Talk:Fossil fuel/Archive 1

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Fossil fuel? A myth

Unfortunately many people still believe that oil is a "fossil fuel", but it's important to note what said Sir Fred Hoyle: "The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time." (talk) 02:42, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

That is a rather grandiose claim of yours. So burden of proof falls to you. And I'm afraid that a single sentence without any citations or links or even telling us where you heard it isn't really gonna cut it. Especially when the scientist you're quoting is an Astronomer and has been dead for a decade. Surely, you can present something that has actually happend in the last 10 years? It should be out there if what you say is true. Also try finding one from someone who can actually defend themselves. (talk) 18:43, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Biogenic or abiogenic

Do people really still believe the abiogenic theory? It seems a bit of a generalisation to state that Russia + rest-of-world believes in this!

And where does the stuff about hydrocarbons on other bodies in the solar system come from? Seems a bit hand-wavy to me. - 15:03, 14 February 2003 Cferrero

...As this article states, "1 litre of regular gasoline is the time rendered result of about 23.5 metric tonnes" ...We LEAKED 18,152 litres from oil cables in our national grid during 2006 (see Do the math, that'd be 426,572 metric tonnes of source material. ...And that would only cover what leaked. In the US we consume 550 BILLION liters every year. That'd be 12,925,000,000,000 tons of source material. ...Obviously the fossil fuel argument only persists because of academic dogma. How could could anyone explain this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:27, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
The evidence of vast hydrocarbon resources on other bodies of the solar system comes from spectroscopy. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in planetary bodies (after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen) and is mostly found in the form of methane.
Having looked at both theories and at the evidence, it is astonishing that anyone believes in the biogenic theory. If you really believe in a biogenic theory, cferrero, please explain how it can account for the following:
  • 1. The presense of large quantities of hydrocarbons on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and many of their moons.
  • 2. The discoveries of petroleum when drilling in igneous rock far from sedimentary layers.
  • 3. Archaea, which live deep underground and eat hydrocarbons, are older than prokaryotes. Hydrocarbons must have existed before Archaea could use them for food and thus before photosynthesis could have developed.
  • 4. The upwelling of methane from volcanoes.
  • 5. Petroleum is found in linear patterns often stretching for thousands of kilometers better matching the structural features of the crust than the smaller scale patchwork of sedimentary deposits.
  • 6. Kudryavtsev's rule.
  • 7. The association of helium with petroleum.
  • 8. The refilling of oil wells.
  • 9. Consistent metal traces (vanadium, nickel, gold, platinum) in petroleum over large areas despite vastly different local geology.
  • 10. Large bubbles of methane gas _under_ sheets of methane hydrate on the ocean floors.
The abiogenic theory accounts for all of these things. AFAICT, the biogenic theory cannot. It if can, please explain how.
Also, if there is any evidence which the biogenic theory accounts for, but which the abiogenic theory does not, please mention that too. M Carling (24 Feb 2003 21:05 UTC)
OK, I shall rise to the challenge
  • 1 Hydrocarbons on other planets, if they occur, occur in minute traces. There is no evidence for anything like the volumes present on the Earth. In addition, spectroscopic methods only detect hydrocarbons in the atmosphere, not in the subsurface. The biogenic theory would suggest that large accumulations of hydrocarbons require large accumulations of organic debris. Independent evidence for large accumulations of organic debris is all around us on Earth, but is absent on other planets.
  • 2 No problem. Migration of petroleum can occur over 10s, perhaps 100s of kilometres. If the igneous rock is permeable (e.g. through fracturing), there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn't form a valid hydrocarbon reservoir or migration path, and in fact such examples do exist. Whether you believe in the biogenic theory of hydrocarbon generation or not, the matter of hydrocarbon migration through porous and permable reservoirs is extremely well documented and increasingly well understood.
  • 3 Not really. Archaea may consume hydrocarbons *now*, but there's no reason why they should have done in the past. Humans eat CheesyStrips now, but that doesn't mean they always did.
  • 4 Abiogenic causes of methane (which is an extremely common (and simple) hydrocarbon - CH4) are without a doubt existent. Still, I am not aware of an abiogenic cause of the far more complex hydrocarbons that are used to make petroleum and other commercial products.
  • 5 Not sure what this observation proves, certainly can't see how it can support an abiogenic theory. No-one would disagree that fundamental structural grains control shallower sedimentary systems, be it through inheritance of fault grain and orientation, or control of sedimentary systems and deposition. This neither proves nor disproves either theory regarding the origin of hydrocarbons.
  • 6 No idea what this is. Without some supporting statements, I can't see how it can be used as an argument for or against anything. On a related note, Thomas Gold, a major proponent of the abiogenic theory, also refuted the theory of plate tectonics, which 99% of the world's scientists now believe to be an accurate depiction of the Earth.
  • 7 Helium almost certainly has some abiogenic origin (cf 'primordial helium'). But then so does silicon, which is commonly found in the quartz grains of sandstones in which hydrocarbons accumulate. Similarly, human beings consist of elements with a primordial origin, yet nobody would deny that we are in some sense 'organic' in origin.
  • 8 Again, hard to see what this has to do with either theory. Also, do you mean 'oil wells', or 'oil reservoirs'? Oil wells refill because of a number of mechanisms, including gas-cap drive, aquifer drive and so on. When you open a conduit from the surface to a pressured reservoir, the difference in pressure causes the well to flow upwards. If, on the other hand, you mean that oil reservoirs refill, then this may be so on a very minor scale, but if you've got evidence of major refilling of oil reservoirs then a lot of oil companies would like to talk to you!
