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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007

Joffre Oil Find spurs Economic Boom

On July 2, 1953, John Morton, of the Brookfield district near Joffre, signed a lease with Canadian Superior for a wildcat oil well northeast of Red Deer.

It was on LSD NO.9 on Section 19, Township 38, Range 25, West of the 4th.

For the next three weeks, Canadian Superior, together with partners Bailey-Selburn and Great Plains drilled on the site.

At the end of July, they hit oil, about 1,500 metres down in what is generally known as the D-1 zone in the Viking sands.

The well had an impressive flow of nearly 600 barrels a day. News of the strike made the front page of the Red Deer Advocate.

It was the closest to city of Red Deer that oil had been discovered.

There had been drilling activity near Red Deer before.

In August 1914, following the discoveries of oil and gas in the Turner Valley area, the Pioneer Oil Co. began drilling 10 kilometres south of Red Deer.

Another well was started by the Red Deer Investment Co. shortly thereafter.

Both wells failed to produce any oil or gas.

The outbreak of the First World War shortly thereafter put an end of any further exploration work

On Feb. 13, 1947, Imperial Oil Co. made its famous discovery of oil near the town of Leduc.

Extensive drilling programs by Imperial and numerous other companies quickly followed.

Major oilfields were discovered in the Stettler-Big Valley areas in 1949-50.

Major oil reefs were found west of Sylvan Lake and Gull Lake in 1951-52 and there were a number of successful natural gas wells drilled in the West Country as well.

Consequently, the petroleum drilling and service industry was already becoming a major component of the local economy.

The Joffre strike at Morton 9-19 helped spur the activity to even greater heights.

There were soon several new wells being drilled in the Joffre area by such outfits as Peter Bawden Drilling and Trident Drilling.

Within two years, there were 285 completed wells in the Joffre area extending over an area almost 30 kilometres in length.

Red Deer quickly felt the effects of the heightened boom.

At the end of August 1953, Gulf Oil – which had already established a small office in the city -announced that a large central administrative office would be opened in Red Deer, taking up the whole second floor of a new business block being built by R.Y. Truant on the north side of the Red Deer Bottling plant on Gaetz Avenue.

Imperial Oil announced the creation of central Red Deer office shortly thereafter.

The increase in oil and gas activity and the creation of numerous allied businesses such as trucking firms, drove the boom in Red Deer to incredible new heights.

In 1952, the city recorded slightly more than $2 million in building permits.

In 1953, the amount nearly doubled to almost $4 million.

New houses and new businesses were springing up everywhere.

The population of the city jumped to more than 8,000 from just over 4,000 in 1946.

Even more boosts to the boom followed.

In April 1955, drilling began in the Balmoral district on the east side of the city and in June, oil was discovered in the Viking zone.

In 1957, Imperial Oil decided to drill even deeper and found a lake of oil at 2,100 metres in the D2 zone.

Meanwhile, wells in the Joffre field, which were driven by solution gas, began to lose pressure.

A decision was made to inject water into the formation to increase the recovery of oil.

It was the first use of the water-injection method for production enhancement in Canada.

A large water line was constructed from the Red Deer River across the Balmoral field and then across the river again to the Joffre field.

Eventually, production in the Joffre field began to slump again and many wells were shut in.

However, in the 1980s, many wells were reactivated with enhanced recovery using carbon dioxide.

Moreover, in the mid-1970s, when a decision was made to construct a world-scale petrochemical industry in Central Alberta, the new plants were constructed in the middle of the Joffre field.

It is hard to understate the importance of the oil and gas to the economy of Red Deer and Central Alberta.

The discoveries at Joffre and later in Balmoral and other nearby districts helped to focus Red Deer as a centre for the petroleum service industry and to transform the community into a rapidly growing and prosperous urban centre.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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