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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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The Birth of the Oil Industry

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Petrolia Oil Springs

In Iraq, flames had burned from a natural gas seep for thousands of years, and are believed to have been the Bible's "fiery furnace" where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked. The Turkish Petroleum Company in 1927 drilled a mile and a half from the fiery furnace. It brought in the Kirkuk discovery, a stunning gusher spewing a column of oil 140 feet into the air and flowing oil at a rate of 100,000 barrels a day, another one of the world's largest oil fields.

Early oil explorers noticed that oil pools often lined up along parallel trends, and "trendology" became a method of oil exploring. They walked along creek beds looking for oil and gas seeps and examining the trends of rock formations, a method dubbed "creekology." Canadian geologists developed the "anticlinal theory," which held that oil was trapped in dome-like structures, or anticlines. In 1848, Sir William Logan, director of the Geological Survey of Canada, noted that the oil seeps on the Gaspe Peninsula were located on anticlines. Thirteen years later T. Sterry Hunt, also with the GSC, concluded that the conditions necessary for an accu­mulation of oil included a source bed for the oil, a structure, or anticline, and an impervious rock-cap. Trendology, creekology, and the anticline theory dominated oil exploration for decades, and produced some of the world's largest oil fields.

The same practices were used in Canada, but yielded only sparse and scattered results. The trouble with these methods was the one thing that they all had in common: they relied on surface observations to point the way to oil, and this just didn't work in most of Western Canada. With some notable exceptions, most of the big oil and gas fields in Canada have not been found beneath seepages of oil or gas or structures that are visible from the surface. They have been more commonly found under flat prairie land, safely hidden until better exploration tools and meth­ods were developed, or more recently under waters of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

From The Great Canadian Oil Patch, pgs. 31 to 33, reprinted with kind permission of JuneWarren Publishing and Mr. Earle Gray.


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