Are you operating an oil field that's on its last legs production-wise?
If so, just sit back and be patient -- maybe the tapped-out reservoir will refill.
Right. Or, maybe … right?
The often-ridiculed idea of hydrocarbons continually welling up from the earth's mantle to replenish depleted reservoirs is but one of many aspects of the ongoing controversy between the proponents of inorganic hydrocarbon genesis and those who espouse an organic initiation.
The dissension is guaranteed to provoke some excitement -- heated debate? -- at the Origin of Petroleum session scheduled during the opening weekend of the 2005 AAPG Annual Convention in Calgary.
The session has been a long time in the making.
It's an abbreviated version of a planned 2003 Hedberg Conference in Vienna, which was postponed initially because of various problems related to fallout from the "9/11" terrorist attacks in the United States and later bounced around as an on-again, off-again happening due to technical reasons.
Although the Calgary forum is set for only a half-day, there should be sparks aplenty as a group of 10 speakers from various countries present their views on biogenic and/or abiogenic beginnings for petroleum.
"This is not completely an East versus West view, but it's close," said Barry Katz, who is among the organizers instrumental in producing the forum from the get-go. "The strongest proponents for inorganic origins have been the Russian groups, or FSU (former Soviet Union), whereas most of us in the West view it as organic in origin.
"What we're trying to do at this meeting," Katz continued, "is, instead of coming from an emotional standpoint, we want to show data from both sides and put science into the discussion."
The controversy has captured attention beyond the geoscience community.
In fact the business/financial world appears to have taken a keen interest as evidenced by various news stories.
In concert with the cadre of "oil is ubiquitous" scientists, financial types who subscribe to the abiogenic theory tend to trivialize the frequent hand-wringing over "peak oil" forecasts, believing instead there is an infinite supply of hydrocarbons worldwide, constantly migrating upward from the deep confines within the earth.
In their collective view, escalating hydrocarbon prices based on actual or anticipated limited supply are an aberration -- hence their not-uncommon disrespect for oil company valuations.
Whatever the origination of hydrocarbons, it has significant implications on where to explore and the quantity of the ultimate resource.
"If it's inorganic, there are few restrictions on where to explore," Katz said. "Just find a place where you have a conduit into the deep earth to allow hydrocarbons to migrate out.
"If it's organic in origin, you're located only in sedimentary basins," he noted, "and have to have certain depths and concentrations of organic matter present to generate hydrocarbons.
"There's some pretty big differences on how you view the world if you take the two different approaches."
Still Wanted: Geologists
If you're a geologist, relax. Extinction is not your destiny -- even if the grease actually is proven to be omnipresent.
"We'll still need geologists because there'll still be exploration, it's just that it will be in quite different places," Katz said. "The places where the inorganic will take you are almost antipodal to where the Western thought on organic origin would take you.
"The geologist is still needed because you'll have to figure out where to go, where to look and is the supply more than you would anticipate."
The origin of the differing opinions scheduled for presentation is of interest in itself.
Katz noted that one of the Russians invited to speak has more of a Western view, i.e., he's in the organic camp. Conversely, some of the westerners have requested to address the inorganic side of the issue.