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Re: Tom Gold's theory
I heard Gold give a talk about this some years ago. He made a pretty
plausible case, I thought, although I don't know much about the field.
Gold's hypothesis was that there are enormous quantities of natural gas
beneath the crust of the earth that were formed before there was life
arose. The evidence for this is that that in certain places where the
surface is primordial granite, and where there has been a meteorite
impact that cracks the surface, natural gas escapes through the
cracks. He looked for such a place, found it in Sweden, and persuaded
the Swedish government to set up a drilling project to test the
theory. (Norway may have been involved, too, but I remember that Gold
talked about Sweden.)
A few years later, there was a report in Science (or possibly in
Nature) which essentially said that the first phase of the project
was finished, and the theory was neither confirmed nor refuted. The
project did not find large quantities of natural gas, but did not rule
out the possibility that they didn't (couldn't) drill deeply enough.
Two points of interest: (1) In Sweden, it is possible to trap the
gases that escape from the cracks, and burn them. They contain
natural gas. (2) Gold suggests that the organic material in oil and
coal is caused by natural gas seeping into later deposits of
plants and animals and then being transformed by pressure when the
gas cannot escape.
Interesting. If it were true, and if we could drill deeply enough,
the world would not need to worry about using up petroleum resources
for a long time to come. But it is not so likely not that Sweden will
do more drilling. The primary motivation for the original project was
the fear that the Soviet Union might apply pressure to Sweden by
cutting off the natural gas that Sweden imports.
> Date: Thu, 23 Mar 1995 16:06:49 -0500
> From: BRUSH@uconnvm.uconn.edu
> Tom Gold, famous physicist, suggested that petroleum was not organic
> in nature at all. His idea that it was formed chemically inside the earth
> was tested by a drilling project (in Norway). As I recall the hypothesis
> which appeared in the Atlantic, formation of petroleum was somehow linked
> to his model of the earth.
> Alan Brush