Author Topic: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)  (Read 15104 times)

Offline aero

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Since we know that methane and other hexanes exists on the gas giants and Titan, is it probable that there are deposits of liquid petroleum on or in Mars? If so, what if any uses could be made from them? Could they be burned with oxygen derived from water at an energy profit? Would their best use be to make plastics?

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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #1 on: 01/18/2014 05:50 am »
The Russian geologists probably would say yes. :)

But you couldn't burn it with oxygen from electrolyzed water and get energy out. You might be able to mine peroxides, though, or possibly even find a way to extract the scant free oxygen in the atmosphere (it's thermodynamically possible, but I'm not sure it's feasible).
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Offline strangequark

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #2 on: 01/18/2014 06:05 am »
Not a geologist, but I believe that long chain hydrocarbons ala petroleum require a biological progenitor. As for burning hydrocarbons with oxygen from water, no this cannot be done at an energy profit. You're reversing a hydrogen/oxygen combustion reaction, then reburning the oxygen with an inferior fuel.

Offline RonM

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #3 on: 01/18/2014 06:39 am »
I doubt there are deposits of liquid petroleum on Mars, but if there were it would be a waste to burn it.

Petroleum would be a great industrial resource for manufacturing plastics and lubricants. A must for future colonies.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #4 on: 01/18/2014 08:09 am »
A handful of Russian geologists (and some compatriots elsewhere) think that petroleum is aboiogenic.  There is no good evidence for economic accumulations forming this way.

However had Mars a widespread biosphere for some time (say between 4 and 3 Ga) there might be small accumulations.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline rockinghorse

There is some carbon monoxide in the atmosphere, but it may not be feasible to extract it. In principle as Robotbeat showed in other thread it might be thermodynamically possible to extract oxygen from atmosphere and hence probably also carbon monoxide. Mixing them would then theoretically yield net gain of energy. But I doubt that this is feasible in practice.

But I believe that synthetic fuels are probably always cheaper on Mars than fossil fuels, even if they existed (I really doubt this). It should not take much cost reduction of solar panels also here on Earth that it is cheaper to produce synthetic hydrocarbons from CO2 than to pursue more and more scarce fossil oil reserves.

Qatar Airways already produces synthetic kerosene from natural gas. And Audi already has a pilot plant operating that takes surplus renewable electricity and converts it into methane. Generating synthetic methane from concentrated carbon dioxide is about 5060 % efficient.

The good thing with renewable energy is that windmills and solar panels produces from time to time more electricity than it is needed, so it is possible to run such energy intensive low quality processes that would not make sense with regular electricity prices. And as Mars base is running mostly on solar electricity, this logic is naturally relevant also on Mars.

Offline Danderman

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #6 on: 01/18/2014 03:50 pm »
Wait, wait, wait.

Let us assume that a long, long, long time ago there was life on Mars, in the form of microbes or bacteria or fungus or whatever gooey stuff lives in water. Let's assume that areas with water became swamp like, then got covered with dust or dirt and ultimately went through similar processes as early swamps here on Earth; became peat bogs and then fossil fuels.

Can petroleum survive in the crust for billions of years? Or does it evaporate? Is short lived methane in the atmosphere of Mars merely evaporation products of buried petroleum?

Offline Andrew_W

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #7 on: 01/18/2014 07:37 pm »
Of Petroleum deposits 70% are Mesozoic in age. 20% are Cenozoic in age. 10% are Paleozoic in age. Paleozoic deposits are up to 500 million years old. My understanding is that while buried they're pretty stable, as long as they aren't too hot, heat cracks heavier hydrocarbons and this is why below a certain depth you don't get oil, only gas.
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Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #8 on: 01/18/2014 10:36 pm »
I wonder if Mars could have some other processes that earth doesn't,

for example, a layer of C02 at the poles grows and shrinks every year. I could imagine some geological process trapping a layer of ice and CO2 ice mixed in with other materials and then applying huge pressure. Any plausible process by which this would make hydrocarbons of interest?

Offline aero

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #9 on: 01/18/2014 11:06 pm »
Is it likely that coal may be available on Mars? I don't have a use for coal on Mars of the top, but if it's there someone will surely find a use for it.
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Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #10 on: 01/19/2014 01:57 am »
Of Petroleum deposits 70% are Mesozoic in age. 20% are Cenozoic in age. 10% are Paleozoic in age. Paleozoic deposits are up to 500 million years old. My understanding is that while buried they're pretty stable, as long as they aren't too hot, heat cracks heavier hydrocarbons and this is why below a certain depth you don't get oil, only gas.

The oldest petroleum (non-economic) accumulations are Paleoproterozoic, about 1.8 Ga, I think.

