Key to the “Fossil-Fuel” theory of oil is the idea that petroleum contains “biomarkers.” The biomarkers are viewed as fossil residue which remain in the oil and serve as clues as to whether the oil was produced by decaying floral, land animal, or marine animal material. Traditional petroleum geologists also believe that the biomarkers can be analyzed to determine if the oil (and the “source rock” from which the oil was formed) come from a particular geological area.
Oil Tracers LLC, a professional firm specializing in the integration of geochemical, geological, and engineering data, provides on the company’s website the following description of biomarkers:
Biomarkers are a group of compounds, primarily hydrocarbons, found in oils, rock extracts, recent sediment extracts and soil extracts. What distinguishes biomarkers from other compounds in oil is that biomarkers can reasonably be called “molecular fossils.” Biomarkers are structurally similar to, and are diagenetic alterations products of, specific natural products (compounds produced by living organisms). Typically, biomarkers retain all or most of the original carbon skeleton of the original natural product, and this structural similarity is what leads to the term “molecular fossils.”
Richard Heinberg, a “Peak-Production” oil theorist, who is core faculty at New College of California (Santa Rosa) and author of “Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World,” describes biomarkers as follows:
… oil typically contains biomarkers – porphyrins, isoprenoids, pristine, phytane, cholestane, terpines, and clorins – which are related to biochemicals such as chlorophyll and hemoglobin. The chemical fingerprint of oil assumed to have been formed from, for example, algae is different from that of oil formed from plankton. Thus geochemists can (and routinely do) use biomarkers to trace oil samples to specific source rocks.
The concept is that since “Fossil-Fuel” theorists believe oil is produced when biological material trapped in sedimentary rock transforms into oil, they also believe that biological residue from that material remains such that petroleum geologists can tell what type of life the oil came from and in which geological era, as well as providing “fingerprint” data about the “source rock” characteristics. The argument for biomarkers, then, is a lynchpin of the “Fossil-Fuel” theory. If credible scientific arguments could be made to counter the biomarker claims, then the “Fossil-Fuel” theory itself would become questionable.
Craig Smith and I wrote “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil,” in large part to present you, the reader, with the alternative scientific explanation that oil is an abiotic product produced naturally on a continuing basis deep within the mantle of the Earth. Because we challenge the “Fossil-Fuel” theory of oil’s origin, we also challenge “Peak-Production” oil theorists who argue that we must eventually run out of oil. In other words, if oil comes from dinosaurs, ancient marine animals, and prehistoric forests, then we inevitably must run out of oil, sooner or later. After all, since there were a finite number of ancient plants and animals, there must today be a finite amount of oil. The “abiotic, deep-earth” theory of the origin of oil challenges these assumptions.
For refutation of the biomarkers claim, we turn to an article titled “Dismissal of the Claims of a Biological Connection for Natural Petroleum,” written by J. F. Kenney, a Houston oil expert, and five Russian scientists, all proponents of the abiotic, deep-earth theory. Calling the name “biomarkers” a spurious term, the authors take exception:
The scientific correction must be stated unequivocally: There have never been observed any specifically biological molecules in natural petroleum, except as contaminants. Petroleum is an excellent solvent for carbon compounds; and, in the sedimentary strata from which petroleum is often produced, natural petroleum takes into solution much carbon material, including biological detritus. However, such contaminants are unrelated to the petroleum solvent.
In other words, Kenney and his associates believe that the “biomarkers” could be picked up by the petroleum as they passed through or pooled in sedimentary rock. Moreover, Kenney rejects the claim that there are specifically “biological” chemicals. Ever since 1828 when German chemist Frederich Wohler synthesized urea from cyanic acid and ammonia, chemists have rejected the claim that there are uniquely “organic” chemicals such that “organic” chemicals carry some evidence of a vital life force that inorganic chemicals do not carry. Kenney and his Russian scientific colleagues rejected the biomarker claim that since residue chemicals in petroleum “looked like” chemicals found in plants or animals, the residue chemicals had to “come from” plants and animals.
The “look-like/come-from” claims apply a line of unreason exactly as designated: Such argue that, because certain molecules found in natural petroleum “look like” certain other molecules found in biological systems, then the former must “come-from” the later. Such notion is, of course, equivalent to asserting that elephant tusks evolve because those animals must eat piano keys.
Moreover, Kenney and his Russian colleagues argued that the identical chemical “biomakers” that petro-geologists were taking as evidence of “fossil fuel” exist in carbonaceous meterorites, where nobody argues there ever had been any ancient prehistoric flora or fauna to cause the chemicals to be present. Kenney points out that “the types of porphyrins, isoprenoids, terpines, and clorins found in natural petroleum have been observed in material extracted from the interiors of no fewer than 54 meteriorites.”
Kenney also notes that petroleum frequently contains “biomarkers” from multiple geological ages, depending (according to the abiotic, deep-earth theory) on the different strata of sedimentary rock the petroleum passed through as the oil seeped to the surface:
For example, crude oil found in reservoir rocks of the Permian age always contain not only spores and pollen of the Permian age but also spores and pollen of older ages, such as, for example, the Carboniferous, Devonian and Precambrian in petroleum investigated in Tatarstan, Russia. In the same region and in other portions of the Volga-Urals geological province, crude oils in the Carbonaceous sediments are characterized with concentrations of spores of Carbonaceous-through-Precambrian ages, and crudes in the Devonian sandstones with spores of Devonian-through-Precambrian ages.
Kenney’s conclusion was stated without reservation: “Natural petroleum has no connection with biological matter.”