In 1927, R. C.
Fitzsimmons formed the International Bitumen Company and built a small plant
near Bitumount, 80 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, to produce bitumen for the
roofing and paving markets. The plant was based on his earlier experimental
work and that of Dr. Karl Clark of the Alberta Research Council. This operation
continued with some technical success, but little profit. In late 1920s he
was still drilling. He later moved his work towards mining around the
Fitzsimmons had constructed a small oil separation plant at Bitumount which was
located on land leased from the government, and was officially named "Bitumount"
by Fitzsimmons in 1933. Having successfully separated the crude oil from the
sands in his new plant, Fitzsimmons then attempted to develop his new company
into a viable commercial enterprise for selling bitumen for roofing and road
surfacing. Difficulties in marketing the product, however, frustrated the dreams
of Fitzsimmons, although the company expanded the Bitumount
project to include a small refinery by 1937-38.
post office was established on the site in 1937 and operated until 1940. In a
final attempt to succeed on a commercial basis, Fitzsimmons established Tar
Sands Products Limited in 1941; this new firm was designed mainly to sell
International Bitumen Company products. By 1942, however, financial difficulties
forced him to sell the operation. Fitzsimmons was forced to sell the
International Bitumen Company to L. R. Champion in 1943. Champion re-named the
company Oil Sands Limited. In 1948, the plant was taken over by the Alberta
Government to investigate extraction methods with large scale equipment.