Turner Valley Gas Plant National Historic Site of Canada

Turner Valley, Alberta
General view of Turner Valley Gas Plant, Absorber Plant, 1995. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995  (James Taylor)
General view
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995 (James Taylor)
General view of Turner Valley Gas Plant, Compressor Plant, 1995. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995 (James Taylor)General view of Turner Valley Gas Plant, Absorber Plant, 1995. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995  (James Taylor)
Address : Turner Valley, Alberta

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1994-11-24
  • 1914 to 1970 (Construction)
  • 1914 to 1914 (Significant)
  • 1924 to 1924 (Significant)
  • 1936 to 1936 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • A.W. Dingman  (Person)
  • Calgary Petroleum Products Limited  (Organization)
  • Royalite Oil Company (subsidiary of Imperial Oil)  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Turner Valley Gas Plant  (Designation Name)
  • Turner Valley Gas Plant  (Plaque name)
Research Report Number: 1995-014, 1995-064


Existing plaque: Town Office Turner Valley, Alberta

This plant, which was critical to the development of the Turner Valley oil field, is the earliest gas processing facility built in Canada and the only survivor of its type. The present complex was begun in 1921 after a fire destroyed the original plant, built in 1914. The many modifications and additions made to it since the 1920s reflect the evolution of refining technology. The buildings, machinery and equipment together illustrate the production process required to extract marketable gas and its byproducts from what was, until 1947, Canada's most important oil field.

Description of Historic Place

The Turner Valley Gas Plant is a petroleum industrial complex comprised of 22 metal buildings and related infrastructure constructed from the 1920s to the 1970s. The triangular site, covering 12.8 hectares on the north bank of the Sheep River, is located 40.23 kilometres southwest of Calgary in the town of Turner Valley, Alberta. The gas plant is now operated as an historic site.

Heritage Value

The Turner Valley Gas Plant was designated a national historic site in 1990 because: the Turner Valley Gas Plant is central to the history of petroleum extraction technology and it is the earliest and only surviving example of its kind in Canada; and the Turner Valley Gas Plant is the most significant in situ resource associated with the Turner Valley petroleum field. Moreover, the site encapsulates the historical character of the field.

The Turner Valley Gas Plant is significant for its association with the exploration and discovery of the Turner Valley Oil Field. The Turner Valley Gas Plant is the site of Dingman No. 1 and Dingman No. 2, two early gas wells that established the Turner Valley as the most important petroleum field in Alberta. Further discoveries in the Turner Valley field occurred in 1924 (Royalite No. 4) and again with the discovery of crude oil in 1936. Its importance waned with the discovery of crude oil at Leduc Alberta in 1947.

Turner Valley Gas Plant's physical significance rests in its illustration of a complex of buildings, pipelines, utility systems and other infrastructure that form a unified production facility designed to extract and process a wide range of petroleum by-products from the raw gas. It is the earliest surviving example of a pre-1960 petroleum industrial plant in Canada. The original buildings constructed by the Calgary Petroleum Products Company Limited during the initial period of development were destroyed by fire in 1920. The plant was acquired and rebuilt by Royalite Oil Company, a subsidiary of Imperial Oil. The new buildings were constructed of metal and widely spaced on the site to prevent the easy spread of fire. The bulk of the extant buildings and infrastructure were constructed in the 1930s with later additions as the plant expanded and technology changed. The plant illustrates the evolution of the petroleum technology up until the 1950s, including the first high pressure lean oil absorption extraction facilities in Canada, the first propane receiver plant in Canada, one of the first two sulphur plants and a sour gas scrubbing plant from 1935 which was the only one of its kind constructed in Canada,

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, Nov. 1995; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 1997.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements relating to the heritage value of this site include:
the distinct industrial character of the site that contrasts with the adjacent townscape and prairie landscape beyond; the uniform shape, materials and colour of the buildings that make up this industrial complex and reflect the concern for economical, durable and fire-resistant shelters for the industrial machinery, processes and support services that these structures housed; the metal buildings with steel girder frames, corrugated metal roofs and walls, and large windows; the relatively complete collection of intact machinery and industrial apparatus that reflect gas processing technologies from the 1930s to the 1950s; the underground features related to the gas plant such as pipes and storage tanks; the layout of the plant and the relationship of the buildings to each other which grew out of the sequence of industrial processes and the need to separate buildings as a fire protection measure; the system of pathways connecting the buildings and other infrastructure; the area known as Dingman No. 1 and Dingman 2 in its extent and surviving physical features; the natural gas flare site at Dingman No. 2.