Involvement in Oil Industry
Al arrived in Lloydminster in November of 1945. He went to work for Northern Development on a drilling rig, New Year's Eve 1946. Northern Development was owned by Charlie Mills. Al stayed with the rig until the following November when he went to work at the old refinery, which was located 1 ½ miles west of town. At that time it was called Excelsior.
Al became foreman at the refinery in 1948. At that time, there were approximately 25 staff members. John Howes was the superintendent.
When Franco Oils was looking for someone to build an oil treating plant at Lone Rock, John and Al left Excelsior and went to Lone Rock. Franco Oils also had interest in Borradaile and Vermilion at that time.
Al stayed at Lone Rock until the summer of 1950. John Howes stayed on after Al left. After leaving Lone Rock, Al worked for the Lloydminster Gas Co. and Commonwealth Drilling. In 1951, he moved to Big Valley, Alberta. He then spent some time in Edmonton and Saskatoon.
When Al came back to Lloydminster, he built the Nuco cleaning plant, which was located west of the Excelsior refinery. In the interim, Excelsior had been taken over by another group and was then called the Kodiak refinery. Kodiak later took over Nuco. In 1960, Al was transferred to Kodiak’s head office in Edmonton. In 1965, he came back to Lloydminster and bought two service rigs. Husky took over the refinery assets of Kodiak and the refinery was shut down. That’s when Husky started pipeline construction.
When he sold the rigs, he went to work for Fargo (previously Franco). Al retired from Lone Rock in 1986. There had been numerous name changes over the years, it had gone from Fargo to Canadian Reserve to Getty Oils to Texaco.
When Al started in the oilfield as a roughneck, it was quite an introduction. At that time, when they rigged up in the wintertime they dug mud pits by hand with pick and shovel and dynamite. The equipment was antiquated. It was hard work!
Excelsior refinery was small, the equipment seemed quite antiquated but as time went on it all changed. "I guess everything today is more modern when you look back". The main product was asphalt and they supplied both provinces with their asphalt needs. Oil was also sold to the CNR as bunker fuel.
When Al got involved in the oil business, there were existing wells, but the oil industry was just getting going. He recalls that there were promoters around; Russell Shaw, Charlie Mills (drilling contractor), Lloyd Clinch and John Lauseth to name a few. Al feels "if it hadn’t been for some of these fellows, he’s not sure that Husky would have ever been here". Husky came to this area because the oil was already discovered.
John Loveseth had what was called "Community Services", four miles south of town on the Saskatchewan side. There was a large pit of oil that they kept producing into as they didn’t have full market for what they were producing. This area is currently owned by Murphy.
Large quantities of equipment have been disposed of over the last 15-20 years. A few years ago, Al took a drive to Borradaile because there was some very old equipment there. When they got there it was gone, it had been moved to OTS park in Edmonton.
In 1965 at Lone Rock, all the wells were pumped into wellsite tanks. The oil was hauled to the Lone Rock cleaning terminal and the water was hauled to disposal facilities. There the oil was cleaned, B, S & W was removed and the oil was pumped to the Husky pipeline. They did a lot of flowlining that year, they put over 100 wells on flowline in the fall of 1965. It was flowlined into satellites which would take a group of wells and at that point they had a transfer pump which pumped it to a battery where it was cleaned. It was then pumped down to shipping facilities and continued on its way to the Husky pipeline.
A few years later, Fargo, Murphy and PAT operators joined a partnership and built a pipeline from Lone Rock to Kerrobert. Husky took their oil in kind as they had interests in some of these wells - it came north and the other oil went south.
Al was a director of the Lloydminster Gas Co. It was taken over by Chieftain Developments of Edmonton. Chieftain had it for a few years and finally sold it to Northwest Utilities. One comment that was made during the interview is that the technology has changed but the system is the same.