The evolution of multicomponent systems at high pressures: VI. The thermodynamic stability of the hydrogen-carbon system: The genesis of hydrocarbons and the origin of petroleum
The spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons that comprise natural petroleum have been analyzed by chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized. For the theoretical analysis of this phenomenon, a general, first-principles equation of state has been developed by extending scaled particle theory and by using the technique of the factored partition function of the simplified perturbed hard-chain theory. The chemical potentials and the respective thermodynamic Affinity have been calculated for typical components of the H-C system over a range of pressures between 1 and 100 kbar (1 kbar = 100 MPa) and at temperatures consistent with those of the depths of the Earth at such pressures. The theoretical analyses establish that the normal alkanes, the homologous hydrocarbon group of lowest chemical potential, evolve only at pressures greater than ≈30 kbar, excepting only the lightest, methane. The pressure of 30 kbar corresponds to depths of ≈100 km. For experimental verification of the predictions of the theoretical analysis, a special high-pressure apparatus has been designed that permits investigations at pressures to 50 kbar and temperatures to 1,500°C and also allows rapid cooling while maintaining high pressures. The high-pressure genesis of petroleum hydrocarbons has been demonstrated using only the reagents solid iron oxide, FeO, and marble, CaCO3, 99.9% pure and wet with triple-distilled water.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- Pub Date:
- August 2002
- Chemistry / Physics;
- Physics - Chemical Physics
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 2002, 99/17, 10976-10981