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Alberta's Scientific Heroes

Karl Clark

Clark, K.A., 1938.Born in Georgetown, Ontario, on October 20, 1888, Karl Clark earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Chemistry from McMaster University. He later went on to earn a doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1915. Dr. Clark joined the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta in 1921. Working for the Mines Branch in Ottawa, Karl Clark worked on ways of separating and recovering the oil from the tar sand using hot water and a chemical reagent. It was as a result of these experiments that he was recruited to come to Alberta and later the Alberta Research Council. 

Bituminous Sand Plant, Dunvegan Yards, Edmonton, 1925.In 1925, Clark successfully demonstrated a separation method using hot water and caustic soda. In 1929, Clark patented his hot water and caustic soda mixture for the extraction of bitumen from oil sands. He fed the mined oil sands into a large rotating drum, and then mixed them under high temperatures with steam, hot water and caustic soda to separate the sand and bitumen. The resulting liquid could then be processed further and upgraded into synthetic crude oil

Dr. Clark continued his research with two pilot plants sponsored by the Alberta Government, one at Clearwater in 1930, the second at Bitumount. The operation at Bitumount, built in 1949, marked a milestone in oil sands history. The oil sands were accepted as a legitimate part of the petroleum. The same fundamentals remain the basis of the system used to process oil sands at two mining operations today. Dr. Clark passed away in 1966, nine months before completion of the first major oil sands plant, Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor).




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Early Oilsands Exploration

Karl Clark began his experiments on separating oil from the oilsands with a pilot project in the basement...

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