  • 9 Metals, or any other element, will occur in hydrocarbons if those hydrocarbons have flowed through, or exist in, rocks which contain those elements. It is entirely explainable without recourse to any argument about the formation of the hydrocarbons themselves.
  • 10 For those who don't know, gas hydrates are accumulations of frozen gases very close to the sea-floor. They are thought to accumulate when gas escapes from underlying gas reservoirs and moves (through bouyancy) towards the Earth's surface. When they reach a level very close to the sea-floor, under certain conditions, they can freeze and affect the sediment sufficiently to be visible in seismic surveys. Below the 'freezing level', the hydrates remain in a gaseous form, hence, presumably, these bubbles.
In terms of evidence which the biogenic theory accounts for, you could do worse than the observation of kerogens in varying states of maturity from immature, to fully hydrocarbon-bearing. The evolution from organic origins to fully evolved hydrocarbons is even reproducible in the lab (or in the oven - try not cleaning it for a few months then look at all the gungey ooze forming on the base!). At the very least, a supporter of the abiogenic theory would have to recognise that there are biogenic causes for hydrocarbon generation.
A lot of your arguments are based on methane, which is the simplest hydrocarbon available. Have a look at the Wikipedia entry for this chemical and you'll see that the author has suggested many sources for it, the majority of which are biogenic. Abiogenic origins are also well known. However, if you wish to extend the abiogenic theory to cover *all* hydrocarbons then you'll need to come up with mechanisms for the creation of complex molecules - the very term fossil fuel indicates what the vast majority of people believe to be their origin.
cferrero 22:17, 24 February 2003
Wow!! At least you conceded that methane has abiogenic origins. We're getting somewhere. Carbon and hydrogen were both present in large quantities when the Earth was formed. All it takes to form methane and other hydrocarbons is enough pressure. 40,000 atmospheres is certainly enough pressure to form any and all of the hydrocarbons found in petroleum and such pressures are certainly to be found at depth.
  • 1. Many of the moons of the outer planets do not have atmospheres and thus spectroscopy reveales hydrocarbons in the body, not in the atmosphere. The same is true of asteroids. The quantities of hydrocarbons found is comparable (and in some cases higher) to what would be found viewing the earth spectroscopically from the outer planets. For the biogenic theory to be true, either hydrocarbons must have a completely different origin on earth from the rest of the solar system, or there must have long ago been forrests and swamps throughout the solar system.
  • 2. That petroleum could migrate many hundreds of kilometers and end up 5 kilometers underground does not seem plausible e.g. the Siljan Ring in Sweden.
  • 3. If you want to assert that archaea once lived off something other than petroleum, you need to explain what that was. I won't buy that they lived off CheesyStrips. You also need to show that they could, in their current form, still live off this mystery food because they are, in their current form, older than anything capable of photosynthesis.
  • 4. Your concession that methane has abiogenic origins takes care of this point.
  • 5. According to the biogenic theory, petroleum locations should correlate with sedimentary deposits. The facts don't support this as petroleum locations better correlate with crust features as predicted by the abiogenic theory.
  • 6. You don't know Kudryatsev's rule? That whenever petroleum is found, it is always found at arbitrarily deeper depths at the same location. This would be expected by the abiogenic theory, but is inexplicable according the biogenic theory.
What exactly do you mean that Gold refuted the theory of plate tectonics? Can you provide a citation? Gold has argued that the theory of plate tectonics does not satisfactorily explain all observed evidence of earthquakes. Is that what you are talking about?
  • 7. You didn't even try to explain why helium should, according the biogenic theory, be found with petroleum.
  • 8. I meant oil reservoirs. This is well known and is the main reason the world didn't run out of oil in the 1990s as proponents of the biogenic theory predicted during the 1970s.
  • 9. Yes. And for those metals to be found in the quantities that they are requires that the oil upwelled from depths of many kilometers (where such metals are more abundant) or that all the oil so far discovered must have flowed horizontally for hundreds of kilometers. To be found in such consistent quantities that they are, all the oil in regions of hundreds of kilometers must have flowed through the same rocks. The abiogenic theory explains this -- the biogenic theory does not. The abiogenic theory also explains why miners find these metals together -- the biogenic theory does not.
  • 10. Like point number 4, this one is taken care of by your concession that methane has abiogenic origins.
Thomas Gold has always maintained that peat and lignite are biogenic in origin. You concede abiogenic methane. It seems that the only thing you don't believe about abiogenic origins for more complex hydrocarbons is how they could form from primordial hydrogen and carbon. Is that correct? Just consider the pressures at depths of hundreds of kilometers. M Carling (25 Feb 2003 09:09 UTC)
Gold points out in The Deep Hot Biosphere that peat and lignite formation can be enhanced by methane upwelling from below, and points out peat formations on plains and hillsides with methane leaks. He also noted testing gases around a peat field and finding many hydrocarbon gases which are not normally produced by decaying plants. "Quite simply, microbes do not excrete pentane while decomposing carbohydrates." -- SEWilco 18:53, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Nowadays the term "fossil fuel" can be considered obsolete. Mineral fuels is suitable term. Natural hydrocarbons (oil and gas) comes deep from earth's mantle by degassing of primordial materials. When they reach shallow pressure levels in crust occurs contamination by bacteria. Major part of coals also are not a "fossil fuel", except lignites (brown coals). Black coals may be considered as solid hydrocarbons with hydrogen loss. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 03:24, 3 September 2006

