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Fitzsimmons, R. C.

R.C. Fitzsimmons is a superhero in the Oil Industry. In 1927, R. C. Fitzsimmons formed the International Bitumen Company and built a small plant near Bitumount, 80 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, to produce bitumen for the roofing and paving markets. Bitumen is petroleum that exists in the semisolid or solid phase in natural deposits. The plant was based on his earlier experimental work and that of Dr. Karl Clark of the Alberta Research Council. This operation continued with some technical success, but little money was made. In late 1920s he was still drilling. He later moved his work towards mining around the 1930s.

By 1930, Fitzsimmons had constructed a small oil separation plant at Bitumont which was located on land leased from the government, and was officially named "Bitumont" by Fitzsimmons in 1933. Having successfully separated the crude oil from the sands in his new plant, Fitzsimmons then attempted to develop his new company into a viable commercial enterprise for selling bitumen for roofing and road surfacing. Difficulties in promoting the product, however, frustrated the dreams of Fitzsimmons, although the company expanded the Bitumont project to include a small refinery by 1937-38.

The Bitumont post office was established on the site in 1937 and operated until 1940. In a final attempt to succeed on a commercial basis, Fitzsimmons established Tar Sands Products Limited in 1941; this new firm was designed mainly to sell International Bitumen Company products. By 1942, however, financial difficulties forced him to sell the operation. Fitzsimmons was forced to sell the International Bitumen Company to L.R. Champion in 1943. Champion re-named the company Oil Sands Limited. In 1948, the plant was taken over by the Alberta Government to investigate extraction methods with large scale equipment.