Shell’s Inherited Roots in the Canadian Oil Industry
By Clinton R. Tippett, Shell Canada Energy and President – Petroleum History Society
Shell Canada was established in 1911 at the time of the construction of its first marketing terminal in Montreal, Quebec. The company has expanded very significantly since then, partly through a set of acquisitions in the early 1960’s that provided it with strong regional positions across the country and, in the process, made it heir to some of Canada’s earliest petroleum enterprises. In 1960, Shell Canada purchased North Star Oil, a Winnipeg, Manitoba-based company founded in 1919 with refining and marketing operations throughout Western Canada. In 1958 North Star had acquired Cree Oil, a small explorer and producer with connections to Ted Link of Norman Wells and Leduc fame. In 1962, Shell Canada made an even larger acquisition as it took control of Canadian Oils, based in Ontario and having assets nation-wide. Incorporated in the Sarnia area in 1908 by a group of regional refiners and marketers, it had roots deep in the oil-producing regions of southwestern Ontario, including a refinery at Petrolia. A subsidiary of National Refining Company of Cleveland until 1938, Canadian Oils had also just entered the Western Canadian upstream scene through its 1955 capture of Anglo Canadian Oil, an important regional player that had been formed in 1935 and had ridden the Turner Valley and Leduc oil booms into the 1950’s. Shell Canada has continued its interest in Canada’s original petroleum heartland in southwestern Ontario. In 1978-1980 it mounted a short exploration program exploring for pinnacle reefs in the deep Silurian section. It has repeatedly enlarged and upgraded the Sarnia refinery that it inherited from Canadian Oils and, at present, is considering yet another major refining investment in the area related to the upgrading of bitumen from its Alberta oil sands properties.