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Stromatoporoids and the oil resources of Alberta, Canada

Today’s feedback comes from J.H. of Canada who asked for help with evolutionary ideas in a book their children were reading.

In a book I was reading to my children about Alberta, Canada, it gave credit to the stromatoporoids for our oil wealth. There was a definite evolutionist agenda to the chapter, so I wondered if this was true. Their claim being:
Wikimedia commons/Wilson44691 stromatoporoid
Stromatoporoids lived in the water and grew by continually discharging a hard calcium based substance which formed huge reefs in the Bearpaw Sea that attracted other ancient sea creatures. When the seas disappeared the reefs were buried under rock. As ‘millions more’ years passed the weight and heat of the earth turned the remains of the reef creatures into oil.
Can you offer me a young earth explanation that I can give my children?

CMI geologist Tasman Walker responds:

Hi J.H.,

First, I’ll reword the children’s section and then comment underneath.

Rewording of Children’s Section

Stromatoporoids lived in the water and grew by continually discharging a hard calcium based substance. After the first stromatoporoids were created during Creation Week, and in the time before Noah’s Flood, they multiplied greatly and helped form huge reefs that attracted other ancient sea creatures. During the terrible Flood of Noah’s day, the floodwater ripped up the landscape, rocks, trees and vegetation and deposited these in a large area of water (that some people call the Bearpaw Sea, but it wasn’t a real sea like we have today). The Flood also ripped up the pre-Flood reefs and deposited them in the sea too, but at a different time and a different level. As the Flood continued it deposited more sediment on top. The floodwaters eventually peaked and went down. The dry land that now forms the continent that we call Canada was exposed. In a short time (e.g. weeks, or years, or decades) the vegetation in the rocks under the earth ‘decayed’ and produced oil. This moved through the sediment (which had turned into rock, but it was still porous) and it was trapped in the limestone.


In short, the stromatoporoids are not the source of the oil, as will be explained later. The book is correct that stromatoporoids are aquatic reef building creatures. There is information readily available on the web about them, explaining that their fossils are found in Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks, but they are especially abundant in Silurian and Devonian rocks. (See image of geologic column to the right.)

The geological column is a general order of Noah’s Flood, but with exceptions. Most of the column was formed as the floodwaters were rising on the earth. The ‘dates’ of millions of years shown on the left side are not correct, but retained to allow conversion between the column and real-time Biblical history.

Also, on the web there are articles that describe the geological history of Alberta, Canada, from the perspective of oil resources. I found a helpful one on the site for Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program entitled “Geologic History”.1

Its first paragraph describes how oil formed in the Paleozoic rocks, which are the sorts of rocks that contain stromatoporoids. There is much good information in it but, as you would expect, it is presented from a long-age evolutionary perspective. This you need to reinterpret (see image of geologic column right). I’ll reproduce it here.

The landscape of northern Alberta and the underlying mineral formations are the result of millions of years of geologic events. The periodic inundation and retreat of ocean waters over present-day Alberta has been one of the most influential processes on Alberta’s geology. At the beginning of the Paleozoic Era (about 600 million years ago), the deposition and decay of the remains of the Trilobites, Earth’s first skeletal animals, led to the formation of immense layers of limestone over the Canadian Shield (Fitzgerald 1978). Ocean waters again flooded present-day Alberta during the late Devonian period (which ended about 360 million years ago), resulting in the expansive growth of coral reefs across the province. These structures acted as sponges to absorb and trap oil created by decayed plant and animal remains. It was during this time that many of Alberta's oil reservoirs were created.

Notice that the article speaks of “the periodic inundation and retreat of ocean waters”. This is a description of what happened during Noah’s Flood. They wrongly say it took millions of years. Rather it happened quickly—all in less than a year.

Just reinterpret the words “Paleozoic Era (about 600 million years ago)” as early Flood —probably as the floodwaters had already risen much on the earth but a little while before they reached their peak. Paleozoic simply means early rocks with characteristic sorts of fossils in them.

Actually the first part of the Flood involved floodwaters, in different areas of the earth, advancing and retreating. All the time they were creeping upwards. It is a little bit like what happens on the beach as the tide comes in. The waves move in and out as the general sea level slowly rises.

The above article describes this, mentioning several times that the ocean covered the land and several times that the land emerged. The article also speaks of “the periodic inundation and retreat of ocean waters”.

In about the middle of the article it says, “About 85 million years ago, global sea levels rose significantly …”. This is the last part of the flooding stage of the global Flood when, somewhere around 150 days after the beginning, the waters reached their peak and the whole continent was covered. After this, the Flood went down and the water receded.

Notice that the article does not say the stromatoporoids produced the oil. It says, “These [reef] structures acted as sponges to absorb and trap oil created by decayed plant and animal remains.” In other words, the oil came from plant and animal remains, and it then migrated through the rocks into the reef. Mostly the oil would have come from plants. The stromatoporoids were just some of the creatures found in the ‘reefs’.

Wikimedia commons/TUBS (CC BY-SA 2.5) alberta-canada
Alberta, Canada.

Although the article describes these limestone deposits as “reefs” they would not be the sort of reefs that grow in place in the ocean as we know today. They would simply be the accumulation of reef debris that was washed into place in the early phases of the Flood.

The stromatoporoids are an interesting creature. They were originally created during Creation Week and thus show amazing evidence of design, which could be explored with your children. People who believe in long ages imagine that these creatures built the reefs over millions of years and produced the limestone. They sometimes call them ‘limestone factories’. However, in a Flood scenario the large quantity of limestone would have been produced by other processes, such as chemical means, and the stromatoporoids are just some of the animals that were caught up in the Flood as it destroyed the pre-Flood world.

When we speak of ‘decaying’ vegetation we are not suggesting it would happen the way we see vegetation decaying today. Recall that the vegetation would have been buried in the sediment. It had been ripped up by the Flood, and it would have been sorted by the water into different components such as leaves and twigs, bark, branches, and trunks, and deposited in different places. The vegetation was usually deposited in layers (coal seams) interspersed with other layers of sediment and volcanic ash. Due to the effects of heat, water and pressure, chemical reactions would take place in the vegetation. The fluids such as sap and water would be driven off, forming gas and oil, and move out of the ‘source rock’. The remaining vegetation material would turn black and become coal. Such changes can occur quite quickly, in weeks and months. These reactions would have continued in the 4,500 years in the period after the Flood. Even today, when oil reservoirs are emptied, the oil can be replenished over periods of years and decades because the chemical reactions are still happening.

This provides a picture of how Noah’s Flood makes sense of what happened in the Alberta area to create the huge oil reserves in that province.

All the best,

Tas Walker
Scientist, writer, speaker

Published: 13 February 2016

References and notes

  1. Geologic History, Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program, http://www.ramp-alberta.org/river/geography/geological+prehistory/paleozoic.aspx, 22 January 2016. Return to text

Helpful Resources

Living Fossils book
by Dr Carl Werner
US $37.00
Hard cover
Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $16.00
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