What is the origin of the oil (and no, it doesn’t come from dinosaurs)

It is an engine of today’s society, a cause of wars and one of the main culprits of climate change. More than 80 million barrels of oil are produced daily in the world., whose name comes from the Latin and means “stone oil”. This viscous liquid is known as “black gold” It is a mixture of hydrocarbons, which are compounds that contain mainly carbon and hydrogen in their molecular composition.

Oil is the product of a transformation process over millions of years. but, Where does it come from? Most scientists support the theory and maintain that the origin of the oil is “well understood”. However, this did not prevent the spread of some misconceptions …

It is estimated that about 70% of current crude oil deposits were formed in the Mesozoic or Mesozoic Era, which lasted from 252 to 66 million years ago.

The Mesozoic Era, which is divided into the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, is also known as the Age of Reptiles. And there they reached their peak dinosaurs. This may explain why misinformation circulates.

For some strange reason, the idea that the oil came from dinosaurs has stuck with many people. But, The oil comes from trillions of algae and tiny planktonRyder Müller, a professor of geology at the University of Oslo, told the site sciencenorway.no.

Illustration of Iguanodon, a genus of dinosaur that could reach over 10 meters in lengthimage acquisition

No one knows for sure how this legend was born.but was also circulated in Latin America. BBC World He asked two Mexican experts if they were aware of this belief. “Yes, it’s a misconception, but it’s very common,” said Dario Solano and Isa Canales, professors in the School of Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, in the Department of Geosciences.

“At least within our own society, we can determine that many of the rocks that generate hydrocarbons are found in the strata of the Jurassic period, which is a geological time period typically associated with dinosaurs and perhaps this is the relationship that helped cement the idea that this is their origin,” Solano explained.

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It is important to debunk these mythsn, firstly to help society as a whole eradicate ignorance about a commonly used and widespread material, in short, just for general culture. Secondly, by going further in understanding the origin of this resource It will be possible to advance in the development of new technologies or usesadded channels.

The accumulation of geological strata on deposits of organic matter generates pressure and temperature conditions that allow the conversion of this material into hydrocarbons.image acquisition

The protagonists in the oil origin story are not large reptiles but small creatures. The most accepted theory about the origin of oil is the so-called organicaccording to which the resource arose from the decomposition of animal remains and microscopic algae accumulated at the bottom of seas and lakes.

This theory suggests that fine sediments and organic remains are deposited in the basin, mainly terrestrial or marine plants. After certain processes, kerogen is formed, which is a mixture of these organic substances, and after a long time the pressure and temperature increase, finally forming hydrocarbon chains, UNAM scientists explained.

The accumulation of other geological layers on top of deposits of organic matter generates pressure and temperature conditions that facilitate the work of anaerobic bacteria to slowly convert organic matter into hydrocarbons with small amounts of other elements.

“Simply put, we can think that we cook the mixture of substances in an instant pot (that is, with certain pressure and temperature conditions) for a long time, until the original substance is broken down into carbon and hydrogen chains. Something similar happens underground. After that, the substance must move from the rocks where it was cooked to the rocks that will store it,” the Mexican experts explained. This theory is one of the most widely accepted, since all oil deposits are found in sedimentary terrain. In addition, they found fossil remains of animals and plants.

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The oil can also come from the transformation of organic matter from ancient forests. It is understood within organic theory that any kind of organic matter can be present. In fact, the type of hydrocarbon it is obtained from Kerogenic substances rich in terrestrial plants Mexican scientists added that it is linked to gas fields.

Here is another myth that needs to be cleared up. Is the energy in oil solar energy captured in photosynthesis by phytoplankton (plant organisms) and transferred to zooplankton (animal organisms)? “No, that’s a misconception,” Canales said, adding: The energy we get today from oil is obtained through the oxidation (combustion) of hydrogen and carbon chains (hydrocarbons).

It is true that energy and matter are interchangeable, but to state them as such sounds as if phytoplankton and zooplankton were solar batteries.. Alternatively, it can be seen as an analogue to how humans eat many things and the body transforms food by breaking it down in our digestive system through another process of oxidation (digestion) and our body uses those simpler ingredients on a cellular level. Solano added.

Oil extraction in the North Sea. The energy used from petroleum is obtained by oxidation (combustion) of the hydrogen and carbon chains.image acquisition

alternative theories

Some scholars in the past have argued this The oil is of inorganic origin It is formed in the depths of the earth without the need for the remains of living organisms. Many of these theories were proposed as early as the 19th century, for example by Dmitri Mendeleev, the Russian chemist who published the first periodic table of the elements.

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Inorganic theories say that carbon can exist within the Earth’s mantle as hydrocarbon molecules.mainly methane, and a large amount of the hydrocarbons found in petroleum can be generated through processes that do not require organic fossils.

These hydrocarbons can pass from the mantle into the Earth’s crust until they escape to the surface or remain in impermeable layers, forming oil deposits. One version of these theories is that of Austrian astrophysicist Thomas Gould (1920-2004), who was a professor of astronomy at Cornell University.

Gould published a study in 1992 in PNASa journal of the American Academy of Sciences, which he later expanded into a book with the same title, Deep warm biosphere (Hot deep biosphere). for himHydrocarbons on Earth are not a by-product of biological waste (“fossil fuel”), but they were a common component of the materials from which the Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Gould admitted that the same hypothesis had already been adopted in the 1950s by Soviet scientists.. The theory of the inorganic origin of petroleum has not been accepted by the majority of scientists “We dare to speak for our colleagues in the academic and scientific community to say that the theories of the inorganic origin have not been successfully tested, and in this way they have not been able to generate the hydrocarbon in the laboratory,” experts said. Yonam.

An oil field in Iraq. The United Nations warns that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels must fall by 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010) to avoid the worst effects of climate change.image acquisition

Since the organic theory of the origin of petroleum is the most widely accepted, some readers may be asking themselves this question. If dinosaurs lived at the same time as oil in the Mesozoic Era, it may have happened that their remains, the organic matter of the dinosaur, fell to the bottom of the sea or shallow lakes and suffered a process of compression and transformation, turning into oil. “Correctly, we can say that any organic matter can be present in petroleum generation”UN mission experts confirmed.

“However, it is important to note that oil production is a very delicate process, and very large quantities of the substance are needed, which was only possible due to the large amounts of plankton in the sea, so volumes from other assets are not that important,” They finished.

BBC World

Freddie Dawson

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