There’s Oil On That Ocean Bottom!

We are frequently told we are running out of oil. Often this is accompanied by statements that we’ve drilled just about everywhere there is. Never mind that we have locked up large areas of land to NOT drill (many of which are known to be oil rich, such as the California offshore and parts of Alaska).

But what if there were another 70% of the Earth, largely not explored, that might harbor hydrocarbons?

DEEPWATER FRONTIERS Abyssal hydrocarbons off West Africa indicate widespread potential

Ten tons per sq meter hydrocarbon yield possible from 5,000-meter thick sedimentation zones

Leonard LeBlanc

A number of abyssal basins on both sides of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and bounded by east-west fractures hold substantial thickness of sedimentation and hydrocarbon-rich black shales. The named basins shown here are in water depths of 4,000-5,000 meters.

We’re talking a few miles deep water here. And that Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ridge is not exactly “near land”…

The article goes on to posit that during the time Africa and The Americas split, the water flow between them was somewhat stagnant, so sediments and organic deposits could accumulate and do the usual oil formation. OK, I can see that. OTOH, I’ve got to admit to wondering if maybe there isn’t just a whole lot more oil a whole lot deeper down that folks want to admit.

At any rate, we’ve now got The Atlantic Oceans as “Oil Land” to explore…

Three extensive hydrocarbon deposits have been found in 4,000-meter deep abyssal plains off the northwestern coast of Africa. The deposits, from Cretaceous age sediments, were encountered during drilling conducted by the Deep Sea Drilling Project’s rig Glomar Challenger and tracked later through other areas by seismic evaluation.

The black shale deposits were cored from an area south of the Cape Verde Islands in the Gambia Basin. Later investigation by seismic vessels determined that the sequences found during coring conducted in the Gambia Basin extended throughout the basin and were found in similar depths in other basins located along the equatorial Atlantic.

The seismic evaluations were announced by E. J. W. Jones of University College London, who participated in geological analysis of the results of the coring and seismic expeditions.

In addition to the hydrocarbon-rich rocks, drillers also found accumulations in water depths as shallow as 800 meters that were rich in phosphorus and ferromanganese oxides. Cobalt levels in some cases were as high as 1%. The phosphate deposits were found in the cappings on seamounts and fault-bounded ridges. One accumulation was located by bottom-towed scintillometer because of the radioactivity issued in the region.

So about that “running out” of minerals and phosphates? We can’t “run out”, as the stuff doesn’t go away. It might end up on the bottom of the ocean, conveniently concentrated, but we NEVER run out of elements…

I also note that NATURAL higher levels of radioactivity were used to find some of it.

Analysis of the drilling cores showed a 34% planktonic kerogen level with high hydrocarbon and hydrogen ratios. Jones said that compared with other deepwater deposits in the world’s oceans, the Gambia Basin had some the highest hydrocarbon ratios known, exceeding 10 tons per sq meter, if it is assumed the source rock is buried to a depth at which maturation of kerogen would occur.

Seismic profiles show the reflector (No. 2) atop the black shale zone shows up over a wide area of the equatorial Atlantic. Jones said that thickness in the Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Demerara basins were equal to or greater than the Gambia Basin zones.

Add in that we’ve got Asphalt Volcanoes and hydrocarbon seeps from deep water in the Gulf Of Mexico, and there’s a whole lot more hydrocarbons to find out there.

Asphalt being colonized on the bottom of the ocean:

Asphalt seep on the ocean bottom

Asphalt seep on the ocean bottom

Original Image in this paper: with this URL:

Scientists exploring the deep sea in the Gulf of Mexico have discovered seeps that resemble a paved road. Seeps are places where oil and other hydrocarbons bubble up from under the seabed. But these seeps, discovered by researchers with Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, are covered in asphalt.

The seeps were found along salt domes that lie about two miles down in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Deep sea cameras revealed about 20 salt domes that had collapsed or broken apart. Along the edges were large patches of asphalt, or hardened tar. Scientists photographed them and took samples; they say the material is similar to asphalt pavement, and was probably squeezed out of the seabed like lava.

