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Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Frank Spragins

“He was a man with the courage of his convictions and the resilience only a deep committed individual can bring to a mission” From: A Billion Barrels for Canada-the Syncrude Story.

Frank SpraginsWhen the oil sands of Alberta are talked about, one name is brought up as a major force in its development: Frank Spragins. Born in Mississippi, he attended Rice University in Houston and received a degree in engineering. Spragins began his career in the oil industry with Standard Oil but left to help in the war effort in 1942. Instead of being sent into battle, the US War Office sent Spragins to search for oil. He chose Canada and made it his home. Spragins worked with the geophysical team that discovered oil in Leduc. After the Second World War, he worked for Imperial Oil in the Athabasca Tar Sands department. Spragins began to research the technical and economic viability of the oil sands. He spent years presenting papers at international meetings of the oil industry and waded through government bureaucracy to develop the area. He convinced Imperial Oil and other companies to invest in the Syncrude complex. Spragins and his team lobbied the government hard for an agreement to build a plant on the chosen site. His tenacity paid off and in 1964 Syncrude Canada Limited was established. Frank Spragins was the company's president.

Years of construction on the plant followed and in 1977 the Syncrude facility held its official opening. Spragins was given a standing ovation. Everyone knew that without his vision and leadership the project would have never been. He had recently announced his retirement after working on the project for nineteen years. Many people did not know his retirement was due to his failing health. Six weeks after the plant opening, Frank Spragins died.

Frank Spragins received various awards over his life. Oilweek Magazine proclaimed him the Oil Man of the Year for 1975. He also received the APEGGA Centennial Award in 1977. Posthumously, Spragins was inducted into the Petroleum Hall of Fame in 1997.


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