• The Geological Survey of Canada publishes a map important to exploration for oil and gas. The map covers the Canadian Rockies from the border with the United States to the Red Deer Valley in central Alberta and includes Turner Valley and Bow Valley. It is based on surveying work done by George Mercer Dawson, A. R. C. Selwyn and Eugene Coste. <br />Source: Natural Resources Canada, used under the Government of Canada’s Open Government <br />License: http://open.canada.ca/en/open-government-licence-canada.

    Geological Survey of Canada

    The Geological Survey of Canada publishes George Dawson’s geological map of the Canadian Rockies. The map covers the Canadian Rockies from the border with the United States to the Red Deer Valley in central Alberta and includes Turner Valley and Bow Valley and was an important resource for natural resource exploration.
    Source: Natural Resources Canada, used under the Government of Canada’s Open Government
    License: http://open.canada.ca/en/open-government-licence-canada

  • William Stewart Herron, shown here ca. 1930, noticed gas seepages along the Sheep River and acquired land and drilling rights for the area. He partnered with Archibald W. Dingman and a group of Calgary-area investors to form Calgary Petroleum Products and began drilling in Turner Valley in 1913. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4607-1.

    Herron Acquires Land and Drilling Rights

    William Stewart Herron, shown here ca. 1930, noticed gas seepages along the Sheep River and acquired land and drilling rights for the area. He partnered with Archibald W. Dingman and a group of Calgary-area investors to form Calgary Petroleum Products and began drilling in Turner Valley in 1913.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4607-1

  • Calgary Petroleum Products discovers wet gas at the Dingman No. 1 well on the Sheep River in Turner Valley on May 14, 1914. Calgary Petroleum Products begins installing equipment to process the raw petroleum product. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-2335-4.

    Discovery!

    Calgary Petroleum Products discovers wet gas at the Dingman No. 1 well on the Sheep River in Turner Valley on May 14, 1914. Calgary Petroleum Products begins installing equipment to process the raw petroleum.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-2335-4

  • A fire and explosion in October 1920 severely damage the Calgary Petroleum Products plant at Turner Valley. Unable to continue operations, the company is taken over by Imperial Oil in 1921. Imperial Oil forms a subsidiary company called Royalite to manage the plant and wells in the valley. New absorption and compression plants are built as well as a pipeline to Okotoks, which, on December 31, feeds gas into the Canadian Western Natural Gas line to Calgary. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-711-85

    Royalite Takes Over

    A fire and explosion in October 1920 severely damage the Calgary Petroleum Products plant at Turner Valley. Unable to continue operations, the company is taken over by Imperial Oil in 1921. Imperial Oil forms a subsidiary company called Royalite to manage the plant and wells in the valley. New absorption and compression plants are built as well as a pipeline to Okotoks, which, on December 31, feeds gas into the Canadian Western Natural Gas line to Calgary.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-711-85

  • To meet growing consumer demand for natural gas in Calgary, Royalite doubles the size of its compression plant at the Turner Valley gas plant. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6e-3-57

    Consumer Demand

    To meet growing consumer demand for natural gas in Calgary, Royalite doubles the size of its compression plant at the Turner Valley gas plant.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6e-3-57

  • Royalite No. 4 in Turner Valley, a sour gas well, results in a major blowout that destroys the derrick. The fire burns for three weeks until a team of experts from Oklahoma uses dynamite and steam to extinguish the flames. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6e-4-18

    Sour Gas

    Royalite No. 4 in Turner Valley, a sour gas well, results in a major blowout that destroys the derrick. The fire burns for three weeks until a team of experts from Oklahoma uses dynamite and steam to extinguish the flames.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6e-4-18

  • Royalite builds a new scrubbing plant using the Seaboard soda ash process to remove toxic hydrogen sulfide and "sweeten" the sour gas. This signals the beginning of a major expansion of the Turner Valley gas plant. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, S-17-110

    Sweetening

    Royalite builds a new scrubbing plant using the Seaboard soda ash process to remove toxic hydrogen sulfide and “sweeten” the sour gas. This signals the beginning of a major expansion of the Turner Valley gas plant.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, S-17-110

