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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Pioneers

PioneersThe petroleum industry in Canada has come into its own in the 20th century. While the technology and key discoveries have been documented, the people of the oil patch are largely absent. The history of the oil patch in Alberta is particularly important because of the volume of reserves and their exploration and development. The pioneers featured on the website have played an important role in making Canada one of the global leaders in the petroleum industry. Each contributed to our social and economic growth and through their determination found success.

As well, these pioneers have been documented through the passion of one individual. Aubrey Kerr, a Calgary-based geologist, in 1980 founded the Petroleum Industry Oral History Project (PIOHP) and undertook oral histories with nearly 300 pioneers. These materials reside in the Glenbow Alberta Archives and were used as resources for the CKUA Radio Network 24-part documentary series and 60-minute video titled Roughnecks, Wildcats and Doodlebugs. The writer and producer Don Hill worked with Kerr and made use of the oral histories as well as conducting his own interviews. Both have made these resources available to the Heritage Community Foundation for the Canada's Petroleum Heritage website. On this website, many speak in their own voices and convey the excitement of the "big" discoveries and tell "rags to riches" stories.

Pembina: The Hidden Elephant

Arne Nielsen was an Alberta oil industry pioneer who helped spearhead a venture to drill an oilwell near Pembina, Alberta in 1953. In this excerpt from the JuneWarren publication, The Great Canadian Oil Patch: The Petroleum Era from Birth to Peak, author Earle Gray reveals how Nielsen’s humble drilling operation turned led to the discovery of the largest oil field in North America. Read more…

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