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Home > History of Development > Leduc: Causes and Effects > Setting the Stage: Before 1947 > Geological Factors > Underground Mysteries

Leduc: Causes and Effects

Underground Mysteries

Imperial Oil Limited, Field Superintendent, Vern Hunter, late 1930'sEarly petroleum explorers simply looked for areas where oil and gas were seeping to the surface or had been encountered accidentally when drilling water wells. This unsophisticated but effective technique led to the discoveries of southern Ontario oil in the 1850s and 1860s, eastern Alberta gas in 1883, Turner Valley oil and gas in 1914, and Norman Wells oil in 1920.

Some of the successes were fleeting. For instance, the Geological Survey of Canada reported seeps along Oil Creek near Waterton in southwestern Alberta in 1870, and for many years local residents collected the oil by soaking it up with gunny sacks. When a well was finally drilled in 1902, it reportedly gushed oil, and this set up a five-year exploration boom, based in a shanty town optimistically named Oil City. However, the first well's production quickly dwindled, and all the other wells were dry, leading to a suspicion that the gusher had been a fraud. Ironically, the jury is still out on the oil potential of this region, which is now part of Waterton National Park.

Underground mysteries caused greater problems for developers of the Turner Valley oil field southwest of Calgary. Each of the three waves of exploration successes around Turner Valley—beginning in 1914, 1924 and 1936—was based on an improved understanding of the area's complex geology. Each time, a larger reservoir was found at a greater depth than the previously discovered producing formation.

Petroleum Communication Foundation. Our Petroleum Challenge: Exploring Canada's Oil and Gas Industry, Sixth Edition. Calgary: Petroleum Communication Foundation, 1999. With permission from the Centre for Energy.


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