  • In August 1929, the Rutledge Air service begins a daily route between Turner Valley and Calgary, making Turner Valley one of the first communities in Alberta to be served by scheduled flights. Flights to Edmonton commence soon after. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-3-4871b

    Air Service

    In August 1929, the Rutledge Air begins a daily route between Turner Valley and Calgary, making Turner Valley one of the first communities in Alberta to be served by scheduled flights. Flights to Edmonton commence soon after.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, ND-3-4871b

  • The Government of Canada transfers control of natural resources to the Government of Alberta The agreement is signed on December 14, 1929 by Prime Minister Mackenzie King (seated centre) and John Brownlee, premier of Alberta to his left. The required legislation is passed in 1930. <br />Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10924

    Provincial Control

    The Government of Canada transfers control of natural resources to the Government of Alberta The agreement is signed on December 14, 1929 by Prime Minister Mackenzie King (seated centre) and John Brownlee, premier of Alberta to his left. The required legislation is passed in 1930.
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10924

  • Turner Valley and Black Diamond incorporate as villages. Hit hard by the Great Depression, both villages would be bankrupt by the end of 1931. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-67-51

    Incorporation

    Turner Valley and Black Diamond incorporate as villages. Hit hard by the Great Depression, both villages would be bankrupt by the end of 1931.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-67-51

  • Royalite adds new facilities and expands production capability. <br />Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism, 12.4 absorber_nw

    Expansion

    Royalite adds new facilities and expands production capability.
    Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

  • Turner Valley Royalties strikes oil at its No. 1 well near Longview. Although not directly related to the gas plant, this discovery sparks an economic recovery and leads to the growth of communities in the region. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-2335-2

    Turner Valley Royalties No. 1

    Turner Valley Royalties strikes oil at its No. 1 well near Longview. Although not directly related to the gas plant, this discovery sparks an economic recovery and leads to the growth of communities in the region.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-2335-2

  • After years of concerns about flaring waste gas, the Government of Alberta enacts the <em>Oil and Gas Resources Conservation Act</em>. This Act results in the creation of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, which is endowed with the authority to regulate all gas and oil operations and to enforce better conservation measures. <br />Source: The Oil and Gas Conservation Act, SA 1938 (Second Session), c. 1

    Conservation

    After years of concerns about flaring waste gas, the Government of Alberta enacts the Oil and Gas Resources Conservation Act. This Act results in the creation of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, which is endowed with the authority to regulate all gas and oil operations and to enforce better conservation measures.
    Source: The Oil and Gas Conservation Act, SA 1938 (Second Session), c. 1

  • During the Second World War, the Government of Canada establishes the Department of Munitions and Supply under the control of Minister C. D. Howe. Howe and his ministry, which oversees all aspects of Canada’s wartime production, deem oil to be a strategic wartime commodity. <br />Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-019382

    Wartime Supply

    During the Second World War, the Government of Canada establishes the Department of Munitions and Supply under the control of Minister C. D. Howe. Howe and his ministry, which oversees all aspects of Canada’s wartime production, deem oil to be a strategic wartime commodity.
    Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-019382

  • Royalite installs a Girbotol natural gas sweetener, which allows for the increased production of natural gas. This helps meet the increased demand for natural gas during the Second World War, particularly for the Allied War Supplies Corporation south of Calgary. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6d-4-7b

    Wartime Demand

    Royalite installs a Girbotol natural gas sweetener, which allows for the increased production of natural gas. This helps meet the increased demand for natural gas during the Second World War, particularly for the Allied War Supplies Corporation facilities south of Calgary.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-6d-4-7b

  • Two Horton Spheres are installed at the Turner Valley plant to store isobutene, a necessary ingredient in the manufacture of high-octane aviation fuel. The spherical shape of these tanks is best for storing high-pressure, volatile petroleum products like isobutene. <br />Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-14a-1472

    High Octane

    Two Horton Spheres are installed at the Turner Valley plant to store isobutane, a necessary ingredient in the manufacture of high-octane aviation fuel. The spherical shape of these tanks is best for storing high-pressure, volatile petroleum products like isobutane.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, IP-14a-1472

