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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Petro-Canada is one of the largest oil and gas companies currently based in Canada, with their headquarters in Calgary, Alberta. The company trades on both the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges. In 1975, Petro-Canada was created as a Crown corporation to gain a strong Canadian presence in the world’s oil industry. This was a part of the federal government’s plan to promote Canadian ownership of Canada’s resources and to invest in exploration programs all over Canada. The company’s creation was politically charged, however, as it was a part of the government’s new energy policy. The National Energy Program began in 1980 to promote the Canadianization of the oil and gas industry, but the creation of Petro-Canada was seen by many as a way for the federal government to control the oil industry instead of the provinces.

In the 1980s, Petro-Canada started drilling its first offshore wells off Labrador. The company discovered a massive oil field at Valhalla, Alberta in 1982. To become viable in 1983, Petro-Canada purchased the refining and marketing assets of BP Canada in Ontario and Quebec.

The mandate of the company changed in 1984 in response to the political issues surrounding the new energy program. It was now to conduct business in a solely commercial manner, not as a gate-keeper of the federal government interests. Petro-Canada’s new focus was demonstrated in the discovery of the Terra Nova oil field off Newfoundland.

The political stigma surrounding the company also abated with Petro-Canada organizing and sponsoring the 1988 Winter Olympic Torch Relay. The Olympic flame was carried through every province and territory on the way to the Calgary, and boosted the company’s image. The final step for the company’s redemption was when the federal government announced that it would privatize Petro-Canada commencing in October of 1990. By July 1991, the first shares were released and sold to the public with the federal government selling its last shares in 2004.

Petro-Canada continues to diversify with the acquisition of natural gas assets in the US Rocky Mountain region in 2004. Petro-Canada acquired 60 percent interest in the Fort McMurray, Alberta Fort Hills oil sands mining project in 2005. Internationally, Petro-Canada is involved in exploration, development, production, and marketing of oil and natural gas in Northwest Europe, North Africa, Near East, and Latin America. Petro-Canada continues to pursue new opportunities to explore and develop oil and gas resources around the world.


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