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Robert Brown Sr.


A true pioneer, Robert Brown Sr. showed few early signs of the role he would later play in western
Canada's oil and gas sector.

Born to a rural family in 19th Century Quebec, he worked from age 14 in turn-of-the-century
electrical systems, first in Quebec and later in the United States. With no formal training, he instinctively understood electrical networks and became a self-taught engineer.

Like many young men, Brown eventually came West, reaching Calgary in 1906. He quickly found work, although not in the oil industry, instead overseeing construction of a British Columbia
hydro plant, later returning to become head of Calgary's electric light system.
Brown's engineering skills must have shone, because he was soon put in charge of the town's growing streetcar network.

Meanwhile, he formed a group of companies to sell power to small towns in southern Alberta.
While Brown was in Calgary, natural gas was discoveredsouthwest of the city, in Turner Valley, which soon became the focus of industry interest. While some said pure "naptha" flowed from local wells, natural gas was the bulk of Turner Valley production, something passersby might have guessed from the well flares that lit the night sky.

With no training in geoscience, Brown nonetheless became convinced Turner Valley's gas fields concealed deeper crude oil reserves, although he offered little evidence to support the theory.
Later, he found financial backing in the worst days of the Great Depression, forming a public company, Turner Valley Royalties Ltd., to test his theory.

An innovator, Brown adopted the concept of paying out a well's income to investors as a royalty roughly 50 years before oil and gas income trusts were developed. The royalty model struck a chord. Investors backed Brown when his discovery well, Turner Valley Royalties No. 1, came in June 16, 1936, flowing light oil at 850 barrels per day. For Turner Valley, the ensuing oil boom meant years of investment. For Brown, it brought wealth and secured his place in the history of Alberta's oilpatch.

Brown was the second president and a founding member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta, which later became the Association of Professional Engineers and
Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). The founder of several oil companies that later merged with Home Oil Company Ltd. He died May 16, 1948, aged 62.


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