“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.
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.