Oil seeps have been found in most of the world’s oceans, but none with hardened material like this, according to a paper in this week’s issue of the journal Science. The scientists also found communities of tube worms, mussels, clams and shrimp living on or near the asphalt. These animals are similar to ones living near deep sea vents, and live off of the chemicals emitted from the vents and seeps.

The asphalt deposits are the result of a violent expulsion of hydrocarbons, and indicate untapped deep-water oil reserves. Scientists had thought the region was relatively stable, but this discovery of underwater “volcanoes” shows “how much more there is to learn about the deep sea,” says Texas A&M researcher Ian MacDonald. “The abundance of animal life is more proof of the adaptability of marine organisms.”

Asphalt volcanism has been introduced as a novel type of hydrocarbon seepage by MacDonald et al. (2004). The authors found asphalt deposits with lava-like appearance at the seafloor in more than 3000 m of water depth in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The term asphalt was used to signify the solid state of the petroleum deposit that was composed of a degraded, unresolved complex mixture of hydrocarbons with a peak at n-C30 and a few resolved C29–C32 hopanes. The asphalts occurred in an area of approximately one square kilometer on one of the Campeche Knolls that was subsequently named Chapopote, the Aztec word for tar.

We also know that over time the continents have spread apart, broken up, and been mushed back together several times. IMHO, there ought to be many more such places, of many more ages, located all over the place. Not everywhere, as some places will be too young, or too old and degraded. Just like we don’t find oil everywhere on land.

But given that we’re frequently told how little we know of the deep sea abyssal plains, there’s a whole lot of empty to explore. And we’re already finding oil in them.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to There’s Oil On That Ocean Bottom!

  1. Adrian Vance says:

    This is not surprising as every oil field was a seabed, thus every seabed could be an oilfield. This can all be recovered by remote controlled or automated robot surveyors and miners. Pump the crude into large bladders and tow it to refineries.

    In the January 1978 issue of “Scientific American,” Dr. James Woodward presents a master study of the carbon once in the atmosphere as CO2. When you do the math you see that there is so much carbon as petroleum in the seabeds we have only used 2% of it in the 100 years we have been burning it. That means we have a 5000 year supply. I have patented a process ( 7,855,061 ) where we can make even more from CO2 if we need it. I did the patent when it looked like sequestration was going to pass and create an abundance of CO2.

    If we had spent our money on research in the oceans instead of putting jockstraps in space, and wasting 60 of them in the process, we would be in abundance in both oil and gold. There is more gold in a cubic mile of seawater than there is in Fort Knox and I know how to recover it, but that will cost money to perfect and the elected ruling class is rarely wise.

    Come see us at The Two Minute Conservative at

  2. w.w.wygart says:

    I’m not wildly popular when I say things like this in front of family members, but my policy has been for a couple of decades, that we should use up as much of ‘their’ oil as possible before we start tapping into our own. The question is what are we willing to for it. We won the Second World War based on West Texas Oil, [there is a really great quote from Churchill on that point out there somewhere] not much of that left, not enough to base our economy upon. We may really need our domestic supply at some point. We should use up the supplies of the people who are not necessarily our friends first. Kind of zero-sum thinking I know, but most of the people sitting on these large petroleum reserves are not positive-sum game players in the first place.

    Also, at this point I’m also willing to give the time of day to the ‘abiogenic petroleum’ people. That is that ‘maybe’ not ‘all’ petroleum is a ‘fossil fuel’ and that petroleum or gas is being produced more or less constantly deep within the earth and wells up in different places where it can get through to the surface. Proven? No. But, I’m willing to look at the evidence before be commit ourselves to a program designed around resource scarcity.

    And, of course, there is just too much that we simply do not know about what is going on deep within the earth to commit ourselves to any program based upon what became ‘common knowledge’ in the 1950’s. Especially with a 1950’s, or even 1850’s political ideology guiding it.


  3. jim2 says:

    Obliviously,, EM, you just can’t do math. If you could do differential equations, you would know that oil is limited and we will run out of economical oil soon. If you don’t believe me, just visit the Oil Drum. They are DE experts and can predict pretty much anything concerning the future. Just ask ’em.

