Eugene Island is an underwater mountain located about 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1973 oil was struck and off-shore platform Eugene 330 erected. The field began production at 15,000 barrels a day, then gradually fell off, as is normal, to 4,000 barrels a day in 1989, Then came the surprise; it reversed itself and increased production to 13,000 barrels a day. Probable reserves have been increased to 400 million barrels from 60 million. The field appears to be filling from below and the crude coming up today is from a geological age different from the original crude, which leads to the speculation that the world has limitless supplies of petroleum.
This really interested some scientists. Thomas Gold, astronomer and professor emeritus of Cornell held for years that oil is actually renewable primordial syrup continually manufactured by the earth under ultra hot conditions and tremendous pressures. This substance migrates upward picking up bacteria that attack it making it appear to have an organic origin, i.e., come from dinosaurs and vegetation. As best I have found so far Russian scientists support his position, at least that petroleum is of primordial origin. There is now plenty of evidence around proving the presence of methane in our universe. It is easy to see it as a part of the formation of the earth. Under the right conditions of temperature and pressure, it converts to more complex hydrocarbons.
Roger Andersen, an oceanographer and executive director of Columbia's Energy Research Center proposed studying the behavior of this reservoir. The underwater landscape around Eugene Island is weird, cut with faults and fissures that belch gas and oil. The field is operated by PennzEnergy Co. Andersen proposed to study the action of the sea bottom around the mountain and the field at its top and persuaded the U S Dept of Energy to ante up ten million which was matched by a consortium of oil giants including Chevron, Exxon, and Tex Corp. This work began about the time 3-D seismic technology was introduced to oil exploration. Anderson was able to stack 3D images resulting in a 4D image that showed the reservoir in 3 spatial dimensions and enabled researchers to track the movement of oil. Their most stunning find was a deep fault at a bottom corner of the computer scan that showed oil literally gushing in. "We could see the stream,” says Andersen. "It wasn't even debated that it was happening."
Work continued for five years until funds ran out and they were unable to continue. With the world having 40 years of proven reserves in hand it is difficult to interest the major oil producers in much exploration, let alone something done merely for research, and so far from the current accepted theory of a fossil origin for oil.
Similar occurrences have been seen at other Gulf Of Mexico fields, at the Cook Inlet oil field, at oil fields in Uzbekistan, and it is possible this accounts for the longevity of the Saudi Arabian fields where few new finds have been made, yet reserves have doubled while the fields have been exploited mercilessly for 50 years.
Not only can the doom and gloomers not show us running out of the natural resources we recycle, but now there appears to be good odds of a limitless supply of petroleum working its way up to where we can capture it.
A caveat: Gold's theory is not yet accepted by all scientists, probably all the more reason to trust it.
April 6, 2005