The search for hitherto undiscovered and totally hidden hydrocarbon reserves has attracted a bizarre range of patented techniques over the years. They range from using thermal images of the sea surface to pinpoint stationary cold spots that may mark deep water upwellings driven by rising natural gas bubbles, through helicopter borne hydrocarbon sniffers to fine-resolution aeromagnetic surveys to detect anomalies due to magnetite formed by bacteria that metabolise oil and reduce hematite to magnetite. Most have a rational scientific basis, but there are a few that defy reason. Most explorationists have been button-holed by dowsers, but the latest venture seems to have convinced Her Majesty’s Government, to the extent that the Department of Trade and Industry has granted three licences to explore parts of rural England, generally known for their fox-hunting aficionados.
A company, Technology Investment and Exploration Limited of Guernsey, has invented a device that they call a “microlepton generator”, supposedly based on the Nobel-winning work of Martin Perl of Stanford University, who discovered the subatomic tau lepton in the early 1990s ( http://physicsweb.org/article/news/6/7/1 ). They claim that their beam of microleptons, highlights areas underlain by hydrocarbon deposits, when used to illuminate satellite images. They contend that oil generates vast amounts of microleptons that produce subtle effects on such images, but they can only be detected by microlepton beams TIEL intends to deploy a hand-held microlepton detector from an aircraft overflying areas that they claim have given “tell-tale” signatures using their instrument. In this respect, they are one up on particle physicists, who have so-far failed to detect microleptons under laboratory conditions. The smallest known lepton is the electron that is 1000 times more massive than the microleptons claimed by TIEL at the base of their leading-edge technology. Despite that, it is hardly likely to have escaped discovery by the best-financed branch of science.
Robin Marshall, a particle physicist at Manchester University, discovered that microlepton technology is based on a paper published by a Russian physicist called Anatoly Okhatrin in the journal Doklady in 1989. “He was clearly either mad, drunk or deluded,” says Marshall. “He spun a cone of lead weighing several kilograms in front of a pin-hole camera and claimed to have photographed a ‘glow’ surrounding the cone that was due to microleptons.” Enough said? No. One of TIELs targets is in Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, well-known to geologists for not being above an oil-prone basin. Indeed the area is underlain by Neoproterozoic volcanic rocks that bolster the Midland craton of central England, which thwarted extensional basin formation from the Silurian to modern times. Still, an onshore exploration licence is a handy item for a company’s CV.
TIEL is not the only outfit making these claims. Another, Alkor International, seems to have a Russian link, and its website (http://www.alkorinternational.com/ ) gives details of the method it uses; “special” photographic processes, computers and software, and is also claimed to locate water resources and gold deposits!