What natural purpose does oil/petrolium in the ground serve for Earth?

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RoseHip's picture
RoseHip
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What natural purpose does oil/petrolium in the ground serve for Earth?

I have heard many discussions about the potential harm we are inflicting upon the enviroment from burning fossil fuels. What I have not heard are discussions about the Earth coping without this liquid? I am looking to find out how removing oil from the ground effects the ecosystem. What natural purpose does oil underground serve? All substances in nature seem to play a role that pervades all other natural systems for balance. As abundant as oil is it would seem to me that removing it would disturb the natural order of life. How severe is that disturbance going to be and how will it manifest itself into reality?

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RNcarl
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Carbon sink?elt

Well,

 

I think it's purpose is to hold CO2 that otherwise would be in the atmosphere causing greater warming like what we are seeing now as we burn the stuff releasing CO2.

I dunno just a swag on my part

ao's picture
ao
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Darn good question. 

Darn good question.  EVERYTHING in nature has a place and a purpose. 

Could be to allow man to put enough carbon in the atmosphere to create global warming to heat up the planet enough so that when a massive celestial body hits, we won't all freeze to death from the impact winter. 

<ducking from the global warming crowd ... not that there's anything wrong with that perspective ... just trying to add some levity here>

 

 

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Doug
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Why must it have a use?

I'm with RNcarl if there must be a use, but I don't know why there must be one.  There's lots of stuff around that has no use but to take up space.  F'rinstance rocks.  Unless you postulate that the natural purpose for granite is so we can make tombstones, I can't think of any other use it has.  Well, maybe to give rock climbers something to do.

How 'bout oil being used as fuel for Dante's inferno?  What else would be burning all over Hades?  It's conveniently located underground.

It's late and I gotta get up early and go to a pruning and thinning workshop.  G'night.

Doug

 

RoseHip's picture
RoseHip
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Ao my own levity is...

Oil is the modern day forbidden fruit and humanity is stuck in some kind of cosmic twisted ground hogs day event on a time scale not within our grasp. Maybe we should be using our time wisely learning piano giving the other onlooking alien species the opinion that we picked it up overnight. Now if only we could sack Andie MacDowell making it all worth the trouble. Or maybe we'll just come up with a really creative way to committ mass ecological suicide. Either way what an adventure, sure is fun!

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ao
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Doug wrote: I'm with RNcarl
Doug wrote:

I'm with RNcarl if there must be a use, but I don't know why there must be one.  There's lots of stuff around that has no use but to take up space.  F'rinstance rocks.  Unless you postulate that the natural purpose for granite is so we can make tombstones, I can't think of any other use it has.  Well, maybe to give rock climbers something to do.

How 'bout oil being used as fuel for Dante's inferno?  What else would be burning all over Hades?  It's conveniently located underground.

It's late and I gotta get up early and go to a pruning and thinning workshop.  G'night.

Doug

 

Maybe to delight the eye of man.  A flat featureless earth would be pretty boring.  Maybe a storage depot for minerals that erode in a slow controlled fashion and feed into water and provide nutrients in both glacial and alluvial soils for plants to grow. 

In terms of utilitarian uses of rocks for man, the list is almost endless. 

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pjvalvo
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Empty Oil Wells

As far as I know, oil is not a mandatory component in any ecosystem on Earth's surface.

Oil is a result of dead plants and animals becoming trapped under layers of sedimentary rock. This adds the prerequisite heat and pressure for oil to form. One could conclude that oil should naturally be contained under layers of rock and is not welcome or needed on the surface.

I think it's wonderful that we have been able to harness this trapped energy and put it to use (of course this has come at a great cost in CO2 and other negatives).

However, I often wonder about the affect of creating huge empty caverns where the oil once was. Are we destablizing huge regions on the surface? Is all this oil heavy enough to affect the plates?

Any geologists out there?

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Stan Robertson
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No caverns
ilphae wrote:

However, I often wonder about the affect of creating huge empty caverns where the oil once was. Are we destablizing huge regions on the surface? Is all this oil heavy enough to affect the plates?

Any geologists out there?

Oil does not occupy caverns, it is found in the pore spaces between the grains of sandstones and small natural fractures that occur in other formations such as carbonates and shales; all sedimentary rocks. The volumes of oil extracted from even very productive formations reduce the formation weights by only about 5%, and that over areas generally too small to be tectonically significant.

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John Lemieux
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Some Visuals of Canada's Tar Sands

How severe is the disturbance caused by Tar sands excavation and development the boreal forest of Northern Alberta? Well, this unconventional fossil fuel development is being called the most destructive on the planet.

One way to process the bitumen that is close to the surface is to remove the boreal forest and to strip the surface of the earth that contains the tarry sand. And in addition to the scars of gigantic open pit mines, huge amounts of fresh water (heated with natural gas) are required for this industry as well. The contaminated waste water is a concern as it is mostly discharged into tailing ponds that can eventually leak.

I live in Southern Alberta and so I have never seen what is happening up in the Tar Sands. But apparently this mess is so huge that it can be seen from space.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2010/sep/07/tarnished-earth-oil-sands

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rjs
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nothing has a purpose...

no offense, but nothing has a purpose...it's just the way it is..."purpose" is something that homo sapiens deigns, not something inherent in anything in the universe...

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Poet
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There Is No "Natural Purpose"

There's no "natural purpose" just like there's no real purpose why some areas are sandy and other areas are loamy. Things just naturally "fall into place".

From a human standpoint, being able to tap into all this raw and cheap energy that we didn't have to spend time laying down and growing (as we would with vegetable oil) is a great boon - for a while, before a long  tumbling collapse rather than an extremely long managed glide descent.

However, from an ecological standpoint, remaining buried is the better place to be. Most ecosystems (and the animals and plants therein) haven't developed with oil and tar seeps, which tend to be small and localized.

From the biosphere point of view, however, having so much carbon sequestered helps allow for cooler climates. Over hundred sof millions of years into the future, as the sun slowly expands in size, it will mean the Earth may remain habitable for just a little longer. Hopefully our far future descendants escape and move out further into the galaxy before it is too late.

Poet

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ao
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And the earth is flat ...

And the earth is flat ... until we find out the earth is round.

Let's sequester all the carbon in the atmosphere ... oops, the plants are starving.

It must be wonderful understanding all the mysteries of creation.

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