The Great Fire of 1962

If you’ve ever looked at Alberta production data, you may see that before 1962, there are no monthly volumes. Every single oil and gas well in the province that produced prior to 1962 gets reported to December 1961. The effect is really noticeable when you chart monthly production. Before 1962, there’s a minor amount of production from Saskatchewan, BC and Manitoba, then you get a big spike in December 1962, then an accurate month by month plotting of production information.
Western Canada Oil, Gas Production 1935-2010
For as long as I can remember since I’ve been at geoLOGIC, the explanation we used to explain this was something along the lines of “oh yeah, the board burned down in 1962, and all the records went with it.” It was an explanation that was passed from person to person internally and in many ways it was the perfect response whenever we were asked about this. Clients seemed satisfied and the explanation left no room for any possible recourse and worked until…

So, one day a couple of years ago, the subject came up again in an internal meeting. Someone mentioned the great ERCB fire of 1962. At that moment, a colleague of mine, who worked at the board for decades and would know these things interrupted the conversation with “there was never a fire”. In one instant, the most comprehensive explanation ever for Alberta data questions just vanished.

I’ve asked people internally how they learned of the Great Fire and each person heard it from somebody else, so I’ve concluded that the story is decades old and it likely originated outside our organization. It seems that enough people relayed it enough times; this half century ago event was accepted as fact.

So, now when someone asks the question about why you can’t see monthly production volumes before 1962, we can’t tell an interesting story about some massive fire incinerating all the records and lighting up the night sky. Instead, we now use the more boring explanation “1962 was picked as an arbitrary cutoff year for putting monthly production information into the mainframe and volumes before that are cumulative and attributed to December 1961.”

About James Brownbill

I've been with geoLOGIC since 1998 and in my current role as Manager of the Data group since 2005. Blogging is new thing for me and I will either succeed in making stories of Oil and Gas data interesting or I wont.
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