  • Royalite creates a subsidiary, Madison Natural Gas, to gather and process gas from wells in the Turner Valley region. <br />Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P4723b (Detail)

    Madison Natural Gas

    Royalite creates a subsidiary, Madison Natural Gas, to gather and process gas from wells in the Turner Valley region.
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P4723b (Detail)

  • In July 1952, Royalite buys the Western Propane plant and relocates it to the Turner Valley plant site. It makes propane from the main plant’s flare gas. <br />Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P2902

    Propane

    In July 1952, Royalite buys the Western Propane plant and relocates it to the Turner Valley plant site. It makes propane from the main plant’s flare gas.
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P2902

  • Madison Natural Gas establishes a sulfur extraction plant at its Turner Valley operation. This makes Canada the largest worldwide exporter of elemental sulfur. <br />Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta P2990

    Sulfur Extraction

    Madison Natural Gas establishes a sulfur extraction plant at its Turner Valley operation. This makes Canada the largest worldwide exporter of elemental sulfur.
    Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta P2990

  • In 1985, following years of declining production and rising costs for maintenance and upgrading, the Turner Valley gas plant is deemed to be no longer economically viable and is decommissioned. <br />Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

    Decommission

    In 1985, following years of declining production and rising costs for maintenance and upgrading, the Turner Valley gas plant is deemed to be no longer economically viable and is decommissioned.
    Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

  • The Government of Alberta acquires the Turner Valley gas plant in 1988. The site is determined to be provincially significant for its association with Alberta’s oil and gas history, and it is designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1989. <br />Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

    Provincial Designation

    The Government of Alberta acquires the Turner Valley gas plant in 1988. The site is determined to be provincially significant for its association with Alberta’s oil and gas history, and it is designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1989.
    Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

  • The Turner Valley gas plant is determined to be significant for its role in the development of Canada’s oil and gas history and is declared to be a National Historic Site of Canada on November 24, 1995. <br />Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

    National Designation

    The Turner Valley gas plant is determined to be significant for its role in the development of Canada’s oil and gas industry and is declared to be a National Historic Site of Canada on November 24, 1995.
    Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

  • The centennial of the discovery of the Turner Valley oilfield is observed on May 12, 2014, with a public event at the site. <br />Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

    100 Year Anniversary

    The centennial of the discovery of the Turner Valley oilfield is observed on May 12, 2014, with a public event at the site.
    Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism

Play Timeline

Technology and Infrastructure

The story of the Turner Valley gas plant is one of adaptation and change in the face of economic and technical challenges. From 1914 to the early 1950s, the plant was in the forefront of gas processing technology in Canada, including natural gas processing; compression of natural gas for movement to consumers; scrubbing hydrogen sulfide from natural gas; gasoline production; isobutane and propane production; elemental sulfur production; and gasoline and oil collection and transfer to Imperial Oil’s Calgary refinery.

All these functions required special buildings, equipment and other installations. Over time the Turner Valley gas plant evolved from a rudimentary

set-up into a highly sophisticated and specialized facility featuring the best technology of the day.

Most of the equipment and buildings now remaining on the Turner Valley Gas Plant Provincial Historic Site date from 1933 to 1952. Nothing remains from prior to 1920, as fire and obsolescence cleared it all away. A few buildings and machines represent the 1920s, and there are some structures and equipment from the period after 1952 until the plant was finally shut down in 1985. The extant structures at the Turner Valley Gas Plant Historic Site are significant as a reminder of the development of Alberta’s oil and gas industries.

In this Section

DRILLING

Cable tools and then rotary drilling rigs were used to access Turner Valley’s oil and gas.

PROCESSING

Removing impurities and developing new products required ingenuity and innovation.

TRANSPORTATION

Solving the problem of access was critical to developing Turner Valley’s resources.

PIPELINES

Pipelines moved oil and gas from well to plant and market.

ADAPTATION AND CHANGE

New technologies and practical solutions to local problems kept the plant competitive.

Coal Conventional Oil Turner Valley Gas Plant Natural Gas Oil Sands Bitumount Electricity & Alternative Energy