single-celled organisms in the ocean produce like 50% (still) of the Earth's O2.
    3. I've heard that peak oil hit in 2005 and that production isn't increasing anymore.
    4. even with aggressive implementation of renewable sources oil will still be central.

    (though that last one reads like a Barnum statement).

    I think it is best OP gets into the habit of checking these kinds of statements - preferably from main-stream sources other than newspapers or pop-science.
     
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    It sounds like what you need is a basic understanding of how oil is formed. I suggest that you read this.

    http://geosurvey.state.co.us/pubs/Documents/rtv7n2.pdf
     
  11. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    ... and OP responds with pop-science sources?! One of them is even called "pop science".

    vjk2: I see you have a BA(?) in English, and in 2009, you entered a college engineering program but were unhappy with it. How far did you get in the end? (Will help us with the level to pitch our replies to.)
     
  12. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    What does this have to do with your OP? What, exactly, is your question?
     
  13. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I'm guessing that the NAS research is offered in support of point #1 in post #10 (where I reference your statements of post #5). re:
    I'll bet that there are regions of the ocean which are forming oil in this sort of way
    ... i.e. by way of buried micro-organisms.

    This is a better reference - it is good for you to get into the habit of going right to the cited sources instead of just believing the first report you read. You'll see that the NAS report of the actual published research is already a bit different to what was said on popscience.com - lets look at what it is telling us:

    A [2004] computational study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals how hydrocarbons may be formed from methane in deep Earth at extreme pressures and temperatures.
    -- it's a computational study - what does that tell you?
    The model says that pressures must be 50,000 times those at the Earth's surface ... conditions found about 70 miles below the surface.

    The researchers are keen to point out:
    We don't say that higher hydrocarbons actually occur under the realistic 'dirty' Earth mantle conditions, but we say that the pressures and temperatures alone are right for it to happen.
    ... i.e. don't use these results as the basis for beliefs about what happens in the wild.

    The full paper is also available:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2...html?sid=edff8d03-990b-4fcf-ad9b-b4ac600477c4
    ... it is free to the general public.
    Considering your interest level - you are strongly encouraged to get used to reading scientific literature.

    Notice that this study has nothing to do with micro-organisms - it simulated the interactions of a handful of methane and other simple molecules - or "regions of the ocean" unless you count 70 miles down as part of the ocean.
    Thus: it does not actually support what you have asserted.

    Note: getting challenged on a statement does not mean we think you are wrong, exactly, more that there is a chance that you may be right :) It is up to the person making the statements to support them, and we think you are up to the task. (Looking at the kinds of questions you have been asking - you are ready for this.) Take it as a compliment.

    On another note: has your original question been answered?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?