On 30 November 1951 the Canadian
Oil Scouts Association formed in Medicine Hat by
scouts from Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Montana, and
North Dakota. The scouts were company informers
whose job it was to find out what a rival company
was doing, such as whether they were drilling or hitting oil. If so, the
scout’s employer could purchase the land rights and
increase the chances of hitting oil. If the well was
a “tight hole,” the company drilling the hole would
work hard not to release any information about it.
The scouts had to sometimes infiltrate the rival’s
worksite or try to speak with the rig workers to
gain any useful information.
One worker on the rigs explained
how the companies tried to fool the scouts:
.when you ran your tests, you got oil,
well, immediately the phones would ring from
these scouts to tell their companies that, by
golly, they've got oil out there. And so the
price for the land immediately shot up because
everybody knew that you'd got oil. So you tried
every subterfuge in the book to throw these
fellows off. Maybe you'd truck oil in to throw
'em off, and take it out. The thing was to
instill uncertainty in the scouts so they didn't
know what they had.
From: Anderson, Allan. Roughnecks and
Wildcatters. Canada: Macmillan Publishing,
However, Oil Scouting is no
longer in existence. The current industry
environment overall is one of mutual assistance, as
many projects are undertaken as muti-company
enterprises such as the Sable Oil Project. As well,
many companies’ shareholders hold shares in multiple
companies and the need for espionage has dropped.
Also, much of the land has been leased out in Canada
by one company for a long time, so to buy land
around a known well site is no longer possible.