Origin of Oil Geological Controversy – Wegner Theory on Plate Tectonics

The aim of this paper is to gain an understanding of the geological controversy concerning the origin of oil through the examination of abiogenic and biogenic points of view. Although the fact that the abiogenic theory has been proposed by Thomas Gold, a man who has little experience in the field on geology, and the biogenic opponents have vast literature to draw their arguments from, my objectivity on this subject will not be affected as geological conclusions that had once been accepted as fact have been challenged, new facts rejected for long periods of time despite the obviousness of the evidence presented but were eventually accepted. This particular scenario was witnessed with Wegner and his theory on plate tectonics.

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Biogenic supporters have an archaic theory, refined by modern petroleum geology. This theory states that animals, plants and microbial organisms lived and died billions of years ago. The remains of these biological life forms combined with sand and mud to form sediments, the mud turned in to rock burying the organic mass. Much later, the oceans receded and the earth’s crust moved and the organic material decomposed over millions of years to form petroleum and natural gas. This theory is supported by the presence of biomarkers with links to flora that existed in areas where crude oil was discovered (Mollo & Moldowan, 2005).  This theory also posits that oil can only be found in areas where there are special geological conditions that facilitate the trapping of oil underground. Another theory has been put forward by Thomas Gold. According to Gold, there is a finite supply of petroleum underneath the earth’s crust that gets replenished through diffusion from the mantle through the process of out-gassing (Gold, 1987). Gold argues that oil is produced through different geochemical processes that take place abiogenically (Dolt & Reynolds, 1969).

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According to Wegner Theory on Plate Tectonics, inorganic materials are synthesized into hydrocarbons and these hydrocarbons are metabolized into petroleum by microbial organisms that reside in deep habitats below the surface (Head et al, 2003). The biomarkers present in petroleum are attributed to the presence of traces of la living subterranean which utilize petroleum as a chemical energy source. According to Gold, fuel feeds the fossils and not the other way around. My initial opinion of these two theories was how difficult it would be for Thomas Gold to disprove his biogenic opponents. Not only is there no simplified way in which to establish facts about events that happened billions of years ago without investing a considerable amount of resources, but it would also be difficult to convince geologists who have had quite a history of regarding new ideas as absurd. Thomas Gold as exaggerated the amount of mass of carbon linked to the surface (Gold, 1992).

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Moreover, the economic implications of the discovery of new methods of surveying for oil would be disastrous for western economies. I believe this is the reason that many western geologists are scared of the negative consequences that would occur if Gold’s theory is proven to be true. However, over the years some biogenic supporters have come out to admit that there is a possibility that some oil fields are of abiogenic origin (Lollar et al, 2008). Despite these concessions, the controversy surrounding the origin of oil is yet to be resolved. This is partly due to the costs that abiogenic theorists would have to incur if they were to drill wells in to areas that, according to biogenic theorists, have no prospects of having oil and the economic consequences the western countries would face if new methods or survey were discovered.

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