The Oil Seepage Thread

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Because the comment thread to this post, “New research confirms CO2 increase is greening Earth,” has become quite long and somewhat off the original topic, yet still interesting and worth continuing, I have decided to create a specific post where comments relating to these two questions, asked by Wayne DeVette, can continue:

  • How much does Volcanic activity contribute to particulate & “greenhouse gas” emission’s on the Planet ? (I am under the impression contributions by human-activity are dwarfed by natural-events.)
  • What is the natural (non human-activity related) background seepage rate of crude-oil, into the Worlds oceans, across the Planet?

I thought these were great questions, and ask Wayne and others to do some digging. Gary and Wayne did, and what they found is worth reading.

Please place future comments on this topic here.


  • Wayne


    Just to be clear & get this off on the correct path:

    -My questions are legit & I’m open to persuasion as to the facts.
    -I’m interested in the relative contributions of natural sources Vs. man-controllable sources of “carbon” and particulate.
    -I’m concerned the whole environmental-movement is a scam, and that certain areas of science have been co-opted for a political-agenda, that does not include the best-interests of the Planet or the human-beings who occupy it. (or the cause of science in the pursuit of knowledge.)

    -If we don’t have a good grip on what is actually going on, (“climate”) how could we possibly assign “responsibility” to the extent we appear to be doing?

    (Not interested in ExxonMobil-bashing, Kock-brothers hating, Walmart, Haliburton-conspiracies, etc. etc. etc.)

  • Wayne

    Cotour opined in the initial-thread:

    “Until you collect “seepage” and burn it and introduce into the atmosphere, its just seepage.”

    Maybe want to re-think/re-phrase that? Large fractions of raw crude-oil evaporate into the atmosphere or dissolve into sea-water, whether “seeped naturally” or “spilled.”

  • Edward

    Wayne wrote: “I’m concerned the whole environmental-movement is a scam”

    It did not start out that way. John Muir honestly wanted to preserve some of America’s most beautiful regions for the enjoyment of our progeny. Patrick Moore honestly believed that whaling was bad, and that other environmental factors are worth preserving.

    However, our National Park system went from seven parks, when I was young, to some uncountable number — because it keeps changing. You can hardly swing a dead cat without hitting a National Park, these days.

    Greenpeace changed, too, which is why Moore left.

    The environmental movement seems to have been hijacked by socialists, communists, and other totalitarians in order to rationalize removing Americans’ liberties.

    There are serious and legitimate concerns, these days, such as oil spills. When nature seeps oil into the sea, even at 20 Tons a day, there are natural methods to deal with it, but when a human supertanker hits a rock, 11 million gallons of oil overwhelmed nature’s methods.

    However, the EPA continues to tighten restrictions on chemicals and particles in the air, to the point that the Eucalyptus trees alone, in my region of the country, put out more pollutants than the EPA allows. We will never meet these excessively restrictive EPA restrictions.

    Putting unrealistic and unachievable restrictions on environmental factors sounds much like some sort of scam, to me.

  • Wayne

    Good points. (especially the explosion of federally managed lands, which never morph into multi-use operation’s.)

    I’m in Western Michigan– we are violating EPA ozone regulations; we get drift from Wisconsin & a Refinery in Indiana, over Lake Michigan. EPA wants our industry to go even lower on ozone or face sanctions (fines). Massive Court battles since the late 1990’s, and getting worse.

    Fully grant that high-volume oil-spills in small areas are not ideal.
    Totally believe we cannot regulate Volcanic activity and I am curious as to how an active volcano would be treated as a “point-source” of “pollution.”

    I’m not trying to push a pre-conceived conclusion re; natural oil seepage & Volcanic activity. Just want everything in perspective to every other thing.
    Am aware of concepts of carbon-loading and the like, & have a minor in environmental studies (an Adventure that was, to be sure!) but I’m not an “earth-studies” guy, but I want the “simple stuff” answered first.
    -Before we go straight to Carbon-Taxes & bankrupting the Coal Industry or suing ExxonMobil for “Climate Denial Crimes Against Humanity,” let’s be rational about the whole thing, and for me that includes getting a grip on reality, whether it fits my notions or not.