Please read two papers published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS): and

It is my understanding that the Russians discovered that oil is the product of the high temperature (≈1500 °C), high pressure (≈5 GPa) continuous reaction among calcium carbonate, iron oxide and superheated steam, occurring about 100 km below us, soon after the end of WWII and that is why they have come from nowhere to be one of the world's major players in the oil business. One of the PNAS papers mentioned above describes a laboratory reactor vessel in which petroleum was manufactured from the above-mentioned three components, under sterile conditions. Pejam (talk) 01:00, 24 August 2009 (UTC) Pejam

Riposte (2)

OK, I can see this is going to turn into a lengthy discussion! As far as methane, I and most other supporters of the biogenic theory would have no problem in acknowledging an abiogenic cause for some, if certainly not all, subsurface methane. What we would have issue with is how you can create a complex hydrocarbon from C and H only by increasing pressure. Perhaps you could point me towards some publication where this has been done?

It is not the origin of simple hydrocarbons such as methane and other C1 to C4 hydrocarbons that is in question - everyone believes that they can have abiogenic origins. It is the creation of economic quantities of heavier hydrocarbons which is in discussion - the biogenic theory suggests these are created by the thermal maturation of dead organic matter, the abiogenic theory suggests these are created at great depths by inorganic processes and then migrate up towards the surface.

  • 1. Hydrocarbons on other planets.
The biogenic theory doesn't rule out abiogenic origins. In other words, it is not exclusive. However, it would predict that unless there was organic life on these moons, there won't be economic reserves present in the subsurface. This prediction is testable, in theory, simply by visiting them and drilling.
  • 2. Petroleum migration and the Siljan Ring
As far as I can find out, only 85 barrels of oil were produced from the Siljan Ring, of which some was believed to be contamination from the drilling fluid. This is therefore not an economic hydrocarbon reserve. This paper finds a suitable biogenic source rock for the Siljan gases. Hydrocarbon shows "are minor" and likely to suffer from contamination by marsh gases in the local aquifers.
  • 3. Archaea
Your argument here is, as I understand it, that:
a) Archaea consume hydrocarbons.
b) Archaea are older than prokaryotes.
c) Prokaryotes are the simplest organic lifeform that could decompose to hydrocarbons following the biogenic theory.
d) Conclusion: hydrocarbons must have been formed abiogenically in order for Archaea to exist prior to the evolution of prokaryotic life.
I can't actually find much information on what they consume, though I have found a link that implies they produce hydrocarbons. In additions, it appears that though some Archaea are found in hydrocarbon deposits, others are found in extremely hostile environments such as hydrothermal vents and anoxic muds where, presumably they consume something else. This site suggests that they consume hydrogen, C02 and S, and also exist as photosynthesising organisms. If you wish your argument to be convincing, you need to show that the Archaea that existed in pre-prokaryotic times were consumers of hydrocarbons.

  • 5. Petroleum location
Common stratigraphic traps for petroleum include: river channels, basinal turbidite deposits (both in and off-channel), deltaic deposits etc. Some of the largest accumulations in the North Sea are found in these stratigraphic traps. Some of the largest accumulations in the world are found in stratigraphic traps. The remainder are found in structural traps where folding or faulting of the earth has resulted in juxtaposition of porous reservoirs with impermeable cap rocks. Where these latter occur, the location of the faults will be controlled by the underlying structural grain. The fact that this happens is neither a proof nor a disproof of any theory of hydrocarbon formation.
The biogenic theory doesn't really seek to predict where hydrocarbons exist in commercial quantities, rather it controls how they are formed. By applying the biogenic theory, and some knowledge of petroleum migration and trapping, it is often possible to locate source kitchens, then map the possible migration paths from these kitchens to possible reservoirs with suitable cap-rocks. Such predictions are then tested by exploration wells.
A true test of the abiogenic theory would be to locate a large, economic hydrocarbon reserve in an area completely isolated from any possible biogenic source. Unfortunately, the Siljan Ring, which appears to be the abiogenecis's casus belli, has a viable source rock which could be mature under plausible heat flow conditions.
  • 6. Kudryatsev's rule
No idea what this is, so went looking. As you say, it predicts that for any hydrocarbon accumulation, further hydrocarbons will be found at all levels down to basement. I would have several queries about this.
  1. Firstly, what, exactly, does 'further hydrocarbons' mean? Does it mean vast economic reserves, minor traces or a few molecules? If it means vast reserves, then every oil well should produce for far longer than predicted. This is easily testable and I'm not aware that there are many examples that can't be explained by better analysis of the existing reservoir catchment area and basin compartmentalisation.
  2. Secondly, from a more practical point of view, how does Kudryatsev know? Oil companies don't drill for fun, they drill to find oil. When they find it, they stop drilling. They don't carry on down to the basement as this would be prohibitively expensive. Presumably the rule is based on publically (i.e. academically driven) funded programs?
  3. Third, when drilling, muds are used to lubricate the drill-bit. These drilling fluids can be based on water, synthetic additives, or even oil-based lubricants. If they latter are used, then they will contaminate the surrounding rock to some extent, leaving traces of hydrocarbons (as appears to have happened in the Siljan Ring).
  • 7. Helium in hydrocarbons'.
Anything can be found in hydrocarbons. It depends on what contamination there is from the drilling, what the hydrocarbons have migrated through en-route to the final reservoir and nature of the source-rock they were formed in. If you think there is a consistent link between hydrogen and helium, perhaps you could indicate some publications where this is shown. Also, how does the abiogenic theory cope with the presence of H2S (i.e. sour gas/oil)? Is this also brought up from depth?
  • 8. Self-replenishing hydrocarbon reservoirs
This is not an established fact. Any oil reservoir that has produced more than expected has shown, on further analysis, that the original reservoir models were incomplete. The technology used to study oil and gas accumulations has increased a hundredfold since the 1970s and the rather basic methods (typified by the philosophy of 'drill-and-pray') used in the middle of the 20th century have been consistently updated and improved. It is not surprising that estimates made in those times about the size and production potential of some reservoirs were incorrect.

