The Deep Energy (DE) Community has received another two years of Deep Carbon Observatory funding, beginning in July 2015. The award from the Sloan Foundation is intended to promote deep carbon science through seeding scientific networks, improving instrumentation and infrastructure, and engaging both the scientific community at large and the general public. The proposal, headed by DE chair Isabelle Daniel (University of Lyon, France) and co-chair Ed Young (University of California Los Angeles, USA), outlines how the community will quantify the environmental conditions and processes—from the molecular to the global scale—that control the origins, forms, quantities, and movements of reduced compounds derived from deep carbon through geologic time, and thus contribute to meeting the decadal goals of DCO.
This project will address the difference between abiotic versus biotic carbon formation, define the nature of the biotic to abiotic transition in the crust, and assess the role of hydrogen-generating reactions such as serpentinization in fueling the deep biosphere. It will also determine the reaction mechanisms and rates that control the formation and reaction of hydrogen and organic compounds, and explore the global distribution, budget, mobility, and fluxes of abiotic hydrocarbons. These efforts will benefit significantly from recent advances in instrumentation supported by DCO.
The proposed work will bring together 19 project investigators and their research teams in 8 countries to leverage state-of-the-art sampling and analytical methods to characterize unique sample suites from representative geologic settings. These approaches will allow for chemical and isotopic “finger-printing” of the abiotic or biotic origin of carbon-based compounds. To complement this work, DE Community members will use experimental and theoretical methods to probe the macroscopic to molecular-level consequences of processes controlling the interaction of carbon-bearing fluids with candidate deep-Earth relevant mineral substrates at high temperatures and pressures.
The scope of work also includes an expanded global network with 10 new geologically representative field sites, definitive isotopologue criteria that lead to enhanced discrimination between abiotic and biotic carbon compounds, global databases of noble gas and hydrocarbon inventories, and a model of molecular hydrogen production from the seafloor. DE research, including outputs from field studies, laboratory experiments, and sophisticated computational modeling, will ultimately integrate into data-driven geographical and geodynamic models. The proposal also includes a number of cross-Community initiatives, making several connections with researchers in DCO’s Deep Life, Extreme Physics and Chemistry, and Reservoirs and Fluxes Communities.