What if hydrocarbons did not only originate from a slow transformation of organic matter but also from inorganic processes? This central question for the human management of energy resources may soon be answered thanks to the work of a team led by Henry Scott of Indiana University. In the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory (Washington, DC), researchers have successfully reconstructed the conditions that could generate methane underground from inorganic elements.
To do 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 discovered that at pressures equivalent to those reigning some 20 meters below the earth's surface and an ideal temperature of 000 ° C, the hydrogen atoms in water combine with the carbon atoms in calcite to form methane. Scientists are now planning to experiment with the production of more complex hydrocarbons (ethane or butane) at even higher pressures.
Source: NYT 14 / 09 / 04 (From Decay Petroleum? Maybe Not, Study Says)