The main reasons the world didn't run out of oil in the 1970s were:

  1. The discovery of the North Sea as a major hydrocarbon province.
  2. The improvements in technology that meant previously unreachable deposits were now reachable (deeper water, harsher surface conditions).
  3. The improvements in production that meant field lives could be considerably extended and recovery efficiency greatly increased.
  • 9. Metals in hydrocarbons
To take your last point first, I would just like to emphasis that the biogenic theory has nothing to do with ore deposits. You should not attempt to discredit it by misapplying it to areas which it makes no attempt to describe.
In terms of the question "why do hydrocarbons contain heavy metals?", perhaps you could indicate some publication that suggests this, other, perhaps, than Mr Gold (wonderfully apt surname in this context) himself? I would expect to see evidence that over 50% of economic hydocarbon reserves contain precious metals and that these precious metals are not a result of contamination by drilling fluids.

Final note: carbon isotope evidence in Nature shows that though some hydrocarbons have been found at hydrothermal vents, their isotopic carbon signatures are significantly different from those seen in economic gas reservoirs, which would refute any link between (minor) abiogenic hydrocarbon generation at vents and major hydrocarbon accumulations in reservoirs.

So in conclusion, I'm afraid I have not been convinced that there are any economic hydrocarbon reserves where there is no possible biogenic origin and for which only an abiogenic theory will suffice. However, I suspect that this conversation is starting to extend beyond the remit of Wikipedia. Can we agree that the majority of oil geologists assume the biogenic theory to be correct, and that the abiogenic theory is still only held by a minority? If so, then the current weighting towards the biogenic theory in the actual article seems justified. If you wish to carry on this conversation by email I would be only too happy.  :) cferrero

No no! Don't take it to email! I am following this discussion with considerable interest and learning a great deal. As sometimes happens, here we have an excellent example of a talk page that is more informative than the entry it is associated with. If there is more to say, say it here. Tannin 12:13 Feb 25, 2003 (UTC)
(seconded! fascinating talk can then be turned into great articles; that's what happened with Menstrual cycle. -- Tarquin 12:31 Feb 25, 2003 (UTC))

As Coal is not a hydrocarbon, though it does contain some hydrocarbons, I shall modify this slightly. PML.

The article states "Biogenesis remains the minority theory". I am pretty sure that it is the majority theory. I would edit it, but I'm probably more ignorant on this issue than you fine people here. ;-) So please edit it if I am right, otherwise forgive my ignorance. :-p

Both from my (scanty) knowledge of the subject, and from the context, you have to be right, Mr P. I changed it. Tannin 11:14, 21 Jan 2004 (UTC)
  Edit: I did some googling and changed it (also based on the context).
  But the wiki said that someone else changed it while I was busy...
  Thanks. I found this on various sites thru google:
   "Nowadays, however, the biogenic theory is widely regarded as correct"
   - Mr. Anonymous Coward

Metals in Hydrocarbons

I just thought that I would point out that there is a good reason why certain metals (such as V, Ni, Pb, Zn, etc.) do have strong ties with hydrocarbon deposits. One of the reasons is because organic porphyrin molecules (similar to chlorophyll) have a 2+ metal ion that generally occurs as Mg2+ in the organism, but is replaced by other metal cations over geologically short periods of time without needing to travels thousands of kilometers. These porphyrins do break down over time depending upon what metals occupy those chemical sites, releasing those metals. Other organic acids, such as ethanoate can then transport some of the metals to create nearby ore types. This is especially common for Pb, and Zn which is one of the prevailing hypotheses for how Mississippi Valley Type (MVT) deposits are formed in close proximity to hydrocarbon deposits.

Supply and Demand

The principle of supply and demand suggests that as hydrocarbon supplies diminish, prices will rise. It has therefore been pointed out that higher prices will lead to increased supplies as previously uneconomic sources become more economical to exploit. Artificial gasolines and other renewable energy sources presently require more expensive production and processing technologies than conventional petroleum reserves, but may then become economically viable.

