The abiotic oil formation theory states that crude oil is the result of naturally occurring and possibly ongoing geological processes. This theory was developed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, as the Union needed to be self sufficient in terms of producing its own energy. The science behind the theory is sound and is based on experimental evidence in both the laboratory and in the field. This theory has helped to identify and therefore develop large numbers of gas and oil deposits. Examples of such fields are the South Khylchuyu field and the controversial Sakhalin II field.
In its simplest form, the theory is that carbon present in the magma beneath the crust reacts with hydrogen to form methane as well as a raft of other mainly alkane hydrocarbons. The reactions are more complicated than this, with several intermediate stages. Particular mineral rocks such as granite and other silicon based rocks act as catalysts, which speed up the reaction without actually becoming involved or consumed in the process.
Experiments have shown that under extreme conditions of heat and pressure it is possible to convert iron oxide, calcium carbonate and water into methane, with hydrocarbons containing up to 10 carbon atoms being produced by Russian scientists last century and confirmed in recent US experiments. The absence of large quantities of free gaseous oxygen in the magma prevents the hydrocarbons from burning and therefore forming the lower energy state molecule carbon dioxide. The conditions present in the Earth’s mantle would easily be sufficient for these small hydrocarbon chains to polymerise into the longer chain molecules found in crude oil.