  4. BobN says:

    @ W.W. Wygart – I have a different view of the situation. I am 100% convinced we are on the threshold of new forms of Energy that will soon replace oil and coal. That being the case it would make total sense to use all our resources to the maximum at this point in time. By using our resources, we create jobs, lower the cost of fuel to help drive the economy. The most important reason is to take the middle east out of our energy equation. When we become self sufficient we deprive them of our dollars and the leverage they have over us. I look forward to the day when men in the middle east have to get jobs to survive, not everyone living off the oil money. I guess it all boils down to if you think new energy sources will be available, I do.

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m pretty sure that’s been our policy for a lot of years. Look at what all we’ve “locked up” and it’s a pretty clear pattern. BOTH East and West coasts, and the coasts of Florida and a chunk of the Gulf of Mexico. Then, most of Alaska. Not just the ANWAR area, ether.

    Formerly known as the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4, the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is now a vast 22.8-million acre area on Alaska’s North Slope. In 1923, mindful of the land’s conceivable petroleum value, President Harding set aside this area as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy.

    Map here:

    It’s bigger than the “north slope” that was produced, and bigger than ANWR (that’s also not being produced).

    We’re up to our eyeballs in oil we’ve set off limits…


    Frankly, I think the ULUM does that even if LENR never does. What I see happening now is a big scramble by the folks making buckets off of oil to try to stop the production of competition and keep prices high and the money flowing.

    As we have at least 200 years of oil before we reach the other end of the production curve, IMHO, it’s time to start letting the oil out of the “reserves” and using it to manufacture the replacement systems. ( Like “trash to liquids” factories …)

    I suspect that the Shale Gas Gennie is forcing that hand.. watch for strenuous efforts to bottle it back up.


    Uh, your stupid is showing….

    It’s generally a very bad idea to start a comment with an insult to the host.
    Anywhere. Any time.

    FWIW, I’ve had math through partial integrals (the last thing offered in the calculus series at University) and have received math awards (including a small math scholarship). It think that is what is called an “existence proof” that your comment is wrong.

    I was doing differential equations in high school. They are very simple and not a challenge at all. Took me about 4 hours to understand and get decent at it. (And then came months of learning dozens of various forms of equations and methods for simplification / solving.)

    BTW, I’ve visited the Oil Drum. I’ve got a few dozen books on oil production, oil geology, whatever. I’ve been “focused” on the “oil problem” since about 1970. Not much anyone can come up with that I’ve not already seen, heard, or read.

    Saying we will run out of “economical oil” shows a complete lack of understanding of economics, BTW. We absolutely never run out of “economical oil”. It’s a “Mu!” statement, in Buddhist terms. “When will we run out of economical oil?” can only be answered with “Mu! – Stick to the head.” BY DEFINITION there will always be some use for which oil is “economical” to lift, at any price. What changes is only the particular uses for which it is not “economical” at any one time. The “economical” judgement MUST be made in the context of all of the economy. (That’s part of why markets work…)

    So a few decades ago it was “economical” for electricity production. Now it’s not (outside places like remote Alaska and portable generators, where it is still economical due to the added utility of the form of the fuel.)

    So the whole “economical” thing is bogus. As, BTW, is the ‘energy negative’ argument. Why? The FORM of the energy matters as much as the content. So, take gasoline. If I can lift oil at a cost, in BTU, that is greater than what is in the oil, and turn it into gasoline; BUT, the energy comes via nuclear power at 3 cents / kW-hr and gives me gasoline at $3/ gallon AND that in total is more effective at moving a car than a set of batteries; it is economically worth it to lift the oil. Converting Nuclear BTUs to oil BTUs is worth the energy expenditure.

    Hubbert’s Curve is generally believed to be symmetrical. It took us about 200 years to get to this point, so we’ll be pumping oil, at a minimum, 200 years from now. Yes, far less than now (IFF we are at the top right now, something not demonstrated). So at a MINIMUM we have oil for some economical uses for 200 years more. The same massive transport use as now? Probably not. I expect electric cars to reach crossover in about 30 years. At present we still have way too much subsidy in them and way too little range. But given improvement curves, it’s in the 20-30 year range. Train electrification can come first (economical in Europe with shorter runs and higher loadings already), ships and airplanes last (or never – more likely is that ‘trash to liquids’ will keep it more economical to use Diesels and Turbines for centuries.).