According the The End of Oil, this is false. The reasoning is that this principle only works when we extract the "easy oil" first, but we have to extract the "hard oil" first because the "easy oil" is tied up in OPEC countries. Brianjd 07:05, 2004 Dec 1 (UTC)

However, there will always be deposits of oil that are harder and harder to extract. It is impossible to completely exhaust a resource. There may come a time when oil is extracted only as a luxury item because it is so scarce, but then other alternative fuels will be economically competitive. We certainly won't suddenly "run out" and be left with a crisis. -Bonus Onus 23:59, Apr 24, 2005 (UTC)

The first part of that is correct, but your conclusion is way off. The deposits will become harder and harder to extract. The issue is the fall off rate and how quickly alternatives can ramp up. Think of it like this, if the cheap supplies are gone, and petroleum energy costs 3 times what it does now and alternative energy cannot make up the difference fast enough, and it's price drives up to 4 times what petroleum is now or more, that is still a huge cost shock and severe repercussions would likely occur. The scenario could be more severe and still fit the same situation of harder and harder to extract oil and alternatives becoming more competitive. - Taxman 02:15, Apr 25, 2005 (UTC)
The fall off rate is also cushioned by alternatives which can ramp up quickly. For example, there are several ways to produce liquid fuels from tar sands and coal, both of which can be mined quickly but the conversion is presently too expensive. Ramping down of cheap fuel supply will raise prices and release new sources. (SEWilco 03:21, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC))

-- 02:05, 15 January 2007 (UTC) Easy-to-reach oil cost $3 per barrel to extract today. They sell it $70 per barrel. Medium-to-reach oil would cost $10-20 to extract. Hard-to-reach oil would cost $20-70 (Source by International Energy Agency). M-to-R oil adds at least 100 years with the same selling price. Canada has already started to extract some M-to-R oil.

Hydrocarbons and carbon

Shouldn't carbon be included explicitly as a defining substance of fosssil fuels? For coal carbon is the dominant constituent, hydrocarbons give only flavour. Compare also anthracite coal - "pure specimens ... 100% carbon".

I see a prevous short comment in support of carbon, obviously not retained followed. I contributed an edit (22:25, 2005 Jan 17),maybe not best. It was reverted.

Does anyone second the proposal that "carbon" is included as a defining constituent of "fossil fuel"? MGTom 07:28, 2005 Jan 24 (UTC)

I agree. Fossil fuels are by definition created from fossilized organic material, which must have carbon. -Bonus Onus 23:53, Apr 24, 2005 (UTC)

Oil, not coal, has disputed origin

As I currently read the article, it says: "There are two theories on the origin of fossil fuels..."

The page seems to lump together coal and oil as "fossil fuels, but I doubt if there are "two theories" about the origin of coal. It's clearly of biologic origin; just look at the full spectrum of intermediate forms from rotting vegetation, to peat moss, to soft bituminous coal (doesn't it still sometimes have leaf-form traces in it?), to hard anthracite coal. I think it's only oil (and maybe natural gas?) whose origins might be disputed. So perhaps that sentence should be re-worded?

Also, other commentators here have alluded to something that I think needs to be stated explicitly... the term "fossil fuel" inherently means of biologic origin: that's what a fossil is. Therefore, if the biologic origin of oil (for example) is being disputed, then its status as a "fossil fuel" is also being disputed... and the headlines/ overall category names need to be broadened. Perhaps "geologic fuels"? But that might bias the point in the other direction... Also petroleum is not just a fuel; it has important uses as a raw material in manufacturing.

Sorry I have no clear suggestions for dealing with these terminological issues; I just wanted to clearly state what they were. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 15 September 2005 (UTC)

Coal is also disputed. Plant fossils have been found in coal, but the biogenic processes which supposedly create coal should destroy that material. The abiogenic explanation is that some coal beds which were filled with hydrocarbons had plant material in them, some perhaps were deposited from seeps while still on the surface. The term mineral fuel does not imply fossil origin, although "fossil" can also refer to the fuel being old rather than being created from what might have become fossils. (SEWilco 20:40, 15 September 2005 (UTC))

Cost of extreme weather graph

The cost of extreme weather is rising rapidly and could reach four trillion 2001 U.S. dollars per year by 2020. source data: IPCC, 2001. Most of the cost increase is due to added exposure such as building on the coast, and some of it is due to radiative forcing by greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel.

I don't see why William Connolley thinks that the argument about this graph (see the link on its talk page) is not sorted out. He endorsed the view that the extrapolation is reasonable, that it doesn't imply anything about the cause of the variation, that it has a NPOV, and that it is only borderline original. I invite him to explain what the remaining objections are. —James S. 01:00, 29 December 2005 (UTC)

