The Great Canadian Oil Patch; Second edition. The petroleum era from birth to peak [ePub]

by Earle Gray

This history starts with the launch of the world’s first integrated petroleum industry, from production of crude oil to refining and product marketing, in operations based predominantly on Canadian technology.
From the 1850s, with the Canadian-led eastern U.S. coal oil refineries and North America’s first commercial oil field in Ontario, to twenty-first century production from the Alberta oil sands, the world’s third largest oil supply storehouse, to a perception of the coming end of the age of oil, this is a story of wildcat gamblers, geologists, corporate managers, politicians and public policies, of failures and success, fortunes made and fortunes lost.
A few highlights:
•The saga of Nova Scotia physician, geologist and inventor Abraham Gesner, whose technology to produce kerosene, initially from coal and bitumen, fueled the lamps of the world for half a century, and laid the foundation for the petroleum industry.
•Carriage maker James Miller Williams who made North America’s first commercial crude oil discovery in Ontario more than a year before the discovery of crude oil at Titusville, Pennsylvania, gave birth to the U.S. petroleum industry.
•The saga of the Turner Valley oil field, 20 miles southwest of Calgary, whose treasure of oil and gas was discovered in three stages over a 22-year period, where production practices resulted in a loss of $50 billion worth of oil and natural gas. From enormous flows of natural gas, oil companies stripped out condensate, a liquid so volatile it was used, with no refining, as gasoline to fuel farm cars and trucks.The residue gas was burned in giant flares that could be seen from porches in Calgary, wasting not only the gas but depleting pressure in the underground reservoir that left millions of barrels of oil unrecoverable.
•The most tumultuous political debate to rock the Parliament of Canada since the Canadian Pacific Railway scandal brought down the Conservative government of John A. Macdonald 83 years earlier, ending a 22-year Liberal rule, over government financial help to build a natural gas pipeline from Alberta to Montreal, blasted through the solid rock of Ontario’s Precambrian shield. It was the world’s longest pipeline, but only one link in the ribbons of steel that span from coast to coast to the sub-arctic stretching more miles and moving more oil and gas than all the freight of the railroads.
•The doom of Dome Petroleum, the spectacular empire built by geologist “Smiling” Jack Gallagher whose vision of Arctic oil wealth to rival the Middle East was pursued in a billion dollar quest that embraced Canada’s largest corporate air and marine fleets, with ice breakers and Arctic drill ships. Dome’s Arctic quest collapsed, but that was not what caused Canada’s biggest corporate failure, costing shareholders billions of dollars, and taxpayers an even greater amount.
•The NOP and the NEP. In the 1960s, the National Oil Policy embargoed imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products in Canada west of the Ottawa Valley, to protect floundering Alberta oil producers from Persian Gulf oil that cost so little it could have been delivered to Edmonton refineries for less than the prices of oil from wells barely 20 miles away. The embargo cost Ontario consumers $500 million in subsidy payments—billions in 2013 money. The National Energy Program followed in the 1970s when the OPEC cartel sent oil prices soaring. The struggle over sharing a financial bonanza, and control over petroleum resources, threatened to tear the fabric of Confederation.
“Earle Gray has converted an encyclopedic knowledge of Canada’s oil and gas business, an eye for engaging detail, and renowned gifts as a storyteller into a book on an industry that has transformed Canada’s twentieth century more than any other,” wrote historian Desmond Morton, O.C., Founding Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

07.09.2010

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