Port Stanley Villager Jan:Feb 2020

Hidden reserves under Lake Erie One of Lake Erie’s most enduring legacies was forged in the Paleozoic period. About 300 million to 545 million years ago, shallow seas covered what is now known as Port Stanley. Southern Ontario’s land mass was then situated some 20-to-35 degrees south of the equator. Organic matter from a prolific population of marine creatures gradually settled. Over time it was buried and compressed, transformed into oil and natural gas, embedded in sedimentary rock across the Appalachian Basin. North America's first commercial oil producer was James Miller Williams, in Oil Springs, Ontario, who in 1858 hand- dug a well, struck oil, refined it, then packaged and sold it as “illuminating oil” for lamps. Natural gas production in Ontario started in 1889 and has been produced from vertical wells on Lake Erie since 1913. The lake also produced oil, via horizontal wells from onshore, since 1998. Today, Lake Erie waves roll over more than 2,200 oil and natural gas wells and upwards of 1,900 kilometers of petroleum pipelines, crisscrossing the Canadian side of the lakebed. Besides periodic sightings of service tugs – running workmen to well sites for maintenance and upkeep – the reach of Ontario’s petroleum industry is largely out of sight, out of mind. Port Stanley once figured prominently in the industry. While “the majority of wells are in the western basin or just off Long Point … a number of factors, however, conspired to make Port Stanley a very important player in the underwater gas industry,” according to Frank and Nancy Prothero, authors of the book Lament for a Harbour: Port Stanley, published in 2015 byNan-Sea Publications. “Logistics was the key to the success of the harbour here,” the Protheros continue. Although other harbours were more convenient, the opportunity came to “ … Port Stanley with the nearest deep water harbour capable of hosting the growing fleet of vessels that serviced the underwater gas wells.” Although Port Stanley’s role in the industry has waned, as natural gas prices floundered and silt filled the harbour, there are still some 80 companies producing oil and natural gas in Southwestern Ontario, supplying homeowners, farmers and business owners. LakeHuron ONTARIO PRODUCTION OIL NATURAL GAS NORTH EAST AND OF THE

Black and white photograph used in St. Thomas Times-Journal article published June 4, 1959 with caption: “Floats, Has Stilts - Employing the above pictured new type of drill rig, the Place Gas and Oil Co. brought in a natural gas open flow of close to a million cubic feet a day in Lake Erie off the Port Dover-Selkirk shoreline on Wednesday. Casing was sunk to a depth of 2,600 feet. The new drilling platform is the largest of its type in Canadian waters and incorporates the catamaran principle of floatation. The platform deck is 40x50 feet and the retractable steel legs on which it stands in the lake bottom are 76 feet long. Installed on the rig is a diesel generator for operating the motors which raise and lower the legs, and to supply power for the lighting and communication systems on board. The company’s diesel tug Toni D, is seen at the left with a float plane used by company officials.”

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Black and white photograph used in St. Thomas Times-Journal article published May 9, 1969 with caption: “Oil Exploration on Lake Erie is being intensified this summer with the arrival of the 165-foot-long Atlantic Seal, registered to Galveston, Texas. The big vessel will search central Lake Erie from Long Point to Rondeau Bay for traces of oil and natural gas. Although Lake Erie is considered an important source of natural gas and oil is known to exist beneath the lake’s bottom off Port Burwell, the arrival of the Atlantic Seal is an indication that the emphasis of the continuing exploration of the lake’s resources is turning more than before towards petroleum. The Atlantic Seal will remain on the lake for up to two weeks at a time.”

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