The story of Royalite began in the rolling foothills of southern Alberta,
at a drill site in Turner Valley, the location of Albertas first major
gas discovery in 1914.
Despite prior success in the area, the Calgary Petroleum Product Company
had only nine wells in operation by 1920, and produced just 66,000 barrels
of natural gas in 10 years. Failure seemed imminent when fire ripped
through an absorption plant in October of that year. Having no money to
pay the $50,000 repair bill, operations were sold off to Imperial Oil, and
reorganized under the name Royalite Oil Company Ltd.
Royalite repaired the damaged plant and completed two more wells in the
area. On November 15, 1924 the company struck a massive reserve of natural
gas. Well No. 4 "blew in" spewing upwards of 20 million cubic feet of gas
from the ground per day.
Pressure on the single well increased rapidly, and the site was evacuated
not long before the well burst, shooting the drill pipe
straight out of
the hole. Fire erupted on the drill site, burning for 21 days before
specialists could control it. During this time, the area earned its
nickname "Hell's Half Acre". Calgary residents claimed they could sit on
their porches at night and read by the light of the fire burning over 30
miles away. Though the fire was eventually put out, nearly 600 million
cubic feet of natural gas went up in flames each day, as Royalite
continued to re-route excess gas, burning it off in a nearby ravine.
Over the next 12 years, Royalite became Canada's largest local source of
gas; 114 wells were built and a more than 900,000 barrels were produced.
The company went on to acquire several petroleum companies: Sterling
Pacific Oil company, Maryland Oil Company and Southern Lowery Oils Ltd.
The interests of its parent company began to move north, and in 1948
Imperial Oil sold Royalite for $15 million to Dominion Securities to help
fund its interests in Leduc. The company continued to expand, purchasing
the Redwater field from the Alberta government, building several
refineries and opening its first service stations in 1953.
In 1954 Royalite took over Hi-Way Refineries and by 1958, had become a
fully integrated oil company with production, transportation, refining and
marketing facilities in four provinces.
British American Oil took over in 1962, and while marketing functions were
delegated to BA's affiliate (Purity 99), service functions remained the
business of Royalite.
It was during this time the company expanded its interests into the oilsands of the north, and though the expedition was short-lived, Royalite
patented three inventions related to work in the oilsands.
The Royalite era ended in 1969, after they amalgamated with British
American Oil and Shawinigan Chemicals under the new name Gulf Oil Canada
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