    BTW, you do know that PetroBras in Brazil has found a mega-field, don’t you? You do know that Saudi is sitting on massive reserves that have never been developed simply because they didn’t need the money and saw no need to cut their own price curve? Besides, it’s “sour” and the world wanted to use of the sweet first. You do know that NOBODY outside Saudi has seen their data since the ’70s?

    Lots of folks have their panties in a bunch over the existing megafield having increasing water content in the lift. They ignore the shut in fields and the non-producing but proven fields and the unexplored and probable fields. All known from pre-70s data, but likely there’s even more than that, just in Saudi. You do know that every megafield developed has had as much oil produced from the smaller “finds” around it after the megafield ran down and folks started poking the smaller pools, don’t you? You do know that process hasn’t even significantly begun in Saudi, right?

    Now think about Brazil again. A brand new megafield that has just begun to be explored and developed.

    Now step next door to Venezuela. You do know that Venezuela has so much tar oil that it can’t be measured, right? Yeah, it’s very heavy and very sour. Oil has to be over $50 / bbl to make it economical. Oh, wait, oil is about $100 / bbl.

    The Orinoco Belt consists of large deposits of extra heavy crude (oil sands), known as the Orinoco Oil Sands or the Orinoco Tar Sands. The Orinoco Tar Sands are known to be one of the largest, behind that of the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. Venezuela's non-conventional oil deposits of about 1,200 billion barrels (1.9×1011 m3), found primarily in the Orinoco oil sands, are estimated to approximately equal the world's reserves of conventional oil.Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. has estimated that the producible reserves of the Orinoco Belt are up to 235 billion barrels (3.74×1010 m3) which would make it the largest petroleum reserve in the world, before Saudi Arabia .

    Read that twice. Think about it.

    More than Saudi can be produced today. ONE tar field. Oh, and Canada is bigger. Oh, and the USA has more. More than GLOBAL conventional oil in total. Each.

    Nope, not counted in ‘reserves’ at present. (It’s an economics thing. I don’t expect you to understand. It requires math skills AND language skills).

    So we’ve got about THREE Saudis just sitting around. Early production has started (especially in Canada), but we’ve got a hundred years to two more ahead of us.

    Now realize that “Saudi Arabia” of 235 Billion is at a specific price and with specific technology and the technology keep improving…

    In 2009, USGS updated this value to 513 billion barrels (8.16×1010 m3) of oil which is “technically recoverable (producible using currently available technology and industry practices).”[. It is currently divided into four exploration and production areas. These are: Boyacá (before Machete), Junín (before Zuata), Ayacucho (before Hamaca), and Carabobo (before Cerro Negro). The current exploration area is about 11,593 square kilometres (4,476 sq mi).

    POP! Oh, look, in 2009 another Saudi Arabia popped up… Same field, just a little change in price, a little technical advance, and “bang!” another Saudi Arabia… Wash and repeat…

    You do know that there’s LOTS of oil and gas being found off shore of Israel, right? That at present prices it is economical to produce shale gas and shale oil and that’s measured in TRILLIONS of barrels, right? That it takes centuries to use that and the tar sands, right?

    The key is the word “conventional”. At the Oil Drum they are typically taking about running out of conventional oil. That conveniently ignores all the unconventional oil. My car doesn’t care if the gasoline is conventional or unconventional…

    You do know that even Israel is up to their eyeballs in tar sands / shales that have been thought of as useless that are now becoming reserves, right? That the estimates are that Israel alone might have a “Saudi Worth” of hydrocarbons. Nobody knows for sure, because nobody cared. It’s all over the place. Only economical if oil is over about $70 / bbl (last time I looked, may be lower now. Technology changes…)

    Then there’s that oil found in the Gulf of Mexico by Standard Oil. Giant well. Deeper than ever done before and at depths that theory said “oil can not exist”. Has a lot of head scratching going on. That means there is an entire shell of depth, globally that CAN have oil, where we have never drilled since everyone “knew” oil could not exist there. Theory said so. Now we know theory was wrong.

