Decade-long geology project rewrites origins of Earth’s methane 

Posted: April 25, 2019 by oldbrew in flames, research

Methane flames on Mount Chimaera, Turkey

They now accept that the fossil fuel theory of methane is only part of the story. Its presence in large amounts on Titan (for example) had made the fossil argument look somewhat inadequate, let’s say. One of the puzzles now is how rocks make the hydrogen that gets incorporated into abiotic methane.

Turkey’s Mount Chimaera is on fire, and has been for millennia says Discover Magazine.

Dozens of campfire-sized flames burst straight of the mountain’s rocky, sea-facing slope. These eternal flames are fueled by methane, the odorless, colorless substance that provides much of our natural gas for fuel, as well as a potent greenhouse gas*. [*Talkshop comment: so they like to claim].

Most methane (a single carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogens) forms from the decay of ancient plants, animals and other life. But the Earth itself can create methane, too.

When water reacts with a mineral called olivine in certain types of rocks, it releases hydrogen gas. This hydrogen reacts with a carbon source like carbon dioxide to form methane. Scientists call this kind of methane “abiotic” because it can happen without any lifeforms present.

And scientists are finding more and more of it, researchers announced Monday. What’s more, they’ve also discovered that some sources of suspected abiotic methane are actually also created with help from life.

The find rewrites the textbook description of methane formation, and it also reiterates that not all deep hydrocarbons come from what people typically think of as fossil fuels. But it could be good news for the fossil fuel industry, too, researchers say.

“Abiotic methane would of course be of great potential value economically given that natural gas is very likely to be a key source of energy for another 50 years or so at least,” said Edward Young, a geochemist at the University of California Los Angeles and member of the Deep Carbon Observatory.

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Lakes of Titan
    – Wikipedia

    According to Cassini data, scientists announced on February 13, 2008, that Titan hosts within its polar lakes “hundreds of times more natural gas and other liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth.” The desert sand dunes along the equator, while devoid of open liquid, nonetheless hold more organics than all of Earth’s coal reserves.[18] It has been estimated that the visible lakes and seas of Titan contain about 300 times the volume of Earth’s proven oil reserves.

    And no known ‘fossils’.
    – – –
    Discover mag. graphic…

  2. Phil Salmon says:

    A little OT off the methane topic, but CO2 has now been caught with a smoking gun! (warning – sarc ahead.) No more is it possible to deny that changing CO2 levels drive species to extinction. Palaeontologists have discovered that 20 million years ago a superficially lion-like mammal predator lived in Africa. It was much bigger than a lion, or even than a polar bear. It is Simbakubwa kutokaafrica, of the now extinct Hyenodont family of mammals.

    This huge apex predator evolved when Africa was a big island. When it collided with Eurasia 20 million years ago, a convulsion of exchange of animals took place between the colliding continents. However Simbakubwa thrived for another million or two years, spreading into Eurasia, until changing climate, specifically the transition of a lot of forests to grassland, caused its extinction.

    Simbakubwa was a forest creature. The transition from forest to grassland was driven by falling CO2 levels, which slow down the rate of tree growth until it is too slow to allow trees to recover fast enough between forest fires 🔥. At that point the forest turns to grassland.

    Around 16-20 million years ago the earth was cooling and Antarctica started serious glaciation. CO2 levels – falling CO2 levels, robbed Simbakubwa of its forest cover and drove it to extinction.

    We must act now. I guess?