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Leduc No. 1 Discovery Well

Devon, Near

Other Names:
Imperial Oil Leduc No. 1

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Leduc No. 1 Discovery Well site comprises approximately 1.4 hectares of land on a single lot near Devon. The site includes an oil pump jack and associated piping. The original well site is surrounded by artifacts from The Canadian Petroleum Interpretive Centre, which lies on an adjacent tract of land, but is not included in the designation.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Leduc No. 1 Discovery Well site lies in its association with the finding of massive petroleum deposits in Alberta and its connection to the dramatic social and economic transformation of the province in the second half of the twentieth century.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Canada was almost entirely dependent upon the United States for its oil supply. As Canada's industries were established and grew, the demand for domestic oil to power the country's economic engine grew. The Imperial Oil Company Ltd., founded in Ontario in 1880, began to explore for oil and gas deposits in Western Canada in the 1910s. For three decades, they were unsuccessful, drilling 133 dry wells in the region. On February 13, 1947, however, the Leduc No. 1 Discovery Well blew in to the delight of the spectators assembled for the occasion. The eruption of oil from Leduc No. 1 triggered extensive exploration for further petroleum deposits as seismic teams, geologists, and geophysicists fanned out across Alberta in search of "black gold." Though the Leduc field was a major find, new fields with even larger petroleum reserves would be discovered in subsequent years.

The spectacular discovery of oil at Leduc in 1947 marked a watershed in Alberta's economic and social life. The find attracted massive American capital investment into the province and resulted in the creation of wells, refineries, and pipelines throughout the province. Oil exploration also uncovered another valuable resource under Alberta's surface - natural gas. The population boomed in subsequent decades as fortune-seekers - many of them well-educated professionals - flocked to Alberta to tap into the province's new-found wealth. New towns were established near oil fields and both Edmonton and Calgary grew dramatically. Edmonton became a service centre for the oil fields and home to numerous refineries, while Calgary developed into the administrative and managerial heartland of Alberta's burgeoning petrochemical industry. The tremendous wealth generated by the province's reserves of oil and gas also accelerated the demographic shift in Alberta from a rural to an urban population and funded the creation of universities and colleges, galleries and museums, and hospitals.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1325)



Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Leduc No. 1 Discovery Well site include such features as:
- pump jack and associated piping.


Location



Street Address:
Community: Devon, Near
Boundaries: Lot A, Plan 7621921
Contributing Resources: Structures: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
26
50
22
5 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
762 1921

A


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.329253 -113.729609 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1986/11/30

Historical Information

Built: 1947/02/13 To 1947/02/13
Significant Date(s) 1947/02/13 To 1947/02/13
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Developing Economies : Technology and Engineering
Historic Function(s): Industry : Natural Resource Extraction Facility or Site
Current Function(s): Leisure : Historic or Interpretive Site
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE:

The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) at York Fort recorded the first known reports of the oil resource in Alberta in 1715, noting Indian descriptions of the 'gum or pitch' at the surface of the Athabasca river banks. The Indian trading captain, Swan, brought a sample in 1719. Peter Pond recorded oil seepages from the sands along the Athabasca River in the Fort McMurray area soon after his 1778 entry into the area. The exploration and development of Alberta's petroleum resources, however, did not begin until the latter part of the nineteenth century. The first discovery of note occurred in 1883 at Langevin (Alderson) 40 miles northwest of Medicine Hat. Gas was found at a depth of about 1,000 feet in the course of attempts by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to obtain a water supply for a railway water tank. This initial strike was followed by the drilling of wells for oil and gas in the Medicine Hat area, along the Athabasca River, in Waterton Park and southwest of Calgary during the period prior to World War One.

The first major oil discovery from these pre-World War One activities was at the Turner Valley field. The development of this field began on January 25, 1913 when a wall was spudded in along Sheep Creek under the direction of Archibald Wayne Dingman that subsequently blew in May 1914. The Turner Valley field was for the next 30 years the chief oil field not only in Alberta but also in Canada. The discovery of the field was followed by the construction of an oil refinery in Calgary in 1921.

The involvement of Imperial Oil in the search for development of Alberta's oil reserves began in 1919, when the company introduced the first all-steel derrick into the country. This permitted deeper drilling because rotary-drilling tools could be used. On the earlier rigs, drilling had been done with a heavy chisel-like tool at the end of a cable. Repeatedly raised and dropped, the chisel punched rather than drilled a hole through the earth. These cable rigs were suited to the shallow wells of southern Ontario but they could not penetrate much below 4,500 feet. The rotary rig, however, used a drill bit that rotated on the end of a string of drill pipe and ground its way through the rocks. The drill bits had to be changed frequently as they quickly became dull. Drilling mud, a mixture of clay, chemicals and water, carried the crushed rock created by the drilling to the surface and cooled the bit. As rotary rigs gained acceptance in the drilling community, technological research rapidly improved drilling conditions and efficiency. By 1928, rotary-drilling equipment had been established as an important method of drilling oil wells. Significant improvement in the mud pumps and the beginning of improvements in bits was already being recorded. In this period research was initiated into the technical aspects of drilling practices.

By 1946 the company had spent some 23,000,000 dollars and drilled 133 dry holes in Western Canada. Its only success throughout this period had been at Norman Wells on the Mackenzie River in 1920. In 1946 the Company's directors decided that one last effort would be made to find oil. If it was unsuccessful, the company would concentrate on producing gasoline from the natural gas in the Viking-Kinsella area. On the advice of Dr. Ted Link, Imperial's chief geologist, Imperial decided to conduct drilling tests in central Alberta. The testing would begin northwest of Edmonton and continue south through Leduc and beyond.

On February 13, 1947, Imperial's efforts were rewarded when Imperial Leduc No. One blew in. This strike, soon discovered to be of significant proportions, precipitated one of Canada's greatest resource booms. Leduc proved Alberta's sedimentary basins did hold major oil deposits. Immediately after Leduc, large and small companies rushed to gain title to the parcels of land they felt might yield a strike as big as Leduc No. One. This frenzied activity produced many significant strikes including those at Redwater in 1948 and Pembina in 1953. Not only did the boom yield significant oil deposits, but also major reservoirs of natural gas were discovered in the process of oil exploration.

The Leduc Oil Well No. One discovery precipitated a period of rapid economic growth for Alberta by attracting investment capital and population to the Province. The growth in the economy was evident in the continued activity in search of oil, the establishment of a petrochemical industry and the growth of existing urban centres as well as the establishment of new towns. The economic growth did not, however, lead to the diversification of the economy but rather to the addition of one more staple in addition to agricultural goods to Alberta's exports.

Site Data Form (December 1985)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0116
Designation File: DES 1325
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 81391
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1325)
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