Aude, explanation here, has reverted, with the log comment, "This article is about fossil fuel, not extreme weather events and costs." I maintain that there is a direct relationship, and am editing as follows: My edits to the text show the direct relationship, and I am including the 2nd revision of the graph (by decade) instead of the detailed historical graph. Please note that both graphs are well within each others' 95% prediction confidence interval. —James S. 21:25, 29 December 2005 (UTC)

why do you continue to dismiss the overwhelming evidence that the rising costs of extreme weather are due to sociological patterns of habitation, not to the storms themselves? here, do me a favor: use your graphing software (no, i'm not going to download it myself, they require registration to do so), and rerun it using data only from 1992 to 1998. i'd be curious what that particular incomplete dataset yields for your curve.Anastrophe 23:16, 29 December 2005 (UTC)
That concern is addressed in the caption. Do you deny that storm strength is increasing? I agree that coastal habitation is, too. So why are you opposed to extrapolation? I'm not going to do your bidding at your whim. If I can register, you can too. If you don't like it, use the free R program, like I did with the first two. No registration required. —James S. 05:18, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
the reason you don't want to do the extrapolation is because it would have a dramatically different result. that's plainly obvious, just by looking at the data. sorry, R requires a compiler, i don't run a compiler on my windows boxes, nor do i run graphical interfaces on my unix boxes. ah well. in fact, i do deny that storm strength is increasing - at least, to the extent that it has anything to do with these increasing costs. please see Galveston_Hurricane_of_1900. do you base the destructiveness of storms only on their financial cost? wouldn't their cost in human lives be an even more important measure? or are the financial costs more important than human lives to you (note: cheap rhetoric at work!) Anastrophe 05:31, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
but to followup on that post with a more relevant comment, this article is about fossil fuel. your graph is not relevant. unless you wish to include graphs detailing the cost of lead poisoning over the last 50 years from burning gasoline with lead anti-knock compounds. or the cost to the tropical rainforest regions of devoting large swaths of land to the production of rubber tree plants for use in tires. or the cost of aggregate used in the building of highways, and how poorly maintained highways increase fossil fuel consumption due to frictional loss in shock absorbers, transforming bumpy motion into heat, and which also perturbates the airflow over the car as it bounces along, reducing aerodynamic efficiency. then you can add a graph for the increased quality of healthcare that fossil fuels provide, by making available fuels for ambulances to get injured people to hospitals more quickly. as well as the electricity that's used to power operating theaters, so the doctors don't have to work by candlelight. then of course, a graph showing the devastation of the candle business caused by the introduction of the lightbulb, which of course, is powered by fossil fuels. i realize my sarcasm is inappropriate. no more so than inclusion of this graph, in my humble opinion.Anastrophe 23:22, 29 December 2005 (UTC)
These arguments are entirely unconvincing. The fossil fuel connection is explained in the caption. Clean fuels which do not cause additional radiative forcing exist. Do you advocate remaining in a 19th century technology rut? Not all lightbulbs are powered by fossil fuels, and not all ambulances are, either. Your opinion is in need of careful review. —James S. 05:18, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
this is silly. you're aware that the 35 year interval last century during which global temperatures did not rise was due to burning of fossil fuels, due to sulphate aerosols? actually, i'd like to see your data on non-fossil fueled ambulances. please provide a pointer. Anastrophe 05:31, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
Which interval? —James S. 18:52, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
see Global warming. Anastrophe 23:25, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
1945-75? Noise? Spike and recovery from WWII? I don't know. See Battery electric vehicle. —James S. 00:39, 5 January 2006 (UTC)
Of course, since the number and severity of storms has not changed in the last hundred years or so (see [1]), and since the increase in temperature from all CO2 emissions is something like 0.1-0.2 degrees celcius if that (see [2]), it's clear that graph is completely unrelated to "Fossil fuels". Elevated temperatures are projected by many experts to lead to fewer and less severe storms, anyway, due to a decrease in the difference in temperature between the poles and equator, which is what provides a lot of the storm energy. —This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

how are you helping?

everybody puts articles on wikipedia saying that we should conserve etc. But how are you as an indivisual trying to help and conserve? —This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

I am editing Wikipedia instead of driving to support the oil owners. --James S. 23:46, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

Question about history and origin of fossil fuels

I searched up "fossil fuels" on Wikipedia for more information on where fossil fuels come from (why are they called "fossil" fuels?); could someone possibly write in the introduction more about what exactly fossil fuels are, explaining fossilized remains and how they work as a source of energy, as well as the history of how/when they were discovered and who thought up of using them as an energy source?

Thank you!

Bloody rox 21:08, 15 May 2006 (UTC)Bloody Rox

In addition, could there also be included some information on the various locations of fossil fuels on the planet? Or is this information included in a different article?

Quite confusing, as there are varying terms to describe a similar topic, but not connecting with each other. I searched "fossil fuels" for the sole purpose of finding technical information, and not particularly information on human usage and environmental effects (which I can easily find by searching "global warming"). Can someone please assist with these questions? It would be very helpful. Thank you.

In other words, less on human usage and environmental effects (which is more relevant to "global warming") and more on the history and origin of fossil fuels.

Bloody rox 21:51, 5 June 2006 (UTC)Bloody Rox


Metric units?

Could someone add metric conversions to all the figures in this page - From imperial units (and admittedly industry standards) to cubic kilometers or even cubic decimeters (ie. litres), kilograms (ie. tonnes) and joules? It would help us SI people to understand the numbers better. - G3, 01:10, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

how are fossils formed?

Is a good thing to look up on the wikipedia to find out exactly the question?

