Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 878–887 | Cite as

Serpentinization, abiogenic organic compounds, and deep life

  • XianBin WangEmail author
  • ZiYuan Ouyang
  • ShengGuang Zhuo
  • MingFeng Zhang
  • GuoDong Zheng
  • YongLi Wang
Progress Special Topic: Frontiers of Geobiology


The hydrocarbons and other organic compounds generated through abiogenic or inorganic processes are closely related to two science subjects, i.e., energy resources and life’s origin and evolution. “The earth’s primordial abiogenic hydrocarbon theory” and “the serpentinization of abiogenic hydrocarbon theory” are the two mainstream theories in the field of related studies. Serpentinization generally occurs in slow expanding mid-ocean ridges and continental ophiolites tectonic environment, etc. The abiogenic hydrocarbons and other organic compounds formed through the serpentinization of ultramafic rocks provide energy and raw materials to support chemosynthetic microbial communities, which probably was the most important hydration reaction for the origin and early evolution of life. The superposition of biological and abiological processes creates big challenge to the identification of the abiogenic organic materials in serpentinite-hosted ecosystem. Whether abiotic (inorganic) process can form oil and gas resource is a difficult question that has been explored continuously by scientific community for more than a century but has not yet been solved. However, some important progress has been made. The prospecting practice of abiogenic hydrocarbons in commercial gases from the Songliao Basin, China, provides an important example for exploring abiogenic natural gas resources.


ultramafic rocks serpentinization abiogenic origin organic compound origin of life 


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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • XianBin Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • ZiYuan Ouyang
    • 2
  • ShengGuang Zhuo
    • 3
  • MingFeng Zhang
    • 1
  • GuoDong Zheng
    • 1
  • YongLi Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Lanzhou Center for Oil and Gas Resources, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.National Astronomical ObservatoriesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Northeastern University at QinhuangdaoQinhuangdaoChina

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