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“In the aftermath of a series of pullouts by Western oil majors, Vietnam has gone into partnership with its former Cold War ally Russia to develop its oil industry.” This development was reported by the Asia Times Online on Dec. 3, 1999, a report loudly rebroadcast by Vietnam News at the time.
The Russians were confident they would succeed where Western countries failed. Why? Armed with what has become known as the Russian-Ukrainian theory of the deep, abiotic origin of petroleum, the Russians planned to find oil where traditionally trained “fossil-fuel” petro-geologists had failed to look. So, in 1981 the Russians teamed up with the Vietnamese to form a joint venture oil company named Vietsovpetro (PetroVietnam). Together they headed into the South China Sea off Vietnam and drilled deep wells into the crystalline basement structure of the sea bottom.
As a result, seven production oilfields were discovered, the largest of which is known as White Tiger, which is on the continental shelf of Vietnam. The main reserve of the White Tiger oilfield is “concentrated in fractured granite basement that is unique in the world oil and gas production practice.” Western oil companies typically expect to find oil only in sedimentary rock. Generally, Western oil companies refuse to drill unless they find “source rock” – sedimentary rock that contains oil the petro-geologists believe derived from decaying ancient biological debris, dead dinosaurs and pre-historic forests. That the Soviets and the Vietnamese have found oil in granite structures is revolutionary, unless, of course, you think from the perspective of the deep, abiotic theory.
From the granite basement offshore Vietnam, the White Tiger oilfield produces almost 280,000 barrels of oil a day. A second oilfield, known as Black Lion, currently produces 80,000 barrels of oil per day, but within three years PetroVietnam expects to increase that output to 200,000 barrels per day.
The White Tiger oilfield is at a depth of 5,000 meters (approximately 3 miles), of which 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles) is fractured granite basement. How can the “Fossil-Fuel” theory possibly explain finding oil at these deep levels in granite rock?
A survey of worldwide oil exploration in fractured basement formations is maintained on the website of GeoScience, a U.K. consulting firm specializing in ultra-deep oil and natural gas exploration and production. The GeoScience compilation further documents that the oil found offshore from Vietnam is being found in bedrock structures that are volcanic in nature:
Granites constitute the basement in the central part of White Tiger and predominate in the basement of the Dragon field. They also occur in the basement of the White Tiger northern block, together with microcline, hornblende-biotite and biotite-granodiorites. Microcline, hornblende-biotite and biotite-granodiorites also occur in the basement of the Bavi and Big Bear structures.
The basement rocks of the southern Vietnam shelf contain very large oil accumulations.
Craig Smith and I, in writing “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil,” have found that anyone advocating the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory of the origin of oil is going to invite nearly hysterical attacks from diehard supporters of the “Fossil-Fuel” theory.
Regarding finding oil in bedrock, one industry forum had a typically-uniformed, but vehement comment posted by a writer identified as “Uncle Al.” In addition to claiming that no oil had ever been found in igneous rock, “Uncle Al” maintained that the “Russian-Ukrainian” theory was just another example of failed communist ideology:
Cite ONE instance of a substantial petroleum deposit unassociated with sedimentary rock. The planet is overflowing with granite and basalt. Not ONE instance of a petroleum deposit in igneous rock exists. The nutcase who drilled into an ancient meteor crater in Sweden discovered small amounts of his own lubricants and drilling mud additives.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. You have no empirical support for your outrageous contention. Whole libraries are filled with Lysenko’s “modified” wheat seed starved when the usual Russian winter temperatures destroyed their crops.
Go drill for oil in granite. The rest of us will look in sandstone and under halite domes.
The “nutcase” who “Uncle Al” mentions was a reference to Cornell University astronomer Thomas Gold, who in his 1998 book “The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels,” discussed the drilling done in the Siljan Ring, drilling which did find oil, though not enough to be commercially productive.
A subsequent poster noted that “Uncle Al” had an “obvious prejudice against Russian scientists,” and commented that “Uncle Al’s” only grounds for dismissing the Russian scientists’ theory of abiotic oil seemed to be “bigotry.” Other posters referenced Vietnam as an obvious refutation of the contention that oil had never been found in igneous rock. Mexico’s Cantarell oilfield off the Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico refutes the idea that meteor impact sites are a bad place to explore for oil. “Uncle Al’s” information was bad, but that did not deter the insulting “true believer” nature of his invective.
The point is that many “fossil-fuel” adherents have their blinders on. The available evidence is that oil and natural gas are being found around the world in bedrock structures, at distances as deep as 8 to 10 miles below the surface. How deep-Earth oil and natural gas found in bedrock is formed is a legitimate question meriting serious scientific debate. When “fossil-fuel” and “peak-production” adherents resort to name-calling, they make us wonder if their position is so scientifically weak that ad hominem attacks are their only available rebuttal.
If the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory of the origin of oil were patently ridiculous, the only argument “fossil-fuel” and “peak-production” believers would have to make would be to show the scientific evidence that refutes the abiotic oil case. No name-calling would be necessary. The problem is that abundant scientific and geologic evidence about oil and natural gas exists that doesn’t fit neatly into the expectations and explanations of traditional thinkers. As Thomas Kuhn explained in his famous 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” paradigm shifts occur in science when old theories can no longer be stretched to accommodate accumulating evidence to the contrary.
The debate over “Black Gold Stranglehold” suggests that the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory may be a paradigm shift whose time has come, despite the sometimes angry resistance of conventional thinkers in the petroleum industry. Vietnam is a case in point – one that argues strongly for the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory.