Leduc #1 only yielded about 319,000 barrels of oil—but it changed Alberta. "It was the key that unlatched a door. Before Leduc, there hadn't been deep wells drilled," Shaw explains. Imperial moved
fast—scrapped plans for the synthetic gas plant and began an aggressive drilling
program, as well as developing a new town, Devon—named for the reef. "It even moved a refinery down from Whitehorse to the east side of Edmonton, on the river. Alberta gained a new industry almost overnight."
It meant jobs and more—Alberta was suddenly swept forward into a promising future. Like a lot of other
farm boys in those days, Dan Claypool came from Saskatchewan to work as a roughneck. "Within a year and
a half of Leduc #1, there were more than 150 rigs operating," he recalls. Oil jobs paid better than farming and ranching and you were part of the momentum and excitement, he adds. Today, Claypool's a director of the Leduc/Devon Oilfield Historical Society and chair of its August 2nd homecoming celebrations. This year, the society is planning a huge blowout. For the 50th anniversary, it'll include working oil field equipment, vintage cars and even a rig rodeo, he explains, as drilling crews compete to see who's fastest at running pipe. The highlight of the weekend will be the grand opening of the society's new 8,000 sq ft., $500,000 petroleum industry museum and interpretive centre. Displays cover the industry, from the processes and equipment used in conventional
retrieval to oil sands operations in Fort McMurray and Cold Lake.
By the fifties, a whole new kind of crop for Alberta grew on the fields around Leduc. Rigs, wells, and pump jacks, oil servicing equipment, refineries, pipelines to take it across Canada and down to markets in the US, all sprung up in the oil patch within a few short years. Hundreds of oil and gas companies emerged. Latest available figures from Alberta Economic Development show that the energy industry today employs nearly 80,000 people in the province. And according to the Department of Energy's 1995-1996 annual report, net oil royalties to the Crown
totalled $1.047 billion last year.
Oil remains the main driving force of the Alberta economy, directly and indirectly, asserts Energy
Minister, Patricia Black, citing employment, technology, corporate and personal tax. "Natural resource development continues as the mainstay of our revenue," she notes, "People thought it would be a sunset industry, but it's a sunrise
industry, a leader in technological enhancement." She stresses that no one should underestimate conventional fields. "When they
were developed, you could go after the top 20 per cent of the oil. Now with new technology, you can recover another 30 per cent." The conventional oil industry is still active, Black notes. "Last year, close to 10,000 wells were drilled," she points out.
Meanwhile, Alberta's oil sands in Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River extend oil's promise of prosperity into the future. Estimates indicate they contain about 2.5
trillion barrels of oil, 300 billion of which is recoverable. That oil is
mined or injected with steam and pumped to the surface (in-situ
recovery)—different processing to be sure from conventional drilling. But a legacy of Leduc, nonetheless.