Science, Creativity, and Innovation: Our Canadian Story—it’s the theme of this year’s Canada History Week, running from November 19 to 25. And there’s no question that from the very start, Canada’s energy sector and the way we live today has evolved from numerous advances (and a few major mishaps) in science, creativity, and innovation.
In fact, Alberta’s energy contributions to Canada’s story over the last century fit nicely with this theme. According to the Government of Canada, it’s meant to highlight “historic achievements by Canadians in the fields of medicine, science, technology, engineering, and math.”
With so many significant achievements in oil and gas throughout Alberta’s past that involve all of these disciplines, we believe the best way to celebrate is to share some of those moments with our readers.
Rocky Mountain vistas provided a dramatic setting for Alberta’s first oil well at Cameron Creek, 220 kilometres south of Calgary. Strong early production aroused dreams of a cavern brimming with a subterranean lake of black gold. Fortune hunters rushed to erect a boomtown called Oil City.
Labour crews used muscle power for 86 days to build by hand the 270 kilometres of Alberta’s first natural gas delivery service, the Bow Island Pipeline, from a southeastern discovery known as Old Glory to Calgary and Lethbridge.
Early Alberta drilling successes inspired visions of wealth, frenzies of company formation, and blizzards of share sales, as recalled by this portrait of a lively downtown Calgary curb market fuelled by the first Turner Valley discovery well.
The regulator first opened its doors on July 1, 1938, as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, with a slim payroll of 12 employees, including the chairman and three stenographers.
Business, government, and community leaders turned out in force to witness the start of production by the Leduc No. 1 well 40 kilometres southwest of downtown Edmonton. The successful conclusion to an epic of subterranean exploration ushered in the modern Alberta era of jumbo discoveries, expanding markets, plant construction, pipeline development, economic growth, and ever-more thorough conservation and safety and environmental regulation.
Only 1.6 kilometres east of the 1947 Leduc discovery, a blowout at the Atlantic No. 3 follow-up well in 1948 called global attention to the large scale of Alberta’s newfound wealth. The spectacle travelled around the world on front pages and movie theatre newsreels.
George Govier joined the regulator in 1948 and chaired it from 1962 to 1978. A plaque at the entrance to Govier Hall, the custom-built hearing room at the Alberta Energy Regulator’s downtown Calgary headquarters, reminds all who pass of his contributions to the orderly development of oil and gas in Alberta.
The Lodgepole blowout southwest of Edmonton ignited the need for improved drilling and public safety in the minds of Alberta’s regulatory, government, and business leaders. The regulator’s inquiry probed technology gaps and human error in the lethal drilling mishap.
Find more stories about the history of energy regulation in Alberta in Steward: 75 Years of Alberta Energy Regulation, written by Gordon Jaremko.
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The O&G industry has come a long way thanks to the tiredness efforts of the AER and previously named regulators, operators who recognize the importance of the regulations and service providers who provide innovative advancements in measuring what goes on hundreds and thousands of meters below surface. I appreciate and look forward to your weekly emails