  • Wayne

    Ref: “Oil in the Sea”
    “Average, Annual Releases (1990-1999) of Petroleum by Source (in thousands of tonnes) ”
    >Table 3-2, from page 69 of this report.

    [interestingly, raw crude oil, depending on specific-gravity “about 7 barrels per tonne” which equates to “294 gallons per tonne.”]

    –I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this data, but the relative-amounts in relation to one another, ARE enlightening.

  • Edward

    As Robert noted in the previous thread, those are some wide ranges between the minimum and maximum. It can be really hard to get best guesses, but some or most of some of the guesses may be based upon good measurements or reasonable estimates. The 2010 gulf spill was likely reasonably estimated.

    I agree about the enlightening nature of the relative amounts. It suggests that about as much oil has been leaked by nature than has been pumped or consumed by humans, during that decade.

    If nature has been leaking that much for millions of years, then how is it that we are concerned about running out? Nature clearly has leaked tens of thousands of times (or hundreds of thousands, or millions, depending upon how long it has been seeping out of the ground) more than we have ever pumped out of the ground.

    My head is beginning to hurt just thinking about questioning where nature is getting all this oil that it is leaking, much less pondering other oil-supply questions. I think I will take two aspirin and call back in the morning.

    Oh, wait! A new Evening Pause was just posted.

  • Wayne

    Not easily finding direct seepage references at the Energy Information Administration, but they have a huge amount of data on all things oil. Will explore deeper..

    Edward: Ref the amount of oil on Earth. There are estimates of the “total” amount but the key stats are “proven reserves,” & “economically recoverable.” As the price rises, we figure out how to find more. I think the record is pretty good with that the last 125 years.
    From what little I understand–my wife was an actual geologist–formation of “crude-oil” is not a completely well understood process, geologically. It’s more complex than just organic matter & dead dinosaur’s getting crushed. (There are a lot of “idealized diagrams” in Geology & reality is more complex, but they do a good job! They have Models also…)
    -We certainly have a lot of oil & it’s very versatile substance. We of course, should utilize it in the most safe, efficient, & productive ways we can devise.

    Volcano’s: anyone from Hawaii? Have not yet delved into volcanic-activity & particulate, & I know you folks have a volcano & maybe a power-plant or 2? (but don’t want the giant Telescope.)

  • Wow, another government agency I never new existed.

    The information here looks worthwhile to delve into, but always remind yourself that as a government agency, it has political agendas that might warp that information. Remain skeptical.

  • Jwing

    I had to leave the environmental field after working for the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources as an Environmental Engineer II with a master of science in “Civil” Environmental Engineering.

    Because I realized that a Ronald Reagan conservative would never advance in the emerging “green” environmental industry full of out-right nutty, vindictive leftists. It was the best decision I’ve made, other than marrying my wife of 26 years.

    I realized global warming was a fraud back in graduate school in the early 90’s.

    So, let’s see…3/4 of the earth is covered by oceans and we really know very little comparatively about them. Under ocean volcanoes formed the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean bottom spewing untold millions of tons of gasses. That’s a lot of toxic NOXs and SOXs. Recently, a new island popped up out of the sea jut south of Iceland, but let’s ignore nature’s contributions and only focus on man’s meager releases.

    Ignore all of that…forget that it makes sense and repeat the mantra: “Decrease your carbon footprint.”

  • pzatchok

    There are over 600 known oil seeps in the gulf of Mexico. Not counting the huge methane pockets that happen on both sides of Florida.

    The gulf environment cleans itself up. And continues to do so.

    The human work and effort that went into cleaning it was small, minuscule, in comparison. Mostly done just for Government money, a paycheck and a general feeling of goodwill.

