Athabasca's Place in the Future
- F.K. Spragins (Imperial Oil)
- Document ID
- Petroleum Society of Canada
- Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 160 - 164
- 1963. Petroleum Society of Canada
- 4.6 Natural Gas, 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers
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A general survey of Western Canada's oil industry from 1778 to the presentsuggests that development of the Athabasca oil sands will play a prominent partin sustaining Alberta's key position in the national energy picture.
The First Oil Men
Oil development in Western Canada has had a long and sometimes weirdhistory. Many events from the past are now all but forgotten, but there areothers which stand out as milestones in our struggle for world recognition as asignificant oil-producing area. Although the experiences and happenings thateach of us remembers may vary, every one of them has its place in ourindustry's colourful background.
Looking back in time, we must recognize that Canada's first oil men were theIndians who lived along the Athabasca river in 1778. Even then, nearly twohundred years ago, they realized the importance of this product that was allaround them, having found that a mixture of Athabasca bitumen and spruce-treegum made a fine compound for waterproofing canoes. History does not relatePeter Pond's experiences with Athabasca oil but, by the time AlexanderMackenzie relieved him in 1787, the oil men were ready for business. For asuitable amount of whisky, the Indian chief would provide Mackenzie with thebitumen he needed to caulk his canoes. I have often wondered how the Scotsmanreacted when he found the stuff he had been forced to buy was literally runningout of the banks in many places for over 100 miles along the Athabasca river!These spots he later described as "fountains of bitumen."
Despite this early "commercialization" however, Athabasca oil remainedrelatively unheeded until recent years. Instead, other major fields in manyareas were discovered and developed until Western Canada became established asone of the leading oil-and-gas-producing areas of the world. Let us take a lookat how this came about.
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