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Oil and Gas

In 1947, the oil industry in Alberta exploded with the discovery of oil at Leduc, and the bulk of technological advancement that has taken place in the Oil wells at Turner Valley, Albertaprovince in terms of conventional oil has occurred since that date. There were, however, smaller petrochemical discoveries in the Alberta that extend back to 1913 at Turner Valley, and patents involving petrochemicals date back to that year, and even before. The first petrochemical patent recorded in the province was a well drill, patented by Jonas Mattson and Ransom Warren of Wetaskiwin in 1907.

Oil well and camp at Oil City, Alberta, 1913, located on Oil Creek, five miles east of South Kootenay Pass. From Oil and Gas Fields of Alberta by L. G. Huntley, 1914During Alberta's early decades as a province, oil and gas exploration encouraged sporadic innovation, all of which illustrates the long roots that the petrochemical industry has in Alberta. These early inventions include a drill patented by Arthur Cools in 1915, a joint for well casings patented in 1918 by Albert Beedham, and an apparatus for freeing oil wells from frozen material, invented in 1930 by Russell Smith. All three men hailed from Calgary.

"The Western Examiner"After 1947 and the discovery of oil at Leduc, patents were filed regularly for improvements to wells, pipeline and various tools, parts and processes related to the production of crude oil and natural gas. The great importance and large scale of development in the petrochemical industry that subsequently took place can be seen in the vast array of patents that were filed in the province for every stage of oil production—from extraction, to transportation, to refinement.

Innovation in petrochemicals in Alberta has not been limited to traditional means of oils and gas extraction, however, and further demonstrates how the inventive spirit has Samples of Alberta tarsands, Calgary, Alberta.fueled resource and industrial development in the province. A shining example of this is Alberta's tar sands, which, while a vast resource, present a great challenge—accessing and refining the rich stores of bitumen, hydrocarbons that are impregnated in sandstone, into petroleum products has required innovation on the part of scientists and engineers, alike. The challenge of separating bitumen from sand was taken on successfully by Dr. Karl Clark, working under the auspices of the Alberta Research Council, who patented a revolutionary separation process in 1929. Although the Athabasca oil sands did not start development until 1967, Dr. Clark’s processes in part laid the foundation for the industry, and improvements to the processes of oilsands extraction, separation and refinement steadily continued throughout the 20th century.

Samples of Alberta tarsands, Calgary, Alberta.In addition to practical concerns of extraction and refinement, inventions in the petroleum industry in Alberta are also the result of an increased understanding of environmental issues and the related concern of Alberta's citizens and scientists. In the 1960s, as environmental issues surfaced, various innovations within oil and gas attempted to control the amount of pollution and environmental repercussions of oil extraction and production. In 1972, for instance, Fred Babet of Pincher Creek patented a pollution control apparatus for a petroleum processing plant. As well, several oil companies with national head offices in Alberta have filed pollution-control patents, all of which shows that development and innovation in petroleum, like the importance of Alberta's petroleum resources itself, show no signs of abating.

Featured Articles

"Precise Ideas" by Michel Proulx
"Applied Innovation" by Ernest Granson

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