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Royalite Oil

The story of Royalite began in the rolling foothills of southern Alberta, at a drill site in Turner Valley, the location of Alberta’s first major gas discovery in 1914.

Despite prior success in the area, the Calgary Petroleum Product Company had only nine wells in operation by 1920, and produced just 66,000 barrels of natural gas in 10 years. Failure seemed imminent when fire ripped through an absorption plant in October of that year. Having no money to pay the $50,000 repair bill, operations were sold off to Imperial Oil, and reorganized under the name Royalite Oil Company Ltd.

Wet gas bursting from pipe at drill site No.4.Royalite repaired the damaged plant and completed two more wells in the area. On November 15, 1924 the company struck a massive reserve of natural gas. Well No. 4 "blew in" spewing upwards of 20 million cubic feet of gas from the ground per day.

Pressure on the single well increased rapidly, and the site was evacuated not long before the well burst, shooting the drill pipe Massive gas fire at drill site No.4.straight out of the hole. Fire erupted on the drill site, burning for 21 days before specialists could control it. During this time, the area earned its nickname "Hell's Half Acre". Calgary residents claimed they could sit on their porches at night and read by the light of the fire burning over 30 miles away. Though the fire was eventually put out, nearly 600 million cubic feet of natural gas went up in flames each day, as Royalite continued to re-route excess gas, burning it off in a nearby ravine.

Over the next 12 years, Royalite became Canada's largest local source of gas; 114 wells were built and a more than 900,000 barrels were produced.

The company went on to acquire several petroleum companies: Sterling Pacific Oil company, Maryland Oil Company and Southern Lowery Oils Ltd.

Royalite workers beside a rigThe interests of its parent company began to move north, and in 1948 Imperial Oil sold Royalite for $15 million to Dominion Securities to help fund its interests in Leduc. The company continued to expand, purchasing the Redwater field from the Alberta government, building several refineries and opening its first service stations in 1953.

In 1954 Royalite took over Hi-Way Refineries and by 1958, had become a fully integrated oil company with production, transportation, refining and marketing facilities in four provinces.

Royalite bunkhouse and plant at nightBritish American Oil took over in 1962, and while marketing functions were delegated to BA's affiliate (Purity 99), service functions remained the business of Royalite.

It was during this time the company expanded its interests into the oilsands of the north, and though the expedition was short-lived, Royalite patented three inventions related to work in the oilsands.

The Royalite era ended in 1969, after they amalgamated with British American Oil and Shawinigan Chemicals under the new name Gulf Oil Canada Ltd.

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