Following the publication of “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil,” Craig Smith and I have received e-mails from Alexander A. Kitchka, a Russian research scientist who is a member of the National Academy of Science in the Ukrane and the secretary of the Association of Ukranian Geologists. Kitchka’s research strongly supports the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory of the origin of oil.

In October 2005, Kitchka co-chaired a half-day international conference, titled “Origin of Petroleum Conference,” held during the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, in Calgary, Canada, June 19-25, 2005. The three goals of the conference as listed on the AAPG website were:

  1. To present the most recent information supporting an organic and inorganic origin of petroleum and to debate the hypotheses for the formation of oil and natural gas.

  2. To discuss the ramifications of an inorganic genesis of petroleum in estimating the oil and gas resources of sedimentary basins, including basement rocks, and in determining oil and gas field reserves.

  3. To explore the significance of an inorganic formation of petroleum to the future supplies of oil and natural gas.

Mainstream “Peak-Oil” advocates in the petroleum industry like to dismiss the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory as a “discredited” or “crack-pot” idea, simply because the ideas expressed by abiotic theorists so deeply challenge the conventional wisdom of those who believe oil is a “fossil fuel.” As reported by Geotimes in October 2005, the abiotic oil conference at the AAPG annual meeting presented a very different reality:

For the first time ever in North America, proponents of the inorganic origins hypothesis, largely from Russia and the Ukraine, had a major forum for their ideas at a meeting held in June in Calgary, Alberta – a city that has built its wealth on the vast petroleum deposits found in the Canadian province. Held in association with the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists – a group of people whose livelihoods depends on understanding how and where oil and gas comes from – this was no ordinary forum.

Just so no one was confused, the AAPG put a disclaimer on the website page listing Kitchka’s conference: “The AAPG does not endorse or recommend any products and services that may be cited, used or discussed in AAPG publications or in presentations at events associated with AAPG.”

A dozen research papers were presented at the conference. The Calgary session – an abbreviated version of a planned 2003 Hedberg Conference in Vienna that was postponed – was one of the first times discussion of the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory of oil reached the level of being held in conjunction with a major professional petroleum conference. The Explorer newsletter on the AAPG website noted prior to the Calgary annual meeting that the session on inorganic oil was likely to cause some fireworks:

The often-ridiculed idea of hydrocarbons continually welling up from the Earth’s mantle to replenish depleted reservoirs is but one of many aspects of the ongoing controversy between the proponents of inorganic hydrocarbon genesis and those who espouse an organic initiation.

Still, the session marked the first time an international conference devoted to the subject of abiotic oil was featured in conjunction with a major oil industry professional group meeting.

Why did the AAPG decide to hold the Calgary session on abiotic oil? The answer is that the arguments and evidence for inorganic oil are gaining ground, despite the reluctance of conventional thinkers in the petroleum industry to entertain any idea that challenges so fundamentally their core beliefs.

A key may be found in the English version of Kitchka’s professional paper, which he e-mailed to us – so many oil finds have been made in bedrock structures that “Fossil-Fuel” theorists can no longer keep the lid on. The paper Kitchka e-mailed to us is an expanded version of his Calgary presentation. Kitchka makes the point that oil has been found in basement structures all around the world:

To present time more than 450 oil and gas fields with commercial productivity of the crystalline basement are known worldwide over all continents except Antarctica.

The problem is that according to conventional “Fossil-Fuel” theory, dinosaur fossils and ancient forests are supposed to be found in sedimentary rock, not bedrock. The question of bedrock oil finds has been swept under the rug by conventional petroleum thinkers for decades. If oil is found where no dinosaurs or ancient forests ever were, then the “Fossil-Fuel” theory may end up having been a fiction all along. In more reserved, professional terms, Kitchka presents the difficulty:

There are still no valid criteria for successful oil and gas prospecting in the basement within the frame of the traditional paradigm for the origin of oil.

Evidently the secret of bedrock oil finds cannot be kept any longer. Kitchka describes oil found at bedrock levels within the deep earth as the “final frontier for oil and gas exploration.”

However, rather prolific pay zones have been tested in the deep fractured entrails of some fields in West Siberia and offshore Vietnam (Cuu Long basin) where petroleum-content spreads to the depth of 1,000-1,500 meters beneath the basement surface. Thus, it is obvious that reservoir potential and reserves of the Precambrian basement had been greatly underestimated for decades.

Kitchka’s point is that paradigms may be shifting in petroleum geology. As Thomas Kuhn pointed out in his classic 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” paradigm shifts occur in science when conventional thinking can no longer be stretched to explain new discoveries and substantiated evidence to the contrary.

In writing “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil,” Craig Smith and I are arguing that the abiotic, “Deep-Earth” theory of the origin of oil represents just such a paradigm shift. We have also argued that conventional wisdom persists in large part because challenges to traditional ideas tend to have important political and economic consequences. We write that “Peak-Oil” is an inherent corollary of the “Fossil-Fuel” theory. If there were only a finite number of dinosaurs and ancient forests available to rot into petroleum, then by definition the world is bound to run out of oil sooner or later. What would happen to world oil prices if the public ever entertained the idea that oil is naturally generated by the Earth on a constant basis?

Given this perspective, we are not surprised to find “Black Gold Stranglehold” has become a book that Big Oil does not want you to read. Petroleum geologists with careers and decades of their lives invested in “fossil-fuel” thinking are predictably uncomfortable, especially when a half-day conference on inorganic oil is held by as established a professional group as the AAPG.

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