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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Technology

In the past 100 years, the technology associated with the petroleum industry has changed the lives of Canadians.  As a large producer, Canada has capitalized on the opportunity to develop the industry through research and innovation.

Street lampThe inventions and innovations made by Canadians have impacted on the oil sector throughout the world. Kerosene, developed by New Brunswick geologist, Abraham Gesner, lit up the world when it was first distilled from coal and later petroleum. With this invention, the groundwork was laid for the Canadian petroleum refining industry and the production of petrochemicals.

The humble beginnings of the North American oil industry owe much to James Miller Williams, a carriage maker from Hamilton who fortuitously switched occupations to oil entrepreneur when he discovered significant amounts of crude oil deep within the earth’s crust. His idea of digging deeper to extract more oil launched the first petroleum company in North America and he is often credited with early innovations in oil extraction. His techniques of drilling have been modified over the years, but it is his research and introduction of new technologies that were at the beginning of more major advancements.

Offshore rigPerhaps the reason Canadians have been world leaders in petroleum advancements is inherent in the challenge of extracting oil reserves from our large and diverse land mass. The differences in extracting oil,  bitumen and natural gas, and the area which contains the reserves, (whether it is the frozen north or the Atlantic Ocean), pose interesting problems to developing Canada’s oil resources. History has proven that Canadians have a knack for invention and technological advancements. Through research and development, industry members have found ways of extracting oil in a cold climate, improving the health and safety of workers, and reducing environmentally harmful waste.  But this work is never complete and as we expand our knowledge of the environment and the inter-dependence of ecosystems, the industry will need to address new and emerging challenges.

The technology section of this website examines the science that is involved in exploring and extracting Canada’s petroleum resources, as well as refining those resources and creating petrochemicals. This section will also take a closer look at the inventive spirit that Canadian petroleum pioneers have shown, and examine the issues surrounding technological advancement.
 

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