    Yes, someday we reach a limit on the oil. My best guess is about 50 years. Then again, I have a great little book from 1919. It predicts a 50 year supply of oil. Turns out that oil companies only look for oil when reserves globally are below 50 years. We’ve had a “50 year supply” basically anytime you check the predictions from 1919 to today. (I’ve sampled the predictions from the ’50s, 70s, and 90s too. 50 years…)

    So tell you what. Since we presently have 50 years of “reserves”, come back in 50 years and tell me that we don’t have any left. And I’ll show you the numbers then that will almost certainly say we have “50 years of reserves”. (Hint: It’s an economics thing…)

    Now, you may not have caught on to my “Be a mirror” philosophy in other discussions. I suggest you catch up on it. There is a reason that the “about” box up top says to “be polite” and not insulting. Because I will “be the mirror” and I’m not liking that. So straighten up, don’t tell people that they are incompetent or don’t know something. State what YOU believe. IFF you persist in “carping comments” you will become fodder for that sort of posting. It is fine to have your own beliefs and present them. Just don’t tell me what I’m able to do, able to think, or what experience base I have. You will simply be very wrong and look very stupid.

    You be nice and polite, and then I’m nice and polite.

    Now, back at the posting:

    Read it again. Realize what it says. Oil. Lots of it. On the ocean bottom. At depths that 30 years ago were “impossible” but at depths (for some of it) that we can produce today. As every decade of the last century we’ve moved the production depth deeper, I’m willing to bet we’re not done on that ability yet. That means “A few more Saudi Arabias” of oil, just waiting to be produced. Price needed? Presently probably about $70 / bbl. (Last I looked the “hurdle price” was about $50, but folks were starting to think that $80 might be the ‘low water mark’ for prices going forward. Once they make that decision, “reserves” ought to about double. It’s an economics thing, so you won’t understand… but that’s how it works).

    FWIW, I”m pretty sure that once we stop being paranoid, nuclear power will make oil obsolescent for many uses long before we run out. But along the way it will also make many of the energy budget to lift calculations of today obsolescent as well. Ocean source U and Th make electricity at about 5 cents / kW-hr for all of future time. That becomes an economic lid on uses of oil, but also supports substituting nuclear BTUs in excess for oil BTUs of lift costs for those uses where it’s the FORM of oil (hydrocarbons, energy density, fuels) that are most valuable. Basically, it means that we are not limited on using oil based on the “energy to lift” and needing a “net energy return on energy to lift”, only an economic one.

    Now, you ready to play nice, be polite, and not call people stupid?

  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    A closely related source would be the Amazon Basin, sometimes called an inland ocean. The Amazon River once flowed into the Pacific Ocean and as the western mountains there begin to rise the basin would have filled as a fresh water lake. Now it is much changed and the “inland ocean” concept is because of the vast spread of water during and after the rainy season. Here is a link suggested the potential there and the idea that it has only been investigated minimally.

    Just maybe this would be a better place to look than under 5,000 meters of water. Still, if the US locks up large areas of its own land and other countries make it impossible or difficult for the oil giants (talent !?) to participate, they will look elsewhere.

  7. Tim Clark says:

    There is more to extraction of oil than just economics. There are environmental concerns. There are an estimated 300 trillion recoverable barrels in the oil shale beds in the Piceance basin of western CO and eastern Utah. I worked there in college (1975-7) and it’s mmilllllliooonnnnsss of acres, hundreds of feet deep. I’d bring some large chunks back in my pickup after a weekend of working the test plots and boy was it fun to have wild parties with the rocks around the campfire burning to mush. blew people away.The EPA outlawed strip mining, so it’s still there. At some point, if the envirowackos can be convinced we can produce it and revegetate the land to pristine conditions (at an economic rate),which we can, then my great-great grandchildren can drive vintage GTOs.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tim Clark:

    I’ve pondered that one. What I think it needs is either some of the “in-situ” methods being used in Canada (where the shale is baked in the ground to mobilize the hydrocarbons) or a robotic miner that moved through the shale layer sending up the graveled ore, and another one that re-emplaces the post processed minerals. It’s the second part that’s hard, as volume expands in the retorting… so I think the winner will be in-situ retorting. I think this article is from about 2009:

    But a new technology has emerged that may begin to tap the oil shale’s potential. Royal Dutch Shell, in fact, has recently completed a demonstration project (The Mahogany Ridge project) in which it produced 1,400 barrels of oil from shale in the ground, without mining the shale at all.

