Unlimited Abiotic Energy Sources Await Discovery In Deep Earth?

“The results demonstrate that methane readily forms by the reaction of marble with iron-rich minerals and water under conditions typical in Earth’s upper mantle,” said Laurence Fried, of Livermore’s Chemistry and Materials Science Directorate. “This suggests that there may be untapped methane reserves well below Earth’s surface. Our calculations show that methane is thermodynamically stable under conditions typical of Earth’s mantle, indicating that such reserves could potentially exist for millions of years.” The study is published in the Sept. 13-17 early, online edition of the PNAS.

The mantle is a dense, hot layer of semi-solid rock approximately 2,900 kilometers thick. The mantle, which contains more iron, magnesium and calcium than the crust, is hotter and denser because temperature and pressure inside Earth increase with depth. Because of the firestorm-like temperatures and crushing pressure in Earth’s mantle, molecules behave very differently than they do on the surface. “When we looked at the samples under these pressures and temperatures, they revealed optical changes indicative of methane formation,” Fried said. “At temperatures above 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, we found that the carbon in calcite formed carbon dioxide rather than methane. This implies that methane in the interior of Earth might exist at depths between 100 and 200 kilometers. This has broad implications for the hydrocarbon reserves of the planet and could indicate that methane is more prevalent in the mantle than previously thought. Due to the vast size of Earth’s mantle, hydrocarbon reserves in the mantle could be much larger than reserves currently found in Earth’s crust.”

8 thoughts on “Unlimited Abiotic Energy Sources Await Discovery In Deep Earth?”

  1. a new, “virtually inexhaustible” source of hydrocarbons…

    At least methane is a bit cleaner than some of the other crap we burn.

  2. One of the above links contains a reference to the late Thomas Gold with this same link to his home page. Several of his papers on the subject are available there.

  3. It still puts new CO2 into the air from carbon that was not part of the system before. Using this “virtually inexhaustible” source of methane still affects the balance of carbon dioxide in the air. It doesn’t solve the problem of greenhouse gases causing global warming, but actually makes it worse.

  4. Given limitless supplies of energy we can use some of that energy to power processes to dispose of the carbon dioxide that is generated by internal combustion engines. Carbon dioxide disposal is not an insoluble problem.

  5. The cheapest way to dispose of CO2 is well-known: grow more green plants. But why turn fossil fuels into green plants that have to be disposed of in a way that doesn’t involved more CO2 production (i.e. you can’t just bury them or burn them), when you might as well just grow the plants themselves for fuel in the first place?

    The question is really the capacity of the biosphere relative to human energy needs – right now we’re consuming at about 10% of the rate the biosphere as a whole produces (and consumes – humans divert about 1% of biosphere production). More on these and related topics at AltEnergyAction.org.

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