Oil, gas have rich history on west coast: geologist

Cliff Wells
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Larry Hicks, the province's manager of petroleum geoscience and geology, talks about the history of oil exploration on the west coast in Corner Brook Tuesday night.

Parson’s Pond is famous for its oil seeps, with local people dipping black gold right from old well casings, but there hasn’t been a big oil play there.

Shoal Point on the Port au Port Peninsula boasts its share of oil shows from well casings that stick from the shoreline. The Deer Lake area also has a few old well heads that still give up live oil.

Despite that, there hasn’t been any major production of oil on the west coast.

But few Corner Brook area residents found out Tuesday there may have been more exploration activity than they thought.

There were six people at Larry Hicks’ talk about the history of oil exploration on the west coast.

Hicks, a Corner Brook native, is the province’s manager of petroleum geoscience and geology and he’s speaking at the fourth International Symposium on Oil and Gas Resources in western Newfoundland later this week.

Tuesday’s presentation was given as a public warmup to the conference.

Joe Keough, a Parson’s Pond native living in Corner Brook, attended the session because the subject hits close to home.

He’s heard a lot about the oil while he was growing up, stories of oil rigs dating back to the 1860s.

He figures the boilers that were in use in Parson’s Pond might have been the first refined oil in North America.

“They produced oil for locomotives and supplied kerosene to the Newfoundland Lamp Co. in St. John’s,” Keough said. “There’s a lot of history of North American oil that surrounds Parson’s Pond, Newfoundland.

“I grew up in the era of listening to people. All my uncles and everybody worked with them — the drill rigs back in the 1960s.”

Tom Philpott, a Corner Brook resident, went to the session to find out a little of the history of oil exploration. He has a cabin in the Deer Lake basin area, so he likes to stay up on what could be happening nearby.

He said knowing what’s happened before gives him a better handle on what’s going on now.

“It’s not a hit or miss thing,” Philpott said. “There’s a history behind it that’s good for narrowing down things.

“I think more oil has been taken out of this area than I thought before.”

Brian Eddy, who works with Natural Resources Canada in Corner Brook, went to the session to find out more.

He has a background in geology and he’s working with the forest sector now, so he was interested to see what’s happened with petroleum.

“I’m surprised there was so much activity historically,” Eddy said. “It’s interesting there was so much activity, but there hasn’t been much followup activity until recently. Why there’s a gap between those two periods, I don’t know.”

Hicks said the west coast has good oil potential because there’s at least three proven petroleum systems.

“We know the source rock is there,” Hicks said. “We know oil or gas has been generated and we know it’s migrated through the rock.

“The caveat is finding the area here — good reservoir rock. Where it’s collected, that’s the problem, trying to find that.”

In the early 20th century Parson’s Pond supplied the west coast and southern Labrador’s fishermen with oil to fuel their boats.

In 1895, he said, Parson’s Pond was producing about 10 barrels of oil a day — commercial quantities at the time.

“When they went there drilling, when they first went there exploring, they had six barrels a day,” he said. “They ran out of things to put the oil in. They weren’t expecting big quantities of oil.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Newfoundland Lamp Co., North American, Natural Resources Canada

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Newfoundland Port au Port Peninsula North America Southern Labrador Western Star

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