Letter to John Kaminsky concerning Peak Abiotic Oil


Yesterday, you wrote:  "Gentlemen:  I'd be interested in your feedback on Dave MacGowan's new piece.  http://www.rense.com/general63/staline.htm.  Best wishes, John Kaminsky,"  to which I replied:

I have never been comfortable with the idea that so-called fossil-fuel actually came from dead organisms.  I call it fossil-fuel because most people know what I'm talking about when I use the term.  If you remember, I was prefacing it always with "so-called" for awhile; but, though more accurate, it seemed a little too much.  I have no idea where [oil] comes from. 

In any case, it is not the case that it is not finite.  Even if it is being generated continuously deep within Earth, it is being generated from Earth, which is of known size and weight - both somewhat less than infinity, regardless of the units of measurement employed:-)

 A number of circumstances might obtain:

 1. It is generated rapidly and the process by which it is generated is hastened by the removal of product, in which case we had better start worrying about the absence of something that we are leaving behind.  In Chapter 2 of my book, I discuss some of the ramifications of what I called "the horrifying plentiful-energy scenario".

 2.  It is generated slowly, but there is a deep storehouse that is very large.

 In either of the above cases diffusion from a large, deep storehouse might be the rate-controlling step.  The deep storehouse might be forever inaccessible - except under its own terms - sort of like geothermal.

3.      It is generated slowly and the storehouse is not much bigger than Western analysts expect, in which case we are back at Peak Oil.

I must confess I expect this is the most likely case; however, in any case, I can take a stab at estimating the arrival of Peak Abiotic Oil.  (Frankly, I like the locution Peak Oil to represent finiteness in a supply the rate of consumption of which is most likely to follow a bell-shaped curve, whereas I employ the term Maximum Wind to indicate that wind power is limited by the finiteness of the surface area of Earth and the maximum rate at which energy is dissipated by the weather.)

I made copious notes in the margin of the paper and I looked up a paper by Kenney http://www.gasresources.net/ThrmcCnstrnts.htm, so I have a lot to say


Total mass of carbon in Earth:  7.5E19 kg


Average fraction carbon in crude oil:  0.45   (Computed from (encarta.msn.com) fact that hydrocarbon molecules in crude oil have 5-25 carbon atoms, n, where carbon fraction is n/(2n+2).) 

Number of kgs of coal formed for each kg of crude oil according to Kenney theory:  8 kgs coal per kg oil


Density of crude oil:  0.00767 barrels/kg


Rate of increase of crude oil demand: 0.019

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/oea/index.html  Table A20

World oil production 2003:  79.37 million bbls/day

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0129/p14s01-wogi.html Table A20

Calculation of Peak Abiotic Oil

Maximum volume of abiotic oil, R, assuming all carbon that can be converted to oil will be converted to oil on demand (or faster):

R = 0.00767 bbls/kg oil * 7.5E19 kg carbon * kg oil/ 8 kg carbon = 7.191E16 barrels of oil

Time before Peak Abiotic Oil, T (far-fetched maximum):

79.37E6 bbls/day *365.25 days/yr *(1/0.019 per year)[exp(0.019T) - 1] = 0.5 * 7.191E16 bbls, thus

T = (1/0.019) years * LN[(0.019 * 0.5 * 7.191E16)/(365.25*79.37E6)] = 529.9 years.

Thus, Peak Abiotic Oil will come at the latest by 2537 AD as the DOE datum is for 2003.

To put this in historical (not geological nor, Heaven forbid, astronomical) context, 530 years ago it was 1487 AD, about five years before Columbus embarked upon his famous voyage. The human family today is not much different from what it was then; moreover, in the next five centuries, it is doubtful that the character of man will have changed much from what it is now.  Therefore, it is not too early to begin a rational power-down from a consumption and growth society based upon fear and greed as suggested by me in numerous essays at http://dematerialism.net/ and by many others more worthy and distinguished than me.

I believe I will hold additional remarks in abatement as I await the participation of others in this stimulating discussion among friends, allies, colleagues, comrades, and, perhaps, a detractor or two.

Tom Wayburn

Houston, Texas

March 7, 2005

Revised September 27,2007