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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Alberta

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Natural resource development is something that has been occurring in Alberta for many centuries. It began with Aboriginals, who used the land to enrich their lives, such as using the sticky oil sands to waterproof their canoes, and it continues today in the form of large resource development programs, like the oil sands development project occurring near Fort McMurray. The resources being developed have changed through time, and so have the technologies that help develop them.

Throughout Alberta's history, the petroleum industry has affected almost every aspect of life. Government, in particular, has been concerned with the revenues coming from resource development, and it was not until the 1930s that Alberta gained control over its own natural resource revenues.

No Oil In Alberta, Eh?

Early History: Crude Oil and Natural Gas

Machinery used in oil refining processSince the earliest recorded history, there have been accounts of crude oil and natural gas seeping to the earth's surface. The oil was used to caulk boats and buildings, grease wheels and dress the wounds of people and animals. Until the refining process was developed in the 1850s, oil was not commonly used as fuel because of its foul-smelling fumes.

Natural gas fed the celebrated "perpetual fires" at Delphi in Greece, Baku on the Caspian Sea and other sites in the ancient world. In the third century AD, the Chinese transported gas in bamboo pipes to light their temples. They also used natural gas heat to extract salt from water.
 

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