    Instead, Shell utilized a process called “in situ” mining, which heats the shale while it’s still in the ground, to
    the point where the oil leaches from the rock. Shell’s Terry O’Connor described the breakthrough in testimony before Congress earlier this summer (And Congress may have an acute interest in the topic, since the U.S. government controls 72% of all U.S. oil shale acreage):

    “Some 23 years ago, Shell commenced laboratory and field research on a promising in ground conversion and recovery process. This technology is called the In-situ Conversion Process, or ICP. In 1996, Shell successfully carried out its first small field test on its privately owned Mahogany property in Rio Blanco County, Colorado some 200 miles west of Denver. Since then, Shell has carried out four additional related field tests at nearby sites. The most recent test was carried out over the past several months and produced in excess of 1,400 barrels of light oil plus associated gas from a very small test plot using the ICP technology…

    It’s an interesting, if a bit dated, article. Does cover the history well. Even mentions that Elk Hills Naval Reserve oils was sold off and privatized. (Though does not mention it was sold to a company run by AlGore’s Daddy… and made his family a bundle…)

    In the wiki:

    There’s some interesting things on prices and costs… Were I in charge, I’d not be putting that government controlled shale off limits, I’d be producing it:

    In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell announced that its in-situ process could become competitive for oil prices over $30 per barrel ($190/m3). A 2004 report by the United States Department of Energy stated that both the Shell technology and technology used in the Stuart Oil Shale Project could be competitive at prices above $25 per barrel, and that the Viru Keemia Grupp expected full-scale production to be economical at prices above $18 per barrel ($130/m3).

    Nobody knows how many bbl of oil products can be produced from those shales. Most folks talk about the “reserves”, but since that is variable depending on both price of oil and technology, it ignores what CAN be done with new tech. Even with “old” and “obsolete” expensive “mine and retort” methods there was 1.5 TRILLION bbl of recoverable and economical. We ought to look at the “resource” (total amount) but I’ve not been able to find a number on that. Your 300 Trillion is as good as any, I guess.

    Then there’s the fact that Russia has a load of it, that it has been found in Argentina too, and just about anywhere you stick a shovel in the ground…

    Deposits in the United States constitute 62% of world resources; together, the United States, Russia and Brazil account for 86% of the world’s resources in terms of shale-oil content.[20] These figures remain tentative, with exploration or analysis of several deposits still outstanding. Professor Alan R. Carroll of University of Wisconsin–Madison regards the Upper Permian lacustrine oil-shale deposits of northwest China, absent from previous global oil shale assessments, as comparable in size to the Green River Formation

    So here you get a sense of the problem of “resource”. The claim is that the USA is 62% of world resources, but that’s just because we have looked. China has an amount that may be about as big as our biggest deposit, but unaccounted generally. We’ve also got some in Alaska that isn’t well counted. Then some was found in Argentina too:

    The U.S. Geological Survey estimated potential, technically recoverable oil and gas resources for source rocks of the Alaska North Slope. Estimates (95-percent to 5-percent probability) range from zero to 2 billion barrels of oil and from zero to nearly 80 trillion cubic feet of gas.

    So is it zero, or 2 BILLION bbl? Or more?

    Repsol: found Argentina shale oil before YPF takeover

    (REP.MC) said on Thursday it found Argentina’s first shale oil resource outside the giant Vaca Muerta field shortly before the government seized control of its YPF unit in April.

    The discovery, in the San Jorge Gulf basin in Santa Cruz province, where the majority of Argentina’s crude is produced, is further evidence the country may have some of the world’s biggest unconventional energy reserves.

