San Diego, CA - For decades, an unsuspected geological blunder has limited crucial technical understanding of how, where and why petroleum and natural gas deposits form. Exposing and correcting that vital mistake offer the promise of new insights and potentially vast new energy-resource discoveries.
Since the 1930s, the idea of mantle convection has been inextricably rooted in common geological interpretations of the Earth's dynamics. In a paper just published in the March 25, 2010 issue of Current Science, San Diego geophysicist J.
Marvin Herndon of Transdyne Corporation discloses a very serious problem with the prevailing concept of convection in the Earth's mantle and reveals the profound implications on oil and gas exploration.
For decades geologists and geophysicists have assumed that convection occurs within the Earth's mantle. But according to Herndon's discovery, Earth-mantle convection is physically impossible. As he explains in his paper, the mantle is compressed by its own weight and the weight of the crust, so that its bottom is about 62% more dense than the top. The negligible amount of thermal expansion that might occur at the bottom, less than 1%, cannot cause bottom-mantle matter to float to the surface or make the mantle top-heavy, necessary conditions for convection.
Herndon's discovery has revolutionary implications for geologists, who have for decades misapplied mathematical convection-justification relationships to the gravity-compressed mantle; such relationships are only valid for incompressible fluids.
Familiar topical names, such as Pangaea, Gondwanaland and Plate Tectonics, will begin to fade into history, replaced by a more correct 21st Century understanding of geology and geodynamics without mantle convection.
In Herndon's view, virtually all major geological activity is the consequence of a single process: Earth-crust fragmentation - splitting the Earth's crust to form new surface area to accommodate decompression-increased planetary volume.
Crustal fragmentation, called rifting, provides all of the crucial components for petroleum-deposit formation: basin, reservoir, source, and seal. Rifting causes the formation of deep basins, as presently occurring in the Afar triangle of Northeastern Africa. Augmented by heat channeled upwards from deep within the Earth, uplift from sub-surface swelling can sequester sea-flooded lands to form halite evaporate deposits, lead to dome formation, and can make elevated land susceptible to erosion processes, thus providing sedimentary material for reservoir rock in-filling of basins. Moreover, crustal fragmentation potentially exposes deep basins to sources of abiotic mantle methane and, although still controversial, methane-derived hydrocarbons.
Drawing upon an understanding he developed with respect to the East African Rift System and the underlying rifting and extensive petroleum and natural gas deposits associated with the Siberian Traps, Herndon predicts the extensively rifted region beneath the Deccan Traps of India will become the site of important energy-resource discoveries. In fact, the first discovery has already been reported.
SOURCE: Transdyne Corporation