    Off topic.
    I believe in reducing my environmental impact. Because its economically advantages to me to just use less.
    Going off grid doesn’t reduce my impact it just diverts it. Using an electric car is the same.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “as a government agency, it has political agendas that might warp that information. Remain skeptical.”

    No! Say it ain’t so, Joe — er — Robert. NOAA would never, ever tamper with temperature data without telling us and explaining why. Government Good, Big-oil Bad.

    Wayne wrote: “formation of ‘crude-oil’ is not a completely well understood process, geologically.”

    That is believable. Apparently the Earth is able to produce oil at about the same rate as it seeps, otherwise the seeps would have drained it all millions (billions?) of years ago. This also corresponds well with the rate we consume and lose (waste) it. Table 3-2 of the report you linked, Wayne, suggests that we lose about as much as we consume, so we have a lot of room for improvement in basic efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Joe

    Just how many dinosaurs were there any way, we should have extinguished that supply by now, great threads, some people are just married to communist ideas.

  • Steve Earle

    There is a lot of power and money (doesn’t it always come back to that…?) involved with the “Limits” crowd that is always trying to scare people with doomsday predictions.

    As noted by Edward, Joe and others above, there seems to be a lot of questions involving the worlds oil supply and not too many answers.

    I remember reading an article about some Russian Scientists that believed they had proven that oil was not a finite resource but was constantly being produced deep in the Earth.

    IIRC, they claimed that given time the Earth would re-fill underground oil chambers that had already been pumped dry.

  • Wayne

    Har very concise!– “Not that many,” “exactly,” “aren’t they!,” and “amazingly, sadly…yes they are.”

    We’ve barely scratched the surface-literally- as far as geologic exploration of the whole Planet. Love Space but I’d really like to know if the center of the earth is actually iron!
    -If we can travel to the Moon… we should be able to explore down into the Earth further than we do right now.

    pzatchok; agree!

    -Still looking into the whole seepage & Volcano ‘thang

    Jellyfish is cool! 2 miles deep—amazing!

  • pzatchok

    I have an idea that petroleum is actually being produced today. By our environment.

    Not underground but on its surface. In plant life mostly. Ocean life mostly.

    On the land plant life is mostly recycled right back into plant life eventually. Basically the top ten feet or so of soil is constantly being converted into growing things that die and in turn turn back into growing things.

    But in the ocean the top 50 feet of the water grows more biomass than everything on land. When that biomass dies were does it go? Down. Its a constant rain of biomass down there. All piling up into deeper and deeper layers. Basically sequestering all that carbon and eventually turning it into oil.

    It will either go deeper and eventually get turned into magma with a chance of coming out of a volcano or we suck it out and burn it in a more useful way.

    Now the Earth firsters want us to interrupt that great cycle and just directly take oil from plants and burn that. But that takes extra energy and more importantly water to grow those plants.

    Just use what nature(God) has given us and pump all that stored energy out of the Earth. Obviously use it safe and wisely but use it

    I have looked and can find no evidence that a single well has ever gone dry permanently. They slowdown and eventually stop producing large amounts but when left to sit for many years they eventually all start to produce again. Even the first oil field in Pennsylvania can still produce oil.
    There is no ‘peak oil’ as they say. We are not running out.

  • Steve Earle

    I posted this on “The Thread that Will Not Die” and then I remembered Bob wanted us to post on this thread:

    Steve Earle
    May 6, 2016 at 11:51 am

    FWIW, my epiphany on the matter came when I read a story about retreating ice in Greenland exposing the remains of Viking farms and settlements.

    Farms. In Greenland. Where even now with the ground exposed it is impossible to grow any real crops.

    The archaeologists agreed that the Vikings were driven out of Greenland by cooling temps.

    That tells me (and them) that it has been both warmer and colder than now WITHIN RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY.

    I don’t think the Vikings changed the climate with the fires in their Longhouses…..