Fossil fuels is a misnomer for mineral fuels. Fossils form after minerals replace organic tissues on buried plants, microbes or animals over geological times, so neither coal or petroleum, the later being of biogenic or abiogenic origin, are fossils in any way.Jorge Ianis (talk) 17:17, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
It would seem to me that "mineral fuel" doesn't make sense (the fuel burned is not simple minerals, but both simple and long hydrocarbons (neither of which are mere minerals)), just as "fossil fuel" doesn't make sense (as your description of what a fossil is is correct. A better term for the commonly used term "fossil fuel" should probably be "biomass fuel" if biotic theory maintains the position of primary theory. Though, to be neutral on the issue of biotic vs. abiotic, a term such as "hydrocarbon fuel" makes the most sense, IMO. I see Wikipedia updating terminology very often, the question is, will Wikipedia lead the way to deprecate a long-time inaccurate term commonly used for this class of substance? -- (talk) 00:13, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

Encyclopedia article standard?

This page should probably be flagged for not being written in encycplopedic fashion. Thanks


I corrected someones change to the first link the subsidies section so that it still points to a page, rather than being broken. However, I question whether it is a reference to be taken seriously in the first place, it is certainly not neutral or balanced and provided little support for its own claims.

Also, the second link,, is broken and I cannot figure out the correct thing it should be linking to. Does anyone know where the original cited document was moved to?

Jeff Janes 02:55, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Opposition to use of fossil fuels

I didn't see anything about organized opposition to fossil-fuel use. I dimly recall that even before 1989 (when the Global Warming theory first attracted worldwide attention) many activists were campaigning against fossil fuels. --Uncle Ed 16:12, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

  • ACF believes that to achieve ecologically sustainable societies there needs to be a reduction in overall energy use, a reduction in the development and use of fossil fuel energy, and the elimination of nuclear energy.
  • The social justice issues associated with the different rates of energy use in the developed and developing world cannot be ignored. On a per capita basis people in the developed world use vast amounts of energy across the world. Meanwhile there are some 2 billion people who live without access to electricity. Developed countries need to reduce energy consumption significantly and assist developing countries to meet their energy needs in a sustainable way. [3]

basic question

Can someone let this layman know how many pounds of biomass it takes to breakdown into a barrel of crude? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 05:36, 3 February 2007 (UTC).

Total fossil fuel reserves

There are quite a few places where this article mismatches data in other bits of Wikipedia e.g. reserves figures at Methane clathrate, non inclusion of other fossil fuel sources. Also it would help ref Global Warming if the total fuel figures were also given in gigatonnes of carbon, also the discussion of hubbert peak theory (which is strictly limited to one extraction technology) doesn't quite look right. I think the article would benefit from some updates/ cross comparison. I don't really want to jump into an article where I haven't been involved. Anyone interested in helping? --BozMo talk 12:03, 21 February 2007 (UTC)


The numbers in the introduction to the article regarding worldwide energy consumption (98% fossil fuel) say the remaining 14% (!) comes from other sources. The percentages should be cleaned up. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:04, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

AIE new estimates (dated 12/09/2007) gives 85.9 MDB for 2007 88 MDB for 2008 It would be good to have a graph representing consumption and estimated reserves, and eventually number of years of oil. at the time i tried to add something about it the page was locked. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bloublou (talkcontribs) 08:31, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Carbon vs CO2

The burning of fossil fuels produces around 6.3 billion metric tons (= 6.3 gigatons) of carbon dioxide per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount so there is a net increase of 3.2 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year.[4]

I think this is a bit misleading -- the total CO2 is around 25 gigatons/year while total C is around 7 or 8, so 6.3 looks plausible for Carbon, but way too low for carbon dioxide. (talk) 14:25, 5 February 2008 (UTC)

You are absolutely correct. Reference 4 says the same thing. It reports carbon dioxide emissions as carbon. I will change the article accordingly. Silverchemist (talk) 23:41, 5 February 2008 (UTC)

Remove billion term

Please remove billion and use thousand million/giga instead. Similarly to imperial units, billion=10^12 for majority (non americans) (talk) 10:19, 24 July 2008 (UTC)

I agree with your long scale definition of a billion, but the short scale definition seems to be taking over almost everywhere. If we change the wording to "thousand million", American editors will just change it back. Dbfirs 06:35, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Measurement consistency

Could someone please decide whether the term "ton" or "tonne" is to be used in this entry? It seems to be used interchangeably throughout, but 1 ton = 2240 lbs. while 1 tonne = 1000kg. Thank you. Wperdue (talk) 01:22, 10 March 2009 (UTC)wperdue

I've standardised (standardized) on tonne for international readership and because this is the unit normally used to measure carbon dioxide (though, personally, I prefer to call it a metric ton, being more familiar with the Imperial ton). Dbfirs 07:04, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Neither the barrel figure nor the m3 can be used by ordinary (US) readers to get an idea of the amounts. It would be nice if s.o. could quote that in gal. THKS. (talk) 22:54, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

The barrel is the standard international measure of oil, but clicking on the link provided in the article will inform the reader of the conversion "Oil barrel: 42 US gallons, 158.9873 litres,[5] or 34.9723 Imperial (UK) gallons". I suppose that this could be included in the article, but it is only a click away. Dbfirs 06:31, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

