Oil Window [excerpt from Run the Bead] – Dustin Cole
November 4, 2022
The gas pedal was pressed by the shoe (foot covering), turning a pivot that pulled the throttle cable, which connected the gas pedal to the carburetor, and this opened the throttle plates.
Two hundred and fifty million years ago in the Early Triassic, the majestic Rockies not yet born, in a basin on the northwestern edge of the supercontinent Pangea, on the shore of the Panthalassan superocean, sediments began to accumulate, this accumulation thickest in the basin, a large coastal embayment. Other ditchlike systems formed in the general vicinity, other grabens on the eastern side of what would become the Rockies.
Graben was German for ditch. A ditch was a trough dug in the ground—crude water management technology used in farming and road construction, simple channels that moved water or allowed it to move. Grabens, in geological terms, occurred naturally, before there were people and their machines to dig them. The Germans were a people from Germany with a language they called Deutsch and were famously adept with machines and chemicals.
Note that the western margin of Pangea was situated thirty degrees clockwise from the prime meridian during the Early Triassic, in the middle of what would become the Pacific Ocean. Windy semiarid zones with ephemeral rivers (rivers that dry up and shift, like the spirit of time itself) transported and deposited sediment into the northwestern Pangean graben system described above. Pangea’s vast territory occupied most atmospheric circulation zones on Earth, so the grabens were subject to northeasterly winds in summer and onshore storms in winter. Aeolian traction and suspension transport (the dust blowing) led to build-ups of silts and fine-grained sands on the slopes and shelves of the grabens, like a wind hand dragging the old sands to declinations in the landscape and patting them down. During the heyday of oil and gas production this area would become known as the Montney Formation.
The long past emergence of the Montney Shale Play took advantage of innovations in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling. In an issue of Shale Daily, it states that Montney was “one of North America’s premier natural gas resource plays, larger in scope and with similar future potential as the Marcellus play of the northeastern U.S.” All this is gone now. To access the optimistic mind of a 21st century fledgling cybernetic humanoid, pretend that not physics, but oil and gas animated the planet’s orbit and rotation and its passing from day to night.
Not all was ardent joy and endless bounty, though. A compact disc booklet sealed in its plastic case was discovered among a hoard of other compact discs found stashed in a plastic tote. The booklet represented a musical band known as Cattle Decapitation. The album, Death Atlas, extant in name and track listing only, included song titles such as ‘The Geocide,’ ‘One Day Closer to the End of the World,’ ‘Bring Back the Plague,’ ‘Time’s Cruel Curtain,’ and ‘The Unerasable Past,’ registering the environmental cynicism and misanthropic attitudes prevalent during the Late Anthropocene.
In each piston there was a four stroke sequence comprised of an intake stroke, a compression stroke, a combustion stroke and an exhaust stroke.
The Montney Formation occupied an expanse of over one hundred thousand square kilometers in the country known as Canada. Astride the northern border of western Canadian provinces Alberta and British Columbia, the area was developed around the Montney Shale Play from the 1950s to the 2080s through conventional vertical drilling operations, pipeline installations and petroleum processing plants. The area included three key centres, whose businesses catered to the oil and gas industry: Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, British Columbia, names like ephemeral packets of energy that exist so briefly they might not have existed at all. There was even a famous hockey team in the region called the Edmonton Oilers, who during their franchise retained some of the best hockey players in the world, a man called Gretzky, a man called Messier, a man called McDavid and a German called Draisaitl—all pictorial or video traces of them lost, their names left behind on a single brass plaque topped with the design of their team logo.
The crankshaft rotated at both ends so its relative angle could change as the pistons fired up and down. Connecting-rods linked the pistons, converting their linear force into rotational force.