    After that, I learned about the Medieval Warming Period, The Little Ice Age, and all the other oscillations in climate that have happened in just the last few thousand years. That, plus learning of the Climategate emails, the false “Consensus” and the fake “Hockey Stick” was all I needed to become what Bob called a “Wild-eyed Skeptic” :-)

    Modern Man may indeed be contributing some small amount of delta-vee to the process, but that amount, if it exists at all, is lost in the far, far larger signals of solar, oceanic, and volcanic effects.

  • Actually, your initial comment placement was correct. What I wanted was for the first thread to stay focused on the climate debate, and move the question of oil seepage, volcanoes, etc, to a new thread.

    No matter, however.

  • Max

    It’s been interesting reading about oil seepage and sources of carbon. I would add to the list large areas of land known as tar sands that cover hundreds of miles of Canada Utah Colorado New Mexico etc.
    Also man made oil spills that we call “asphalt” covering large amounts of cities roads and parking lots not to mention 80% of households having asphalt roofs.
    In the early 80s when I was a mechanic, I would preform emissions test on cars. I could place the probe on the hot asphalt under a cardboard box and watch the readings climb past the failure range from the gases being emitted.
    It was calculated how much carbon dioxide was evaporated from the asphalt in the city, and the result was that if you took every car off the road, the air quality of the city would still fail the emission regulations that the government mandated.
    It did not help that the Pine tree’s emit a hydrocarbon Haze, like the smoky mountains, that puts a natural smog in the air. (this smog is a excellent neutralizer of ozone which damages the trees)
    These carbon sources are very small in comparison to others such as volcanoes. When the volcano in Chile was undergoing a massive irruption, it became a question on jeopardy as to how much carbon dioxide was being emitted. Was it equal to all of the emissions in the “history of mankind” per week? Per day? And the answer was per hour!
    There are on average 50 active volcanoes on earth. Although they have been known to raise the carbon dioxide level in the area slightly , the award goes to solar events for the most massive introduction of carbon. A couple of years ago there was what was described as the perfect solar storm. One coronal mass ejection over took a slower moving mass that was heading directly to earth. They created beautiful Aurora all over the earth. At the same time, carbon dioxide readings reached 400 ppm in the arctic. Billions of tons of methane and ammonia entered our atmosphere that day and was oxidized in beautiful displays of blue and green. This chemical reaction in our atmosphere is the primary source of fresh carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen (making water) and is why our ocean levels have continuously risen throughout earths history. (we live in a gravity well)
    Frozen solar gases over the dark south pole at 80,000 feet is the cause of the ozone hole over Antarctica. (polar stratospheric clouds) As the gases melt away in the returning sunlight in September, it creates enough water to add a foot of ice to the Antarctic continent. The ozone hole returns to normal in October until next year. (The original south pole base built in the 1950s, is 60 feet under the ice. The new facility there has stilts so they can raise it up on a regular basis) keep in mind because of the height of the continent and the polar vortex, very little rainfall has ever been recorded. One of the driest desert on earth.

    Where does oil come from? The secret to that is in its name. Fossil fuels have nothing in common with dinosaurs. It’s in reference to the dead carcasses of plankton from the earliest lifeforms. They ate all of the carbon dioxide in the terraforming process and replaced it with oxygen. As they died, they ended up on the bottom of the ocean as limestone “calcium carbonate”. (The average thickness of limestone is 2000 feet thick in core samples)
    Then came the first extinction event. A large object collided with the earth. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that such an object is in orbit around the earth which is missing 2 miles of its crust. The missing mass is very close to the mass of our continents! (The moon rocks brought back by Apollo missions verify that we are made of the same material) The weight of the continents pressing down on the limestone has enough heat and pressure to convert the carbon rich rock and water to oil. As continental drift passes over ancient fossil sea beds, it continuously makes more oil that volcanoes recycles the carbon into the air. Life is able to continue.
    Today’s plankton is by far the most hungry for sequestration of carbon. For every ton of plankton, 400 pounds of its mass is calcium carbonate which will fall to the ocean floor for the next cycle.

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