Drilling for gas
Eugene Costa with a drilling crew
Old Glory gas well
  • Gas Town of the West<br/> Source: Image courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta, PC010811

    Alberta’s first natural gas discovery in Langevin eventually leads to the designation of Medicine Hat as the “Gas Town of the West.”

    Gas Town of the West
    Source: Image courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta, PC010811

  • Gas well blowing at Bow Island, Alberta<br/> Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4048-4

    At Bow Island, Alberta, the largest gas well drilled in Canada to date is directed by Eugene Coste, the “father of the natural gas industry.”

    Gas well blowing at Bow Island, Alberta
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4048-4

  • Pipe for gas line, Bow Island area, Alberta, 1913 Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4048-1

    Eugene Coste builds a 270-km (168-mi.) long pipeline, one of the longest and largest pipelines at that time, to carry Bow Island gas to Calgary and Lethbridge.

    Pipe for gas line, Bow Island area, Alberta, 1913
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4048-1

  • Turner Valley Discovery Well Blowing, 1914<br/>Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1883

    Natural gas wet with condensate is first discovered in the Cretaceous level at Turner Valley with the Dingman No. 1 well by Calgary Petroleum Products, the company originally founded by William Stewart Herron.

    Turner Valley Discovery Well Blowing, 1914
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1883

  • Edmonton Gas Well, Viking, Alberta, ca. 1914<br/> Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-1328-66092

    Edmonton finds a natural gas supply in Viking, Alberta, but delays development due to war-related anxieties.

    Edmonton Gas Well, Viking, Alberta, ca. 1914
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-1328-66092

  • Original Royalite absorption, compression and scrubbing plant, ca. 1926<br/> Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1882

    Royalite Oil Company Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Imperial Oil, gains entry to Turner Valley and begins an aggressive campaign to dominate petroleum production there.

    Original Royalite absorption, compression and scrubbing plant, ca. 1926
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1882

  • Pipeline at MacDougall Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, 1923<br/> Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-3-2062

    Edmonton, Alberta, receives its first delivery of natural gas from the Viking-Kinsella field that had been discovered in 1914.

    Pipeline at MacDougall Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, 1923
    Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-3-2062

  • Burning Gas at Royalite No. 4, Hell’s Half Acre, Turner Valley, Alberta, 1924<br/> Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-8-430

    Royalite Oil punctures the gas condensate reservoir in the Mississippian rock formation at Turner Valley, and Royalite No. 4 erupts in fire.

    Burning Gas at Royalite No. 4, Hell’s Half Acre, Turner Valley, Alberta, 1924
    Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-8-430

  • In December 1929, Mackenzie King signs natural resources transfer agreement prior to the passage of legislation in 1930<br/> Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10924

    The Canadian federal government transfers control of natural gas and other natural resources to the provincial Government of Alberta through the Natural Resources Transfer Acts of 1930.

    In December 1929, Mackenzie King signs natural resources transfer agreement prior to the passage of legislation in 1930.
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10924

  • An Act for the Conservation of the Oil and Gas Resources of the Province of Alberta<br/> Source: <em>The Oil and Gas Conservation Act</em>, SA 1938, c. 15

    Oil and Gas Resources Conservation Act becomes law, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, now the Energy Utilities Board, is formed as the regulatory authority for all gas and oil operations.

    An Act for the Conservation of the Oil and Gas Resources of the Province of Alberta
    Source: The Oil and Gas Conservation Act, SA 1938, c. 15

  • Shell Oil Jumping Pound Gas plant, 1952<br/> Source Provincial Archives of Alberta, P3009

    The largest gas reservoir in Canada at the time of discovery, the Jumping Pound field becomes a symbol of the need to resolve the stalemate over whether or not Alberta should export its natural gas; without adequate markets, it remains shut in until 1951.

    Shell Oil Jumping Pound Gas plant, 1952
    Source Provincial Archives of Alberta, P3009

  • But of course! Gas The Modern Fuel! In the years following World War II, the development and use of natural gas skyrockets due, in part, to rigorous marketing.<br/> Source: City of Edmonton Archives, EA-275-1776

    Efforts to promote natural gas as a safe, clean alternative to coal help the market expand rapidly, and large-scale processing and pipeline projects are constructed to serve the growing market.

    But of course! Gas The Modern Fuel! In the years following World War II, the development and use of natural gas skyrockets due, in part, to rigorous marketing.
    Source: City of Edmonton Archives, EA-275-1776

  • Handling sulfur at Madison natural gas facility, Turner Valley, 1952<br/> Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P2973

    In 1952, facilities in both Turner Valley and Jumping Pound begin to convert the toxic hydrogen sulfide in sour gas into benign elemental sulfur, and by the 1970s Canada becomes the largest exporter of sulfur in the world.