The Early Triassic world was not void of sentient life. Temnospondyls, trematosaurs and rhynchosaurs inhabited the landscape. Rebellatrix, bobasatrania, ichthyosaurs and tanystropheus swam in the one big ocean. They died and decayed and drifted on winds and currents across the ground and ocean floor and eventually settled in the grabens, just as now the carcasses of the automobile lining the ancient highways slowly erode, many displaying nothing of their original forms, their cabs and wheel wells, having long ago been reduced to elongated quadrangular impressions upon the waste. This feverish ruin of vines and cubes, a rectilinear obsession grown over with mosses and flowers, erupting with birds, a stork nesting in the master bedroom of the tallest penthouse grown through with thousand foot trees, built onto, gutted, abandoned, found, abandoned, by tribes, nomads, cannibals, saints, but now the stork presides, a symbol of birth outlasting its sire.
Located in the centre of the V of the engine block, the cam shaft was driven by the crank shaft. Lobes on the cam shaft pushed the push-rods up, which activated rocker arms that opened the appropriate intake and exhaust valves.
In the Pangean west, the Early Triassic gave witness to deep-water sedimentation, and in the Pangean east, along the paleoshoreline, the Early Triassic gave witness to shallow water sedimentation. And we constantly long to know what eye it was that gave witness to the deep water sedimentation process, a mixture of interlaminated shale with siltstone and fine-grained sandstone jostled and transported by turbid submarine currents to embankments and depressions, where the material stopped moving and collected, waited longer than can be signified with number abstractions, waited without knowing it was waiting for a species that didn’t exist but also waited, under increasing tons of pressure and years, waited to have its power unlocked to power looms and threshers, heat homes, fuel drag races and flights to the moon.
Nearshore deposits consisted of fine-grained sandstone, bioclastic sandstone, transitional lithofacies and bivalve carbonates, or coquinas, of the genus Donax, made ubiquitous by the Royal Dutch Shell logo of the robust petroleum company iconic in its day. The people of Holland were Dutch and spoke a language called Nederlands and were famously talented at managing and controlling the unwieldy waters of their homeland with dykes, pumps and canals. Coquina were used much in popular maritime cuisine, in New England clam chowder, for example, which was said to have tasted quite rich and made a fitting meal on cold, wet days. Coquina was a Spanish geological term for limestone comprised largely of shells. The Spanish were a people from the Iberian Peninsula with a language they called Español.
Coquina still live in sandy beaches along coasts worldwide today, just as they did five hundred million years ago along the coast of Pangea, facing the Panthalassan superocean; just as they did two hundred and fifty million years ago, when automobiles roamed the planet, skirting photogenic cliffsides formerly submerged in deep sea. Diluvian times where strange colossal fish drifted by, ate the smaller, were eaten by the bigger in turn.
Without the cam shaft there was no intake stroke or exhaust stroke and no power generated.
After much sedimentary build-up in the grabens over very long durations of non-anthropomorphic time, the compaction and resulting pressure of overlying sediments, their continued burial, dehydrated the sedimentary clay and removed water molecules that had been loosely combined with clay minerals. This drawn-out process resulted in hydrocarbon formation, as more sedimentation led to deeper burial, increasing pressure, increasing temperatures.
Advancing geologic age culminated in the “oil window,” the mature stage of hydrocarbon formation, when the full range of petroleum compounds could be produced, as heavy hydrocarbon molecules broke up into lighter molecules. Known as kerogen, these compounds were the primary organic component of oil shale. Our coquina! Following burial and compaction, this sentence fragment lasting millions of years, an insoluble organic residue oozed from the solid kerogen through pores and capillaries in the source rock, seeped with an inertia better described as stasis.
Most of these pores and capillaries were inundated with water. Like the first stages of life, migration of oil and natural gas happened in an aqueous environment. Over geologic time, oil and natural gas, lighter than water, collected in the uppermost part of these oil and gas traps, would long after be located by geologists, drilled for, extracted, refined, transported, burned by automobiles and factories in a delirium of motion and productivity as vapid as it was fierce and full of purpose, the diminishing vector of the road pointing everywhere and nowhere.
Some pistons moved down in their cylinder while some moved up in their cylinder, just as the Early Triassic and the Late Anthropocene operated independently in co-dependance, mute to one another but conjoined, concomitant, in lockstep, fired by the very light of divinity, pale and small under this same light, determined, futile, pressing, burning.