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Don Axford


Donald Axford (born 1920) initiated the search for oil and gas offshore Atlantic Canada, and contributed to successful exploration programs in Alberta and British Columbia.Born in Winnipeg, he was educated in geology and physics at the University of Manitoba following a service in the navy. He joined Socony-Vacuum Exploration Co; predecessor to Mobil Oil Canada, the year he graduated, 1948.


As chief research geologist for Mobil from 1956-1960, Axford conceived of a probable sedimentary basin in the Atlantic Ocean, off Nova Scotia, and anticipated a structural high at Sable Island, which would be a convenient drilling platform. He almost single-handedly convinced Mobil top management to acquire and explore a chunk of mineral rights on and near the island. As Mobil's vice president of exploration he managed the first well ever to be drilled far out on North America's continental shelves, in the center of Sable Island in 1967. It demonstrated the presence of oil and gas shows and a deep prospective offshore basin in Nova Scotia. Flowing oil was then discovered in a well near Hibernia, Newfoundland. These wells were the forerunners of all oil and gas exploration and development off Canada's east coast. Oil production began in 1997 at Hibernia on the Grand Banks; gas production from the Scotia Shelf followed soon after, in 1999.


He retired from Mobil Oil in 1976 to briefly become vice president of Petro-Canada where he put that company into the Atlantic. Starting DEW. Axford & Associates, a consulting firm, then a successful independent oil company, Trax Petroleum, which was subsequently bought by a U.S. firm, he has keenly continued exploring in Western Canada, other areas of the world, but especially in the Atlantic. He presently is, amongst other appointments, director and chairman of Canadian Superior Energy Inc.


The Canadian Petroleum Association honored Axford with a distinguished service award in 1977. The Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists gave him the Stanley Slipper Gold Medal in 1996 for exploration excellence; and the American Association of Petroleum geologists gave him a distinguished service award in 1982; he was vice president of that association in 1992-1993.


Axford has been a director of Bethany Care Centre, Alberta, and spent 13 years as director of Lutheran Life Insurance Society of Canada, of which he acted as chairman for nine years. He and his wife Ruth have a daughter and three sons.


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