    Handling sulfur at Madison natural gas facility, Turner Valley, 1952
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P2973

  • <em>An Act to Incorporate a Gas Trunk Pipe Line Company to Gather and Transmit Gas within the Province</em><br/> Source: <em>The Alberta Gas Trunk Line Company Act</em>, SA 1954, c. 37

    Alberta Trunk Line Company is established in order to gather and transmit Alberta’s natural gas for domestic consumption as well as for export outside of the province.

    An Act to Incorporate a Gas Trunk Pipe Line Company to Gather and Transmit Gas within the Province
    Source: The Alberta Gas Trunk Line Company Act, SA 1954, c. 37

  • TransCanada Pipeline<br/> Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1355

    TransCanada Pipeline exports the first gas piped to eastern Canada over a single pipeline, longer than any other single length of pipeline in North America at that time.

    TransCanada Pipeline
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1355

  • Tom Adams (l) and Stan Jones (r)<br/> Source: Courtesy of Gwen Blatz

    Tom Adams and Stan Jones found the Meota Gas Co-operative, the first in what becomes a widespread movement to provide gas service throughout Alberta’s rural areas.

    Tom Adams (l) and Stan Jones (r)
    Source: Courtesy of Gwen Blatz

  • Just relax...we're just going to take a sample. November 14, 1980<br/> Source: Glenbow Archives, M-8000-710

    Prime Minister Trudeau introduces the national Energy Program (NEP), which sets prices for oil and gas well below international prices.

    “Just relax...we’re just going to take a sample.” November 14, 1980
    Source: Glenbow Archives, M-8000-710

  • Amoco sour gas blowout at Lodgepole near Drayton Valley, 1982<br/> Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, J3747-1

    The Lodgepole sour gas blowout smells up the air for weeks, highlighting a growing conflict between the desire for economic development and the need to safeguard the public.

    Amoco sour gas blowout at Lodgepole near Drayton Valley, 1982
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, J3747-1

  • Tied in coal bed methane (CBM) well, Ponoka, Alberta<br/> Source: Courtesy of Encana Corporation

    As conventional sources of natural gas have matured and declined, the industry has increasingly focused its efforts on developing unconventional gas resources such as shale gas, tight gas and coal bed methane.

    Tied in coal bed methane (CBM) well, Ponoka, Alberta
    Source: Courtesy of Encana Corporation

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“Tiny” Phillips and “Frosty” Martin

The early days of the petroleum industry were fraught with risk and danger in addition to excitement. The kind of hardy, maybe foolhardy, attitude necessary to thrive was epitomized by two American-born drillers who figured prominently in the early days of the petroleum industry in Alberta.

These two men, A. P. “Tiny” Phillips and W. R. “Frosty” Martin, were destined for the petroleum patch given the circumstances of their birth. Both were born in 1873 in Pennsylvania, then the epicenter of the new United States petroleum industry. Tiny was the son of a blacksmith who forged and maintained drilling tools in Oil City, Pennsylvania. As he recalled, “I was brought up around an oil rig. An oil rig was my playground. My dad taught me how to fire a rig boiler at an early age. In fact, I could tell how

many pounds of steam were on a boiler’s steam gauge before I learned to tell the time.” A two-year apprenticeship with an optometrist uncle was not appealing enough to dissuade Tiny from answering the call of the drill, and at age fourteen he took off to join the trade.

Born into a family of drillers, Frosty had begun an apprenticeship with his father even before the family moved to the Oesterlen gas well in Findlay, Ohio, when he was eleven. School offered little compared to the excitement of spending time in the field where Frosty might be able to watch a well being torpedoed with nitroglycerine. Tiny and Frosty met during their mid-teens somewhere in the Findlay field, at that point promoted as “the largest gas belt of any now known in the world.”

The friendship shared by Tiny and Frosty was forged in pursuit of a common goal, to be self-employed and to own a string of tools, as a drill was called. The semi-nomadic lifestyle of a driller was described by one who recalled, “We jumped from place to place like foxes, to wherever we could get the most money. There weren’t too many of our breed then and we could afford to be snooty.” Though they periodically followed separate paths, Tiny and Frosty would inevitably end up back together again on the job. Thus they were together drilling wells in Ontario when their perseverance and spirit impressed Eugene Coste enough that he asked them to come west

with him. With Frosty as his field superintendent and Tiny as his head driller, Coste embarked upon the venture that resulted in the first significant discovery of natural gas in Bow Island, Alberta.

This fortuitous discovery must be credited to the conviction of Frosty, who prevailed against Coste’s instructions to cease drilling. His hunch was vindicated when Coste No. 1 finally blew in January 1909 at 583 m (1,912 ft.) and 4½ million cubic feet. Tiny remembers, “There was great jubilation that day for this was the first big producer in the new Province of Alberta,” a producer the drillers dubbed “Old Glory.”

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