Learn more about the structures at Bitumount by clicking on items that light up when you mouse over them. Sheds Sheds After Bitumount shut down, it was not completely abandoned. A caretaker lived in Fitzsimmons’s house to keep an eye on the property and made use of some of the buildings on site. These two sheds were moved here from other locations. Fitzsimmons House Fitzsimmons House When he was in camp, Robert Fitzsimmons lived in relative comfort. His log house was a good size and had large windows. Over time, a variety of additions were made, and it was used for other purposes, such as a cookhouse and a caretaker’s residence. Ice House Ice House This semi-subterranean building was used to store perishable food, such as vegetables from the garden. Shed Shed A variety of wood frame buildings were erected at Bitumount and used as required, serving as accommodations or storage when the need arose. Log House Log House Accommodations for workers at the International Bitumen Company plant were rough and ready. Usually occupied only during the warm months, they provided shelter from the worst of the elements but not from drafts or insects. Frame House Frame House As Bitumount grew, a sawmill was brought in to produce building materials. Dimensioned lumber made the new buildings look more finished, but they were still very basic, lacking both running water and insulation. Storage Tank Storage Tank Soon after the International Bitumen Company plant expanded in 1936-1937, a tank was added at the bottom of the hill so that oil could be stored until there was enough to process in the new refinery. Separation Plant Separation Plant The separation plant was the heart of the oil sands operation at Bitumount. The first oil sands separation took place in the open air. When Robert Fitzsimmons installed an enlarged separation plant in the early 1930s, he covered it with a roof but did not immediately close in the walls. Boiler House Boiler House In the early 1930s, a large boiler was installed to power the expanded oil sands separation plant. Sometime later, a building was erected around the boiler. Tall Stack Tall Stack The large boiler that ran the separation plant was easy to find because its location was marked by a very tall stack. Storage Tank Storage Tank This tank was added to the site at the same time as the heater and other refinery equipment. Heater Heater The oil produced by the International Bitumen Company separation plant was very viscous and contained a certain amount of water. The heater was an important part of the upgrading process because it helped both to liquefy the oil and to drive off some of the water. Fractionating Towers Fractionating Towers The International Bitumen Company refinery had two small fractionating towers. After the oil was heated to a very high temperature, it was released into the towers where it separated into distinct components known as “fractions.” The lighter fractions rose to the top, while the heavier sank to the bottom. Pump House Pump House The refinery broke the heavy oil down into a number of products, such as diesel fuel and bunker oil. These came to the pump house and were then directed to the proper tanks for storage. Sawmill Building Sawmill Building Construction was ongoing for an extended period at the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project, and a large structure was erected to shelter men and materials while the required lumber was sawn. Steam Engine Steam Engine Several upright steam engines were brought to Bitumount and used for a variety of purposes, including powering a sawmill, running oil sand separation machinery, and providing power for the camp. International Bitumen Company Plant International Bitumen Company Plant Between 1930 and 1937, the International Bitumen Company plant expanded and became more complex. New buildings and equipment were added to accommodate the growing need to process the oil sands. Water played a very important role in the separation process used at the International Bitumen Company plant. The water in the large, elevated wooden reservoir was heated to assist in liquefying the oil sand. International Bitumen Company Quarry International Bitumen Company Quarry The oil sands are located very near to the surface at Bitumount. Only a small amount of overburden needs to be removed before good quality sand can be excavated. A dragline with a large bucket was installed to increase the speed at which oil sand could be delivered to the separation plant. The International Bitumen Company deposited the waste from its separation process immediately adjacent to the plant. Essentially, the tailings went back into the quarry. Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Site Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Site The first step in creating the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project was choosing the site and clearing the land. At the time, there was nothing but forest and muskeg for hundreds of miles in all directions. The forest started to come back after the site was abandoned in 1958, and by the 1990s the site was almost completely overgrown. Overhead Steam Lines Overhead Steam Lines Steam and electricity were generated by the power house. The steam was moved around Bitumount in insulated pipes elevated high above the ground on poles. These same poles carried electrical wires that were attached higher up. Frame Huts Frame Huts These buildings may have been residential. Latrines Latrines The Alberta Government Oil Sands Project camp had indoor hot and cold running water, but no toilets. Several outhouses were dotted around the camp. Recreation Huts Recreation Huts Three arch-roofed buildings were provided to the staff of the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project for recreational purposes. They were a place to visit, play games, or just relax. Staff House Staff House This is the smallest detached staff house; perhaps it was intended for a single person. Staff House Staff House This building provided accommodations for the family of a staff member. Its major feature was that it had more privacy than the bunk house. Garage Garage Four bays provided shelter for the trucks and other vehicles used at the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project. Steam Engine Steam Engine Located in the residential part of the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project site, this steam engine may have been used to provide steam for heat or for the nearby laundry building. Bunk House Bunk House Most of the people living and working at Bitumount were men, and the bunk house was where most of them lived. It was reasonably comfortable, in that it had private rooms, was heated and had hot and cold running water. Laundry Building Laundry Building Cleanliness played an important role in making camp life bearable. Bedding was washed by the camp administration in the laundry building, and workers could have their clothing cleaned there, too. Staff Houses Staff Houses Three identical detached houses were built for administrative staff with families. It is not clear how often families actually occupied them; there were few other features of the camp that would tempt anyone to settle there. Cook House Cook House The cook house was a busy place where all the staff ate their meals together. For those working shifts, the kitchen staff would pack bag lunches to take out. Office and Laboratory Office and Laboratory Administrative work, record-keeping and communications—whether by two-way radio or mail—all took place in the office portion of this building. The very well-equipped laboratory that occupied the remainder of the building was laid out and furnished by the Research Council of Alberta. Warehouse and Machine Shop Warehouse and Machine Shop The isolation of the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project necessitated self-sufficiency in regard to machinery, vehicle and building maintenance and repair. The large warehouse was kept well stocked, and the machine shop was equipped with a variety of power tools for fixing or fabricating anything needed in camp. Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Camp Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Camp Although it was located far from any community, the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project camp at Bitumount was still quite civilized. Great care was taken to keep the camp clean, orderly and safe. Good food was always available, too. Wooden Sidewalks Wooden Sidewalks In an effort to improve conditions in camp, wooden sidewalks were installed along the most travelled routes. Storage Tank Storage Tank Fuel oil produced by the refinery was stored in this tank for use in the power house. Power House Power House Two large oil-fired boilers generated all the steam and electricity needed by the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project. Weigh Scale Weigh Scale In order to determine how much of the oil in the sand was being recovered by the separation process, the trucks delivering oil sand to the plant were weighed before and after they dumped their loads. Ramp and Hopper Ramp and Hopper Trucks loaded with oil sand backed up a ramp and onto the top of the hopper. Once in position, the oil sand was dumped into the hopper, which was shaped like three side-by-side upside-down pyramids. This is where the separation process began. Steam was added near the bottom of the hopper to keep the oil sand moving. Screw Feed and Rotary Screen Screw Feed and Rotary Screen Once the oil sand came out the bottom of the hopper, more water was added to it so that it could move through a number of machines that would further break down any lumps and remove debris. Separation Plant Separation Plant By the time the oil sand made it to the separation plant, it was well heated and mixed with a fair amount of water. Next, it was put through a number of processes that caused the sand to separate from the oil and sink to the bottom of the water. At the same time, enough air was mixed in to cause the heavy oil to float on the water. Surge Tank Surge Tank Next to the separation plant is a wooden building that houses a large tank. The purpose of this tank was to store oil produced by the separation process and then feed it at a steady pace to the refinery. Accumulator Tank, Settler Tank and Valve Control Shed Accumulator Tank, Settler