The exploration of hydrocarbon deposits of Siberian region has an immense economic importance for contemporary Russia. In the first half of the 1900s it was habitual to hear reports about the achievements of scientists and subsoil prospectors discovering major oil and combustion gas fields. Now such news items are rare. And generally speaking, the sector comes up only in connection with the problems of business or foreign currency proceeds of the treasury. Does that mean that the study of Siberian subsoil is over? Of course not. Here is what Academician A. Kontorovich, Director of the RAS Siberian Branch Oil and Gas Institute, told a Science in Siberia correspondent.
The most important tasks of the quest are the function of the needs of productive force development in so vast a region. Efficiency and quality of specific developments are the key criteria of success. Thus, the institute took an active part in creating the concept of new oil and gas complex formation in the territory of East Siberia and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) jointly with the RF Ministry of Power Engineering, some other academic institutions and production organizations. The concept was reviewed and approved by the government. No less painstaking was the justification of still another significant state document- the Economic Strategy of Russia Until the Year 2020.
Under the order of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the institute completed the comprehensive evaluation of the potential of a major
world and Russia's richest (over 70 percent of resources) West-Siberian oil and gas basin. It processed an enormous volume of geological and geophysical information amassed in half a century. In parallel it developed a program of subsoil licensing in the territory.
Addressing specific practical tasks, the Institute is also involved in theoretical research. Nearing completion is the publication of the multi-volume Stratigraphy of Oil-and-Gas-Bearing Basins of Siberia which has no peers in world scientific literature. It sums up the perennial experience of research providing experts with a reliable clue to earthly bowels and new hydrocarbon deposits.
Speaking about the use of national riches, Dr. Kontorovich goes on, a scientist may not be confined to purely theoretical research. It is necessary to address the improvement of tax system and laws in the sphere of mineral resource exploration. Super-incomes should be withdrawn in the form of rent and, primarily, channeled into the development of economy and raising of the living standard of Siberian population.
The issues get aggravated since hydrocarbon deposits are far from limitless. According to many reputable specialists, in mid - 2000s the production of oil and gas will be on decline not just in this country but in the whole world. It is true, advocates of non-organic origin of these mineral resources stick to a different opinion. They presume that fluids are continuously fed from deep subsoil, therefore oil formation is going on continuously, and hence, the resources are practically non-depletable. But Dr. Kontorovich categorically disagrees with them. He is confident: all present-day scientific knowledge about the origins of oil and gas provides indisputable proof that humankind extracts and exploits hydrocarbons originally produced by living matter processed in sedimentary rock under high pressure and temperature. The fact that oil has biogenic organic origin is sustained by numerous data of isotope and biogeochemical analyses. Of course, that does not absolutely rule out the possibility of non-biogenic hydrocarbon synthesis. But this type of synthesis, if any, may be realized in natural environment on a very limited scale. Russian scientists proceed from a different theoretical assumption and concentrate their search on regions with powerful sedimentary rock formations. Those include both the so-called source rocks and structural or lithological traps capable of holding large volumes of hydrocarbons. Practice has conclusively proven that the strategy is right.
Well, natural oil and gas deposits continue to ebb with ever faster speed. The most economically effective, easily accessible fields are nearing depletion. Hence, the cost of this crude is sure to rise in the foreseeable future. Even now we are to look at least for its partial substitutes. What alternative power sources are available?
The flow chart of oil and gas accumulation and evolution in sedimentary basins (ace. to A. Kontorovich).
Scheme of oil and gas formation in a monotonously submerging sedimentary complex (ace. to A. Kontorovich).
Nobel Prizewinner Academician Jores Alferov believes that people will use solar radiation converted into electricity by photo cells with high output ratio. Nuclear physicists maintain that in the second half of the 21st century power engineering will be based on thermonuclear sources*. "Finally, - says Dr. Kontorovich, - science explores the problem of hydrogen power sources. All that is real and all that is the future of mankind. Scientific quest has unlimited resources**".
You just cannot avoid thinking: what if we are able to set up economically and geologically effective commercial production of non-biogenic hydrocarbons? Is such an option impossible? And then maybe we shall need the findings made by advocates of non-organic oil origin? They may also prove handy in connection with the search for hydrogen deposits - the probable basis of future power engineering. Although, Dr. Kontorovich is right of course: oil and combustion gas deposits are the products of biosphere which have undergone complex processing in the natural laboratory of the earthly bowels. Such were the theoretical premises of the geological prospecting works which have yielded excellent results in Siberia and are still underway.
Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia), 2004
Prepared by Rudolf BALANDIN
* See: V. Parafonova, "Power Plants on Deuterium", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2002; V. Muratov, "On the Brink of Thermonuclear Era", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003. - Ed.
** See: P. Bezrukikh, "Prospects of Renewable Energetics", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2003; M. Rudis, "Oxygen-Hydrogen Engines for Space Probes", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2003. - Ed.
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