There are traces of petroleum in older rocks but these have been generally over cooked. peak oil window is 80-100 degrees)
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Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #11 on: 01/19/2014 01:58 am »
I wonder if Mars could have some other processes that earth doesn't,

for example, a layer of C02 at the poles grows and shrinks every year. I could imagine some geological process trapping a layer of ice and CO2 ice mixed in with other materials and then applying huge pressure. Any plausible process by which this would make hydrocarbons of interest?

It's called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, and occurs in low temperature hydrothermal systems in mafic and ultramafic rocks.  It's one possible mechanism for the supposed methane plumes on Mars
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #12 on: 01/19/2014 02:00 am »
Is it likely that coal may be available on Mars? I don't have a use for coal on Mars of the top, but if it's there someone will surely find a use for it.

Coal would be far too useful to burn, it would be great feedstock for martian chemical issues, just as it is for terrestrial ones.  That said, coal needs forests of land plants and I am quite confident Mars never had those.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline go4mars

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #13 on: 01/19/2014 03:07 am »
Dalhousie (or others), I've never heard an explanation for the origin of kerogen in meteorites.  As I understand it, the composition is similar to terrestrial type 1 kerogen?    Please correct me if I'm off.  Links are very welcome!
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Offline gbaikie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #14 on: 01/19/2014 04:19 am »
Is it likely that coal may be available on Mars? I don't have a use for coal on Mars of the top, but if it's there someone will surely find a use for it.

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Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #15 on: 01/19/2014 04:37 am »
Dalhousie (or others), I've never heard an explanation for the origin of kerogen in meteorites.  As I understand it, the composition is similar to terrestrial type 1 kerogen?    Please correct me if I'm off.  Links are very welcome!

The origin is due to sloppy use of terminology by meteoriticists! :)

Kerogen is basically a bag term for mixtures of organic chemical compounds that make up a portion of the organic matter in sedimentary rocks.  They are in normal organic solvents because of the high molecular weight up to 1000 AMUs).

There are three types:

Type I - sapropelic.  These are derived from lacustrine algae for the most part.

Type II -marine planktonic mostly). 

Type III - humic.  These  are derived from land plants.

Meteoritic kerogen is similar in the sense it is a mixture of very high MW organics that are relatively insoluble.  But they lack the biomarkers and isotopic signatures of biogenic kerogen.  IMHO the term should be avoided for organic matter in meteorites because of the obvious confusion.


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Offline sanman

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #16 on: 01/19/2014 04:54 am »
Dupont had implemented the 1,3 propanediol reaction through genetic engineering of bacteria and then open-sourced it, since it holds promise for organically generating the building blocks of certain plastic resins:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1,3-Propanediol

Offline go4mars

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #17 on: 01/21/2014 05:21 pm »
Thanks Dalhousie. 

Do you (or others) know where organic material from meteorites would trend on a Van Krevelen diagram?

Also, would meteorites rich in organic material hit a petroleum producing "oil window" and/or "gas window", similar to terrestrial kerogens if cooked to sufficient temperature?

Also still curious about the origin of the "organic material" in meteorites.
« Last Edit: 01/21/2014 05:50 pm by go4mars »
Elasmotherium; hurlyburly Doggerlandic Jentilak steeds insouciantly gallop in viridescent taiga, eluding deluginal Burckle's abyssal excavation.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #18 on: 01/21/2014 08:34 pm »
Thanks Dalhousie. 

Do you (or others) know where organic material from meteorites would trend on a Van Krevelen diagram?

Also, would meteorites rich in organic material hit a petroleum producing "oil window" and/or "gas window", similar to terrestrial kerogens if cooked to sufficient temperature?

Also still curious about the origin of the "organic material" in meteorites.

Off the top of my head the carbonaceous meteorites show a wide range of thermal effects, from very low temperatures to very high, depending on their temperature histories.  So they would plot right along the Van Krevelen trend.

I would imagine that heating the less metamorphosed carbonaceous meteorites would generate some liquid hydrocarbons, a quick scan of literature does not reveal anything though.

I don't think there is anything too mysterious about meteoritic organics, organic matter is common in the universe and their presence in carbonaceous meteorites is to be expected.

cheers

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Offline mmeijeri

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Re: Might there be petrolium resources on/in Mars (Q&A)
« Reply #19 on: 01/21/2014 09:15 pm »
The Russian geologists probably would say yes. :)

If you're talking about small hydrocarbons, including CH4, there are many more scientists who believe some of it was created abiotically through a geological process known as serpentinisation, where water reacts with minerals deep under the ocean, producing H2, CO2 and CH4. What's more, this process plays an important role in one of the main theories as to how life arose. JPL's Michael Russell has written fascinating scholarly articles on this, some of which are publicly available through Google Scholar. Google for Russell Nitschke hydrothermal and you'll find them.
« Last Edit: 01/21/2014 09:17 pm by mmeijeri »
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