The Journal of History     Summer 2005    TABLE OF CONTENTS


Summary of the Article

By J. F. Kenney
Joint Institute of the Physics of the Earth
Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow;
Gas Resources Corporation, Houston.

The data which is used to determine future availability of petroleum will be weighed and rejected from the perspective of modern petroleum science.

Throughout the history of the petroleum industry numerous articles or reports have been authored predicting an imminent demise of that industry all predicated upon assumptions that the supply of producible crude oil in the world was (supposedly) being rapidly depleted and would soon (therefore) be exhausted. (Campbell 1991; Fuller 1993; Campbell 1994; Campbell 1995) In short, the world was (if such were believed), running out of oil. Happily, all such predictions have, without a single exception, been proven wrong.

This article, which emanated from a research paper, contains two parts. The first part of the explanation is simply forthcoming by pointing out the single, simple, but utterly wrong assumption upon which have been based all the disaster predictions connected with fantasized shortages of petroleum. The second part consists even more simply of pointing out how the measured statistics of known petroleum reserves are consistent with what should be expected in light of modern petroleum science.

The biological hypothesis was first published by the famous Russian scientist Mikhailo Vasilyevich Lomonosov in the year 1757. That notion of an origin of petroleum from biological material has occasioned numerous misnomers concerning petroleum as, for example, fossil fuel, and associated, misleading phrases like vanishing resource.

Lomonosov himself never meant for that hypothesis to be taken as more than a reasonable suggestion, to be tested against further observation and laboratory experiment. The biological hypothesis of petroleum origins has been rejected in this century (20th) by scientific petroleum geologists because it is formidably inconsistent with existing geological records on the ground. That hypothesis has been rejected also by physicists, chemists, and engineers because it violates fundamental physical law.

With the elimination of the error that petroleum might be some manifestation of transformed, but limited, biological matter originating on the surface of the Earth, the consequential errors connected with its supposed limits both of quantity and habitat vanish. Thus the errors of all the doomsday predictions of petroleum shortages, which have never subsequently occurred, are explained, - or, more simply, eliminated.

The modern Russian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is no longer an item of academic debate among persons in university faculties in the former Soviet Union. This body of knowledge is now approximately a half century old and has moved considerably beyond the stages of academic research and scientific testing. Today the modern theory is applied as a useful tool and the guiding perspective in petroleum exploration throughout the former Soviet Union. Such was exactly one of the primary points brought out in a paper delivered at an international conference held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in May 1994, concerning the discovery of the eleven major and one giant oil and gas fields in the Dnieper-Donets Basin. (Krayushkin, Tchebanenko et al 1994)

More than four thousand articles exist which were published in Soviet scientific journals, and many books, dealing with the modern theory. This writer is presently co-authoring a book upon the subject of the development and applications of the modern theory of petroleum for which the bibliography requires more than thirty pages. The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is not the work of any one single man, - nor of a few men. The modern theory was developed by hundreds of scientists in the (now former) U.S.S.R., including many of the finest geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, and thermodynamicists of that country. There have now been more than two generations of geologists, geophysicists, chemists, and other scientists in the U.S.S.R. who have worked upon and contributed to the development of the modern theory. (Kropotkin 1956; Anisimov, Vasilyev et al 1959; Kudryavtsev 1959; Porfir'yev 1959; Kudryavtsev 1963; Raznitsyn 1963; Krayushkin 1965; Markevich 1966; Dolenko 1968; Dolenko 1971; Linetskii 1974; Letnikov, Karpov et al 1977; Porfir'yev and Klochko 1981; Krayushkin 1984)

The modern theory was severely challenged by many traditionally-minded geologists at the time of its introduction. The modern theory was thoroughly examined, extensively reviewed, powerfully debated, and rigorously tested. Every year following 1951, there were important scientific conferences organized in the U.S.S.R. to debate and evaluate the modern theory, its development, and its predictions. The All-Union conferences in petroleum and petroleum geology in the years 1952-1965 dealt particularly with this subject. Conversely, the biological theory was never challenged despite the fact that its creator encouraged such challenge.

There are presently more than 80 oil and gas fields in the Caspian district alone which were explored and developed by applying the perspective of the modern theory and which produce from the crystalline basement rock. (Krayushkin, Chebanenko et al 1994) Similarly, such exploration in the western Siberia cratonic-rift sedimentary basin has developed 90 petroleum fields of which 80 produce either partly or entirely from the crystalline basement. The exploration and discoveries of the 11 major and 1 giant fields on the northern flank of the Dneiper-Donets basin have already been noted. There are presently deep drilling exploration projects under way in Azerbaijan, Tatarstan, and Asian Siberia directed to testing potential oil and gas reservoirs in the crystalline basement.

A few of several extremely large potential sources of petroleum:

1. The potential to produce petroleum from the crystalline basement, from volcanic structures, from impact structures, and from non-sedimentary regions generally has been entirely neglected;

2. The petroleum potential of the riftogenic suture zones, both subsea and on-shore, have been largely neglected;

3. The petroleum which certainly exists and will surely be produced from reservoirs underneath those presently being produced has been almost entirely neglected; (See original article for note)

4. The potential to produce petroleum gas from reservoirs beneath the methane clathrate zones has been completely neglected, as has mostly the same of the methane clathrate reserves themselves;

5. The potential that certain of the petroleum fields presently producing may be drawing pressured hydrocarbons from an open and active fault or conduit from the mantle, and therefore, may never be depleted, has been entirely neglected, as has the potential to develop non-depleting fields by deep drilling. (Mahfoud and Beck 1995) (See original article for note)

There is absolutely no reason to worry about, and even less to plan for, any predicted demise of the petroleum industry based upon a vanishing of petroleum reserves. On the contrary, these considerations compel additional investment and development in the technology and skills of deep drilling, of deep seismic measurement and interpretation, of the reservoir properties of crystalline rock, and of the associated completion and production practices which should be applied in such non-traditional reservoirs.


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Published in, Special Edition on The Future of Petroleum in Energy World, British Institute of Petroleum, London, June 1996.

Republished by Russian Academy of Sciences, Kazan, 1997.


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