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Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Oil Scouts

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, 1981, 105-107.

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.

 

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