Tank and Valve Control Shed Once separated from the bulk of the sand, the oil still retained some minerals and water. These needed to be removed before the oil could be refined. This was accomplished by adding a lighter form of petroleum, which caused the oil to float on the water and allowed more minerals to settle out. Pressure Settling Tank and Flash Tower Pressure Settling Tank and Flash Tower After passing through a heater, the oil was sent to a pressure settling tank that was intended to eliminate more water; Karl Clark found that this was not an effective means of “drying” the oil. Next, the oil was heated to 441°C (825°F) and passed into a flash tower. Some parts of the superheated oil vaporized, and these gases went to the fractionating tower. Fractionating Tower Fractionating Tower When vapours from superheated oil were passed into the fractionating tower, the lighter ones rose to the top of the tower and were collected to be re-used as a diluent in the separation process. The heaviest ones sank to the bottom and were collected to be used as fuel in the power plant. Refinery Pump House Refinery Pump House This building contained all the pumps necessary to move oil and other petroleum products around the refinery and to the right storage tanks. Heaters Heaters The Alberta Government Oil Sands Project refinery has two heaters. These heated the oil to help remove water from it or to prepare it for the refining process. Bunker Fuel Tanks Bunker Fuel Tanks The heaviest type of fuel oil is known as bunker oil. It is very viscous and sometimes needs to be heated in order to flow freely. Crude Storage Tank Crude Storage Tank The crude oil produced by the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project was stored in this tank. Transfer Pump House Transfer Pump House The machinery in this small pump house was used to move oil into and out of the storage tanks. Storage Tank Storage Tank This tank is made of steel panels riveted together. Today, these joins would be welded. There is one other tank like this at the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project; the two were recycled from the International Bitumen Company’s site. Storage Tanks Storage Tanks These two tanks came to Bitumount around 1936 and were installed at the International Bitumen Company site. Prior to that, they were the property of Great West Distributor Ltd. of Calgary and were emblazoned with their Red Head Gasoline logo. When the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project took over from the International Bitumen Company, these tanks we relocated to be more convenient to the new Alberta Government Oil Sands Project refinery. Bunker Fuel Tank Bunker Fuel Tank The heaviest type of fuel oil is known as bunker oil. It is very viscous and sometimes needs to be heated in order to flow freely. This tank has the same design as the crude storage tank. Experimental Processing Machinery Experimental Processing Machinery Work at the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project included developing and fine-tuning new ways of processing the oil sands. This shed housed some machinery that was used experimentally and then discarded. Pump House Pump House Water for the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project was pumped from the Athabasca River. Within a short period after the construction of the plant, a large sandbar formed and blocked the water intake, forcing costly alterations. Storage Tank Storage Tank This tank is made of steel panels riveted together. Today, these joins would be welded. There is one other tank like this at the Alberta Government Oil Sands Project; the two were probably recycled from the International Bitumen Company’s site. Alberta Government Oil Sand Project Quarry Alberta Government Oil Sand Project Quarry The site for this quarry was chosen after test drilling showed that the oil sands were nearer to the surface at this point than elsewhere in the area. Bitumount Airstrip Bitumount Airstrip In 1948, an airstrip was built a short distance southeast of Bitumount, making it possible for people and small amounts of freight to get in and out of camp at any time of the year. Large cargo—by size or quantity—still had to come by river during the ice-free season. Athabasca River Athabasca River The Athabasca is one of Alberta’s major rivers. It originates in the Rocky Mountains and flows into Lake Athabasca. Rapids block navigation upstream of Fort McMurray, but boats of a good size can travel on the river downstream to Bitumount and beyond. Until very recently, the Athabasca River provided the best way to access Bitumount. Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Dock Alberta Government Oil Sands Project Dock In the 1940s, a reinforced platform that could handle heavy equipment was constructed on the bank of the Athabasca River at Bitumount. It was a short distance upstream of the International Bitumen Company landing spot. International Bitumen Company Landing Spot International Bitumen Company Landing Spot In the 1930s, the bank of the Athabasca River was reinforced with logs to both protect it from erosion and provide a convenient spot to load and unload boats and barges.