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Home > History of Development > Alberta's Heroes of Resource Development > Hydrocarbon Heroes >  Sydney Ells

Alberta's Scientific Heroes

Sydney Ells

Dr. Sydney Ells, 1928.Sydney Ells received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1902 from McGill University. He continued his studies at McGill, receiving his Bachelor of Sciences in 1908. In 1913, after studying oil occurrences in the West Indies, he joined the Mines Branch in Ottawa. 

Sydney Ells, an engineer with the federal Department of Mines, demonstrated the first commercial uses of the oil sands. In 1915, with great effort, he shipped several tons of bitumen by water, sleigh, and rail to Edmonton for a road paving experiment. 

Bituminous Sand, 1925.Two additional shipments were sent to Ottawa for similar trials on Wellington Street and on Parliament Hill. Other notable oil sands paving projects of the day included the access road to the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper National Park, Alberta, and 22 blocks of sidewalk in Camrose, Alberta. His experiments saw oil sands used in road paving as far away as Ottawa. 

Ells was also the first to suggest the use of hot water to separate bitumen for the sand. To lower transportation costs, Ells realized that some processing would have to be done at the point of origin. 



Heritage Trails

Early Oilsands Exploration

Sydney Ells suggests three ways of separating the oil from the sand...

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