    Under Repsol’s watch, YPF (YPFD.BA)(YPF.N) discovered the shale oil in two exploratory wells on the Canadon Yatel and Los Perales blocks. Additional studies determined that the deposit to be prospected totaled some 10,800 square kilometers (4,200 square miles) – with YPF holding concessions in roughly half that area.

    A spokesman at Repsol in Madrid said YPF was going to make the discovery public in April but those plans were scrapped when the government appointed state administrators at the firm and then nationalized it with congressional backing.

    So add another few dozen “Saudi Arabias” worth of unconventional oil…

    And so it goes…

    Yet we’re perpetually “running out!!!!” Real Soon Now…

    Frankly, we could not burn up all the oil we know exists and can be produced even if we tried for 100 years. THE big problem in oil production has always been the boom/bust scarcity / glut cycle as price and technology makes leaps. (That’s why The Texas Railroad Commission was set up as the first OPEC like cartel – on which OPEC was modeled). To restrict production and prevent glut.

    Now look back at those Shell costs to produce. WAY below even $80/bbl.

    We’re up to our eyeballs in economically available oil. IMHO, that’s why the CO2 Global Warming scam was trotted out. The only way to keep that oil out of the market is to throttle the other side of it. What can be used. (rather than what can be produced).

    The simple fact is that hydrocarbons are a fundamental and plentiful thing, even in space (and not just Titan). We likey formed in an ocean of it (same as on Titan) and it is likely hidden in all sorts of places, like shales and sands.

    Some comets contain “massive amounts of an organic material almost identical to high grade oil shale,” the equivalent of cubic kilometers of such mixed with other material; for instance, corresponding hydrocarbons were detected in a probe fly-by through the tail of Comet Halley during 1986

    The notion of running out of hydrocarbons is really just silly.

  9. Ed Forbes says:


    Titan’s Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

    Saturn’s orange moon orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

    The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., are reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

    “Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material — it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals,” said Lorenz. “This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan.”

  10. EM – I’d read Jim2’s comment as rather than as an insult to you, since it’s pretty obvious that there’s sooo much hydrocarbons available.

    The main problem I see for using oil is that mostly we’re giving money to people who don’t like us. Depending on an unfriendly source means they can cause major hardships by cutting supply. Given their propensity for having little wars that also disrupt supply, it makes economic sense to use either home-produced oil or, as BobN says, a new source of energy. The transport by ship of all that oil also has a certain failure rate (ships running aground/sinking) which causes pretty major pollution when it happens.

  11. Ed Forbes says:

    Of course, there is always Velikovsky and his Worlds in Collision to fill the world’s oil reservoirs. :-)

  12. Mike Jonas says:

    The message is that we are at or near to Peak Oil, not that we are running out of oil. There’s a world of difference. Peak Oil is when oil production, for whatever reasons, stops increasing.

    Most of what you say is factually correct, but you may not be looking enough at the other side(s) of the equation. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries have an incentive to overstate reserves, and are though to do so by around 20%. With most oil reserves being state-owned, the main factors controlling oil production are political, not economic or physical. Also, much as-yet-unexploited oil is very difficult and expensive to produce at a high rate.

    It is IMHO very likely that for political and other reasons oil production will increase little if at all over the next decade or two. ie, although we will not run out of oil for a very long time, we are in fact at or near Peak Oil.

  13. adolfogiurfa says:

    So you want to contaminate GAIA? Just pay us “cap & trade” and don´t argue anymore! All those fields will be declared “Fossil Fuel National Parks” for the right preservation of our profits. Period!

  14. PPugliano says:

    Recently read The Deep Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold. Very compelling at many levels. I think he will turn out to be right in a LOT of what he says. It took 40 years for his work on the working of the ear to be recognized, and it took even longer for his ideas on the earth’s axis of rotation being capable of flipping 90 degrees to be acknowledged as having actually happened at least once.