I recommend also adding scientific notation, eg "2.5 Billion (2.5 x 10 9th power) since Billion, Million, Quadrillion, etc still have more than one meaning world wide. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:59, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Could someone please explain the difference between "atmospheric carbon dioxide" and "real carbon dioxide", and why there is a 44/12 conversion factor? Dbfirs 07:04, 16 July 2009 (UTC) My guess is that 44/12 is the conversion factor from "atmospheric carbon dioxide" to carbon. I've edited the article to reflect my guess, but could someone please check. I'm not an expert in this field. Dbfirs 07:07, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

... (later) ... Yes that was it, and it is better not to cancel down to 11/3 because the 12 is the atomic weight of carbon. Dbfirs 18:01, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Simple solution about origin of "fossil" fuel

"The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time."' Sir Fred Hoyle, 1982. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:08, 18 October 2009 (UTC)

Removed melting point table

I've removed this table as I don't see how it is at all relevant to the article. Feel free to add it back if you can explain how it is of use. Smartse (talk) 00:04, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Extended content
Thermal Properties of Organic Fuel Components - Boiling Temperature
Component Boiling Point (°F)
Methane -258
Pentadecane 519.1
Hexadecane (Cetane) 548.2
Heptadecane 575.9
Octadecane 602.1
pentatriacontane 628
Cyclopentane 120.7
Cyclohexane 177.3
Benzene 176.2
Toluene 231.1
m-Xylene 282.4
Propene -53.9
Methanol 148.1
Ethanol 173
Propanol 207
Isopropanol 180.1
Tetradecane 488.3
Tridecane 455.8
Ethane -127.5
Propane -43.7
Butane 31.1
Isobutane 10.9
Pentane 96.9
Isopentane 82.1
Hexane 155.7
Isohexane 136.4
Heptane 209.2
Dodecane 421.3
Undecane 384.6
Decane 345.5
Nonane 303.4
Butanol 243.9
Isooctane 210.6
Octane 258.2
1-Hexene 146.3
1-Hexadecene 544.8
1-Pentene 85.9
1-Butene 20.7
1-Heptene 200.6

I am concerned about the internal consistency of the numbers for atmospheric carbon

The article states that:

"The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year (one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide)."

This may be accurate, but the chart which shows a dramatic increase in the emissions of carbon from the use of carbon-based fuels seems to show a different amount. The chart, titled : Global Carbon Fossil Emissions ends at yr 2004 with a total emission level of 8000 Million Metric Tons per year. Extrapolating on the steep curve does not look like it will reach a level 2.5 times the 2004 level by 2009. Also, if the 2004 level is only 8 billion tons per year amd natural processes can absord 10.65 billion tonnes per year, then why would the level of carbon in the atmosphere have been growing?

I have seen this chart elsewhere. If all of this is accurate, would someone please clarify. (talk) 17:23, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

I think there are three problems here. First, some of the numbers (the larger ones) are in mass units of CO2, while others are in mass units of C (i.e. not including the -O2 portion of carbon dioxide). The second problem is the use of "thousand million" instead of billion. This is just confusing, and most people (even in the UK) just use "billion" in its conventional, US sense of 109. Finally, the numbers may be coming from different sources, so may include / exclude different elements of CO2 emissions (i.e. fossil fuel consumption, cement production, biomass burning, etc.). Further, the numbers may refer to different years. Since emissions are rising quickly, even numbers separated by a decade (e.g. 1990 vs. 2000 vs. 2010) can be quite different. I think someone's going to have to sit down and crunch the numbers to a consistent set. Assuming we can agree on our favourite units, etc. Cheers, --PLUMBAGO 17:33, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

The problem that I had was distinguishing between Carbon and CO2. I went back and compared the weights per mole of Carbon, Oxygen and CO2 and discovered the ratio and found that the numbers were consistent and THEN I saw the parenthetical explanation : "(one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide)". Because of the importance of this distinction I think it would be good to include a note next to or below the Carbon graph such as "Note: Carbon only represents 27% of the weight of CO2". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:07, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

That seems sensible enough so I've done it. Smartse (talk) 00:51, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

Global Strategic Reserves

I've added a citation needed tag to the 4.1 billion barrels figure. So far I've only found a figure for the US reserves (~727 million barrels ( | DOE website)). Other countries have reserves, so if anyone has references please add them. JJJJS (talk) 06:55, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Numbers add up to more than 100 percent

The second paragraph says this...... " amounting to an 86.4% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world.[4] Non-fossil sources in 2006 included hydroelectric 6.3%, nuclear 8.5%, and others (geothermal, solar, tide, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9 percent " Which adds up to more than 100 percent (102.1%). At least one of the numbers is wrong....someone should fix this error. I don't have the time or expertise to do more than point it out.... thank you in advance....

Also, it is probably wrong, since it does not contain any allowance for wood, which is the only cooking fuel used in at perhaps a third of households worldwide...probably only refers to commercial energy transactions, not total energy used.

Avram Primack (talk) 16:42, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

Economics of global warming related resource

Talk:Coal ...

Renewable Power Trumps Fossils for First Time as UN Talks Stall by Alex Morales November 25, 2011; excerpt ...

Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis and an impasse at the United Nations global warming talks. Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal. (talk) 04:39, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Bloomberg New Energy Finance? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:47, 4 December 2011 (UTC)