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Abiogenic Hydrocarbon Production at Lost City Hydrothermal Field

Science  01 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5863, pp. 604-607
DOI: 10.1126/science.1151194

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Abstract

Low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons in natural hydrothermal fluids have been attributed to abiogenic production by Fischer-Tropsch type (FTT) reactions, although clear evidence for such a process has been elusive. Here, we present concentration, and stable and radiocarbon isotope, data from hydrocarbons dissolved in hydrogen-rich fluids venting at the ultramafic-hosted Lost City Hydrothermal Field. A distinct “inverse” trend in the stable carbon and hydrogen isotopic composition of C1 to C4 hydrocarbons is compatible with FTT genesis. Radiocarbon evidence rules out seawater bicarbonate as the carbon source for FTT reactions, suggesting that a mantle-derived inorganic carbon source is leached from the host rocks. Our findings illustrate that the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in nature may occur in the presence of ultramafic rocks, water, and moderate amounts of heat.

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