Abiotic Methane Formation by Serpentinization

Magnetite, chromite, and metal-rich minerals commonly found on olivine surfaces are likely to catalyze methane formation, a finding that expands the range of environments plausible for abiotic CH4 formation on Earth and elsewhere.

Magnetite, chromite, and metal-rich minerals commonly found on olivine surfaces are likely to catalyze methane formation at lower temperatures than otherwise possible  a finding that expands the range of environments plausible for abiotic CH4 formation on Earth and elsewhere.

Understanding CH4 and H2 formation processes at low temperatures is important to research about the origin and cause of early Earth and Martian CH4 as well as for CO2 sequestration. The weathering of olivine has been suggested to account for abiotic formation of CH4 through its redox lowering and water splitting properties. Therefore, in a recent study [1], researchers conducted a series of low-temperature, long-term experiments to test the CH4 and H2 formation potential of forsteritic olivine. Available sources of organic carbon were not enough to account for the CH4 detected in the experiments. There also was a linear relationship between silica release into solution and the net CH4 accumulation, suggesting that the CH4 formed under these conditions could be a qualitative indicator of olivine dissolution. The low temperature of the system indicated the catalyzing role of the minerals found on the olivine surfaces.
 

Further Reading

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