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Leduc - A New Era

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Nineteen forty-six, Canada had just started to move away from a war economy that had lasted six long years.

The country's population was about 12.5 million; Alberta's in the range of nine hundred thousand, Leduc's population in 1946 could be measured in hundreds, while Edmonton and Calgary vied for first place, both in the hundred thousand range.1

Rail was the main means of transportation both in Canada and Alberta. There were four trains per day each way between Edmonton and Calgary (including a sleeper), The highway between Edmonton and Lethbridge was one of the few main ones that had been "paved'' (in part, near Lacombe, by the direct use of McMurray tar sands), The road bed was "crowned'', which made it easy to slide off the road when black ice coated the surface. But speeds were slower and the ditches were shallow so mishaps were usually not catastrophic.

Starting in 1913, Alberta was selling natural gas in the main markets (Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge) through pipe lines. Medicine Hat was sitting on its own gas field so there it was just a matter of low pressure pipe connections. Reserves were sufficient to supply the market, but there was no economic advantage in servicing the smaller communities unless they were right on the pipe line, Although Jumping Pound gas field had been discovered in 1944, it was lying dormant and would do so until the early fifties. There was no thought of export.

Canada's vehicle registration in 1946 was about 1.8 million (all types); compare this to the 1983 total of 14 million. Alberta was able to supply most of its vehicles' gasoline and oil needs from two refineries in Calgary, gasoline plants in the Valley and a topping unit at Lethbridge that used Montana crude.

Canada's total crude oil production for 1946 was 7.6 million barrels, of which Ontario contributed 1.6% Turner Valley was the only significant producer: 6.2 million barrels,2 Wainwright, Lloydminster and Taber measured their output in a few hundred barrels per day each.3 Canada's dependence On imports was almost absolute: 63.3 million barrels of crude to be refined and 18.8 million barrels of finished products brought in per year for a total cost of $248 million to the economy"4

The West Coast got its crude supplies from Peru and Venezuela; Central Canada and the East Coast looked mainly to Venezuela, which at that time had more than adequate resources at low well head prices. These did not translate into competitive plant gate gasoline prices in Montreal, there being no competition. With this kind of economics for the large volume market, there was really no reason then why western Canada needed to be considered as either a potential alternative or as a complete replacement for foreign offshore crude. The situation changed in the fifties.

The corporate mind-set, especially that of Imperial, was: Norman Wells was not a great economic success; no other productive reefs like it had been found; the Lower Cretaceous outfields of Alberta were both modest in areal extent and pay thickness, So there was no reason to consider Western Canada other than gas prone.

Exploration, geophysical and geological, was supplemented by exploratory welts drilled from the early 1940's through mid-1946. Magnificent failures had resulted from misinterpretation of seismic data in southern Saskatchewan. Alberta exploration had also met with little success. One significant wildcat drilled near Crossfield in 1945 was the tip-off to a Mississippian outcrop play, but this was not discovered until 1951, only a mile or so away, No doubt about it, this mind-set of the companies seemed to prevail, with little encouragement from their U.S. head offices.



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