Canadian Geographic
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Fueling Canada

Oil and Gas

Following an initial oil boom in the 1860s a large number of refineries sprang up across southwestern Ontario, particularly in the London area. Although crude oil was in great demand for refined fuel products such as kerosene, the rapid exploitation of oil around Petrolia, Ontario, made only a small contribution to the country’s total energy demands. With industry consolidation in the 1880s the Imperial Oil Company emerged as the dominant producer, eventually concentrating its refinery operations in Sarnia.

Of great additional importance were the discovery and development of oil and gas fields in central Alberta. During the 1950s the production of oil more than quadrupled and natural gas increased eightfold. Beginning in the late 1940s the Inter-Provincial oil pipeline was built eastward to southern Ontario through the American midwest and the Trans-Mountain oil pipeline was built westward to the Pacific coast. Most of the production was directed to fill the needs of Canadians from the Pacific coast to the Ottawa valley; just over one-quarter was exported to the United States. Oil from the Middle East and Venezuela continued to feed Canadian refineries in Montréal and Atlantic Canada. The main natural-gas pipeline was routed entirely within Canada and reached Montréal in 1958.

Natural gas rapidly replaced coal, oil, and wood as the major source of energy in cities and towns in southern Saskatchewan. In 1952 the Saskatchewan Power Corporation, a wing of the provincial government, began building a pipeline system to tap the Brock and Coleville fields. By 1961 hundreds of kilometres of pipeline had been laid to serve over 80,000 customers in 112 communities or about 75% of all non-farm households.

To explore oil exploration off the coast of Newfoundland click here.
For more information about Alberta’s tar sands, click here.


This series of five graphs and interactive maps pertains to oil and gas production. First, an interactive map shows total value of refined oil produced in Ontario and Quebec in 1871 and 1891. Second, a line graph illustrates Canadian crude oil production by year between 1870 and 1900. Third, a map provides a snapshot of oil and gas production and flow in 1961. The user can toggle between oil and gas using a slider and between capacity and flow using buttons. Fourth and fifth, line graphs plot production of conventional and crude oil and natural gas, respectively, between 2000 and 2007. Users can navigate the series using the controls above or buttons below the image space, and can explore portions of each by clicking to zoom in and out, and dragging to pan around.


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Quiz :

To what type of expansion did coal mining in Alberta and British Columbia contribute?

Social networks
Urban growth
Rural expansion