Two geologists from the Geological Survey of Norway will drill into 2 billion year-old rocks in Russia to seek to understand the interaction between geological processes that created the modern-day Earth.

Two geologists from the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU), Victor Melezhik and Aivo Lepland, will drill into 2.5 billion to 2 billion year-old rocks in Russia to seek to understand the interaction between geological processes that created the modern-day Earth.

“This is a geological dream coming true,” says Melezhik. For many years, this Norwegian-Russian geologist has been seeking a chance to study the depths of the Russian Precambrian layer. Now he’s getting started, along with his colleague, Aivo Lepland.

Geological Riddles

The scientists are getting ready to tackle old geological riddles on the Kola Peninsula and the banks of Lake Onega in Karelia. Sediments and lavas dating from 2.5 billion to 2 billion years ago conceal valuable information, first and foremost about the oxygen content in the atmosphere, which increased at that time.
“We want to learn more about the fundamental processes behind the increase in oxygen,” Melezhik explains. “How long did it take and how did the various events interact and influence one another?”

”What really happened when the world got a more oxygen-rich atmosphere about 2.3 billion years ago? Was it because oxygen-producing life forms expanded? Or did geological evolution cause the Earth’s surface to become gradually more oxic? That could have led to the production of oxygen exceeding its uptake, resulting in the excess oxygen accumulating in the atmosphere,” Lepland suggests.

Oxygen and Oil

The increase of oxygen in the atmosphere marked the very beginning of the modern Earth, as it functions today. The rocks from the birth of the modern Earth have isotopic and chemical signatures that contain proof of dramatic events like the break-up of continents, volcanism and repeated global ice ages.

“Increased biological production in the oceans led to deposition of sediments rich in plant remains. The first big oil reservoirs were also formed then. The asphalt-like oil that became fossilized long ago clearly shows that oil formed early in Earth history. Knowledge of the processes that formed this ancient oil may in turn point the way towards new plays and exploration techniques,” the geologists say.

Drilling Research

The drilling in the Fennoscandian Arctic Russia - Drilling Early Earth Project (FAR-DEEP) will take place from June to November this year. Fifteen holes from approximately 330 feet to 1,640 feet deep will be drilled at Pechenga and Imandra on the Kola Peninsula and in Karelia, farther south.

The actual research will begin when Victor Melezhik and Aivo Lepland are back in Norway with more than 13,000 feet of drill cores toward the end of the year. Scientists from as many as 15 countries then will come to Trondheim to sample the cores. Universities around the world already have promised funding for this research, which will last five years.

”At the moment, only the recently started Centre for Geobiology at the University of Bergen has joined the project, but we want cooperation and contact with both the petroleum industry and other research institutions in Norway,” says Lepland.

“We’ll also be building up a good, readily available archive of the material and the results so that everyone will be able to study the core samples, which we expect will be the best rock archive from the time when our oxygen-rich Earth evolved,” the geologists say.