Donald Axford (1920-2005) was
instrumental in the search for oil and gas offshore
in Atlantic Canada. Born in Winnipeg in 1920, he
served in the navy and then pursued degrees in
geology and physics at the University of Manitoba.
Upon graduation in 1948, Axford joined Socony-Vacuum
Exploration Company, the predecessor to Mobil Oil
Canada. He served as chief research geologist at
Mobil from 1956 to 1960. Axford believed that there
was a sedimentary basin off of Nova Scotia and
nearby Sable Island that held a large amount of oil
and gas reserves. He convinced Mobil Oil to acquire
the mineral rights. This became a pivotal moment in
the Canadian petroleum industry. When Axford became
vice-president of exploration, he managed the first
well to be drilled on Sable Island in 1967. Oil was
then discovered on the now famous Hibernia,
Newfoundland offshore site leading to the massive
production to come. Both these initiatives,
spearheaded by Axford, led to all the oil and gas
exploration off of the east coast.
Axford retired from Mobil Oil in
1976 but moved on to become vice president of Petro-Canada
for a brief time. He subsequently started Axford and
Associates, a consulting firm, and Trax Petroleum.
He was director and chairman of Canadian Superior
Energy Inc. and recently worked with Endless Energy.
The Canadian Petroleum Association honoured Axford
with a distinguished service award in 1977. The
Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists gave him
the Stanley Slipper Gold Medal in 1996 for
exploration excellence, while the American Association
of Petroleum geologists gave him a distinguished
service award in 1982. He was vice president of that
association in 1992-1993. In 2001, he was inducted
into the Petroleum Hall of Fame and was the first OTANS Petroleum Pioneer Award recipient in Halifax.
Donald Axford is viewed as the
father of offshore drilling exploration in Canada.
Upon his death in March of 2005, OTANS Chair Tom
Hickey gave this statement to Ocean Resources:
Without the vision and
talent of Don Axford, it is no exaggeration to
say that Canada’s offshore industry may never
have existed,” said Hickey. “All of us who make
our living from this industry today owe a debt
of thanks to Mr. Axford.