In a new research, scientists have found for the first time that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesised under the pressure-temperature conditions of the upper mantle of the Earth.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory, with colleagues from Russia and Sweden.
Methane (CH4) is the main constituent of natural gas, while ethane (C2H6) is used as a petrochemical feedstock.
Both of these hydrocarbons, and others associated with fuel, are called saturated hydrocarbons because they have simple, single bonds and are saturated with hydrogen.
The implication here is that "fossil" fuels are not simply the result of decayed organic matter. On Saturn's moon Titan we have seen vast hydrocarbon seas. One might therefore assume that the earth too, being a rocky body, might also consist of non-organic materials such as we have seen on Titan. Oil and natural gas are likely being produced deep in the earth and have either worked their way up into areas that we subsequently drill or have remained in pools from ages past when there was more volcanic activity and more primeval (oily) elements on the surface.
[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, July 30th, 2009.]