And if hydrocarbons did not only originate a slow transformation of organic matter but also inorganic processes? This crucial question for the human management of energy resources may soon be answered by the work of a team led by Henry Scott of Indiana University. In the Geophysics Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution (Washington, DC), researchers have succeeded in reconstructing the conditions that can generate methane from Earth from inorganic elements.
For this, they placed water, iron oxide (FeO) and calcite (CaCO3) in a diamond anvil cell, a device for studying materials at very high pressures. They found that at pressures equivalent to those 20 000 meters below the Earth's surface and an ideal temperature of 500 ° C, the hydrogen atoms of water combine with the carbon atoms of calcite to form methane. Scientists are now planning to experiment with producing more complex hydrocarbons (ethane or butane) at even higher pressures.
Source: NYT 14 / 09 / 04 (From Decay Petroleum? Maybe Not, Study Says)