2019 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition:

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History of the Alberta Geological Survey and Its Contribution to the Petroleum Industry in Canada


In the next two years the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Although the AGS officially has its birth year as 1920, survey work began earlier (in at least 1919) with geological field work that led up to the first AGS report on Mineral Resources of Alberta to the Government of Alberta. Other roots of the AGS go back to 1912, with the founding of the University of Alberta, and the appointment of Dr. John Allan, and head of the new Geology Department (later also founding head of the AGS).After this appointment, Allan was requested by the provincial government to assess and report on Alberta’s natural resources. In Allan’s first report to the Legislative Assembly, given in 1920, Dr. Allan reported on 18 different resources, including bitumen, natural gas, salt, coal, and other mineral resources. This was followed a year later by updates on salt spring deposits, bituminous sands, coal measures, iron deposits, petroleum oil and gas fields, salt wells, and other accessory resources, such as talc, mica and ‘paint shale.’ The first permanent staff geologist was hired in 1924, and since that time, staff numbers ranged from 0 in 1933-1942 (when it was shut down), to between 40 and 60 in the 2000s. The first geologic map of Alberta was published in 1926. Since the delivery of Allan’s first two annual reports to the Alberta government, the AGS has systematically mapped and delineated the geology of the province and its resources, with approximately 1500 government reports and over 550 maps.

The AGS has been associated with different provincial-government agencies, since it's founding; most notably, with the Alberta Research Council (and its forerunners) until 1995; and since then, mainly with the Alberta Energy Regulator (and its predecessors). Although the role of the AGS may have changed over the years, it has consistently maintained an active presence in the delineation and understanding of the geology of Alberta’s petroleum resources, including bitumen, oil, natural gas, coal-bed methane, and the emergent unconventional shale and siltstone liquids-rich gas and gas commodities. This presentation will emphasize the contributions that the AGS has made to the petroleum industry in its first 100 years -- giving a view to the past; and a glimpse to the future and Alberta's energy landscape changes over the next 100 years.