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Franklin K. Spragins
Franklin K. Spragins was a visionary and risk-taking engineer and business leader whose efforts led to the successful development of Canada's oil sands industry. Mr. Spragins was the founding president of Syncrude Canada Ltd., which operates the largest surface mine in North America and is now Canada's largest single source of oil and its second largest producer.
Mr. Spragins dedicated himself to the oil sands effort beginning in 1949, when his employer, Imperial Oil, established a special department to carry out corporate objectives with respect to oil sands development and named Mr. Spragins its first manager. In this capacity, he led Imperial's interest in a joint venture oil sands project with three other companies. It started as Athabasca Tar Sands Mildred Lake Project and was eventually renamed as the Syncrude Project. On January 1st, 1965, Syncrude Canada Ltd. was founded to provide a management vehicle, and Frank Spragins was named as its first president.
He spent years researching technical and economic viability of the oil sands and presented hundreds of papers on these topics as Canada's and Syncrude's representative at international oil industry meetings. Indeed his deep convictions about the importance of research and development established Syncrude as an early leader in oil sands technology, and today, Syncrude remains the world's recognized authority on oil sands technology, mining technology, research and development, and operations.
Under his influence, draglines and bucketwheels were designed that dwarfed those in use elsewhere in soft soil conditions. But perhaps his most significant contribution to Syncrude and the mining industry was his focus on mining research and development. Mr. Spragins recognized that oil sand - which is highly abrasive, sticky and mined under extreme weather conditions - required know-how and advancements that are different from those developed to extract more conventional mine minerals.
Mr. Spragins believed the oil sands could help Canada achieve self-sufficiency for its oil energy needs. Indeed, as early as 1962, he correctly predicted a decline in the producing ability of the western Canadian sedimentary basin and stressed the need to develop alternative sources. Today, oil sands account for an ever increasing portion of Canada's oil energy supply and is poised for even greater growth.