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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Nova Scotia

The oil industry of Nova Scotia changed radically due to the high cost of whale oil in the 19th century. As the price of whale oil increased to $2.50 per gallon, it prompted the search for a cheaper substitute. In 1846 Abraham Gesner of Nova Scotia created a process where coal was processed into oil; he called it kerosene. Gesner also built the world’s first refinery plant to process the oil. Kerosene continued to be used for lighting until World War I. Almost twenty years later, Nova Scotia’s first oil well was drilled with little fanfare. It was drilled on the western side of Lake Ainslie in 1869, but it produced only small amounts of oil and natural gas. The boom for the petroleum industry in Nova Scotia occurred when Gulf Oil and Imperial Oil located and drilled twenty onshore wells from 1925 to 1930, as there was an increasing demand for oil from industry and demand for cars. Since then, an ongoing study and exploration of on and offshore regions have been fruitful. In 1967, Mobil Oil set precedence when it drilled the first offshore well in Nova Scotia.

The first tests for the Sable Island project were conducted in the 1960s. The island became the centre of discovery. The Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP) formally began in 1994 when Imperial Oil, Mobil Oil, Shell Canada, and other companies joined together to explore the waters off Nova Scotia’s coast. With this initiative, Nova Scotia’s oil and gas revenues continued to grow, thus benefiting from the ingenuity of the early pioneers like Abraham Gesner.
The history and current issues of Nova Scotia’s Oil and Gas industry can be found on the provincial government site: http://www.gov.ns.ca/energy/AbsPage.aspx?siteid=1&lang=1&id=2


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