    A few links of interest

    Life from petroleum (nice pics etc)

    Hydrocarbons in the deep Earth? (Carnegie Institution experiment)

    A theory that refuses to die – abiotic oil and gas

    Thomas Gold’s Deep Hot Biosphere and the Deep-Earth theories of the Origin of Petroleum

    Freeman Dyson on Thomas Gold

    The evolution of multicomponent systems at high pressures: VI. The thermodynamic stability of the hydrogen–carbon system: The genesis of hydrocarbons and the origin of petroleum
    J. F. Kenney†‡§, Vladimir A. Kutcherov, Nikolai A. Bendeliani∥, and Vladimir A. Alekseev∥
    The spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons that comprise natural petroleum have been analyzed by chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized.
    The H–C system does not spontaneously evolve heavy hydrocarbons at pressures less than ≈30 kbar, even in the most favorable thermodynamic environment. The H–C system evolves hydrocarbons under pressures found in the mantle of the Earth and at temperatures consistent with that environment.

  15. R. Shearer says:

    While oil companies have an incentive to overstate their reserves to boost their balance sheets, oil producing countries have an incentive to restrain the supply to increase prices. So, I disagree with M. Jonas on that point.

  16. agimarc says:

    Lots of seeps in CA also. La Brea tar pits are simply the most famous. A few links FYI:

    Hydrocarbons in comets are the functional equivalent of kerogen found in oil shales. Colorado deposits are typical.

    Fun argument breaking out between in the geologist / petroleum engineer community over the last decade or two whether the resource is manufactured or primordial. If the comet guys are correct about the abundance of hyrdocarbons in comets, then the Late Heavy Bombardment may have brought oil and methane to Earth along with the oceans.

    The first half billion years on this planet took place in a pretty tough neighborhood. We got whatever we got in volatiles during the formation, then it was blasted off during the impact event that formed the moon. Late Heavy Bombardment replenished the volatiles after that, bringing in water, methane, and perhaps even oil.

    Fascinating detective story. Cheers –

  17. Pascvaks says:

    Stagnation caused by over regulation caused by paranoia? Sounds like something out of General Motors, I mean Government Motors; I keep forgetting they were bought out and nationalized.

  18. Pascvaks says:

    PS: Correction to my last – should have said “GM was hijacked and federalized”. I keep forgetting that a lot of investers lost a lot of money when Uncle Sugar stole the company, refinanced it with our money, and gave it all to the United Auto Workers for free. How could I forget? There’s just too much to remember these days, I’m numb and getting nummer by the day. If things don’t start to improve I’m going to have to start going to church again. (Wonder how church attendance numbers have been moving the last 4 years, hummmm..;-)

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    My solution is simple: Put a flexible tariff on imported oil from outside of NAFTA. Make it “whatever is needed to raise the price to $80 / bbl”. That puts a price floor under oil (so price can not be ‘crashed’ to kill domestics – as Saudi has done before) but costs nothing (as prices are above $80). That assures any investments will pay off. At that price, all sorts of domestic “oil” gets produced, including tar sands / oil shales.

    @Ed Forbes:

    A good argument for abiotic oil on earth…

    @Mike Jonas:

    Two things:

    1) That’s peak conventional oil. I.e. ignoring the ‘unconventional oil’ of tar sands, oil shales, etc. The chicken littles LOVE to gloss over that distinction. We could go to ZERO conventional oil and still have ‘oil products’ for a few hundred more years.

    2) As OPEC controls the bulk of known conventional oil reserves AND have managed production down for about 40 years, we have no idea at all if present production reflects Hubbert’s Peak or just a “managed price raising shortage”…


    Rather like large parts of Alaska, several oceans deposits, etc. etc…?


    Interesting links…

    BTW, zeolites catalyze formation of hydrocarbons, We learned about them from the natural ROCK form… so any “pressure / temperature” limits much take into account the potential for catalysis…

    Subducting ocean sediments heated as they approach the mantel are all it takes to make oil. Water, carbon, heat, catalysts. Where to we find lots of oil? Where subduction has happened / continents collided, etc.


    Oh Boy, more reading… ;-)


    IMHO the GM takeunder was a ‘trial run’ to find out how folks accepted nationalizations. So far, it’s a nice Socialism Precedent. See Venezuela for the end game…

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