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George Blackstock


George Blackstock was born on March 4, 1920 in the Edmonton area and passed away May 1, 1992.


George began his career working for Taylor Pearson and Carson in Edmonton prior to and after serving with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry during the Second World War.


In 1948, George and his brother Bill started Independent Drilling & Exploration Company Limited, a seismic, water well and coal drilling and exploration company. In 1953, the rigs were divided into two operations, McAuley Drilling Ltd. and Eureka Drilling Ltd. In 1956 the two companies were merged into a single company to be known as McAuley Drilling Ltd.


In May of 1952, George and Bill started Beta Well Service Limited in the Redwater area with Oly Edmonson and a single pole truck mounted service rig. In 1953, the head office moved to Edmonton on Whyte Avenue and in 1957, the operation moved to 5930 96th Street on Edmonton's south side.


During the next 30 years, George guided the growth of the company to 31 service rigs, six shallow hole drilling rigs (under the banner of Custom Drilling Company Limited) and a junior oil and gas production company (Petroleum Royalties Corp. Ltd.).


In 1958, George was a founding member in the Alberta Water Well Drilling Association and served as treasurer in 1959. George also served as director of the Association for many years.


In 1962, George was one of the founding members of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Service Rig Division. He served on numerous committees in the CAODC as well as on the Board of Directors for the Petroleum Industry Training Service school. He was also a member of the Training Board of PITS.


In 1974, George devised a slant/angle drilling system which could drill to almost any angle for implementation on the McAuley Drilling rigs. In 1975 they drilled and invoiced for work on two gas wells under the Medicine Hat River northwest of Medicine Hat. The holes were approximately 1,000 to 1,500 feet at a 45 degree angle and with less than one quarter of a degree in deviation.


Everything was developed by George from the double wall drill pipe and the pipe handling equipment to the top drive rotary system mounted on rails. This was a first in the oil patch worldwide at that time. These rigs became exceedingly popular for coal exploration with both conventional and air drilling capabilities in various soil conditions.


In 1979, Beta Well Service drill their own training well and started the first private "Green Hand" Training School. The students were from all across Canada and were paid wages to attend. There are still numerous people in the oil patch who received their basic oilfield training at the Beta Well Service Facility.


George Blackstock and Beta Well Service were responsible for many improvements to the service rig industry:


  • More stable employment year-round by having oil companies plan spring and summer work to utilize equipment and people.
  • Major overhaul and maintenance programs, a number of rigs being manufactured at all times on a scheduled rotation. This was to lighten the load for spring overhauls and repair work in the field.
  • Instead of field repairs or temporary repairs, motors, transmissions and major components were totally replaced with complete units. This practice minimized rig downtime and eliminate repairs being conducted in unsafe or inefficient conditions.
  • Helping out competitors in emergency situations with necessary components to keep operating.

Many equipment designs and enhancements were copied by competitors and rig manufacturers with Beta Well Service's permission as a contribution towards a better service rig industry.


Beta was one of the first companies to install headache racks on crew and rig manager vehicles.


In 1975 Beta Well Service started to fabricate, assemble and overhaul their own "Beta Built" rigs, pump trucks, pumps, tanks, doghouses, carriers and other auxiliary equipment in their own facilities.


In 1978, Beta Well Service moved from Edmonton to Leduc, into a first class facility covering 25 acres. Included were a maintenance and overhaul shop, fabrication shop, warehouse, paint shop and steam bay, training well and facilities as well as an office complex.


George served on the Board of Directors of the Edmonton Petroleum Club for many years and participated with others on the Board to obtain property from the City of Edmonton for the existing parking lot. George donated two pianos and an organ to the Club that he loved.

George also donated time and labour along with his staff to help make Edmonton's Oilfield Technical Society Park a place to enjoy.


George took a leadership role in meeting with many government agencies regarding problems in the industry:

  • Use of purple fuel on service rigs-he came up with a quick coupler system and dual tanks that was acceptable to all parties
  • Workers' Compensation Board problems within the service rig sector
  • Accidents-reporting and investigations
  • Crown Saver installation on service rigs
  • Portable rig stretchers
  • British Columbia and Alberta department of highways regarding weights and dimensions of rigs and equipment. Tire size, axles, and allowable weights on rigs and mobile pump trucks.

George encouraged his employees to build a relationship with government agencies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario. George was always willing to share his knowledge and expertise with others in the industry. He was not the type of individual to seek the spotlight but preferred to be behind the scenes and he always appreciated the contributions others made to the oil industry.


It is due to the foresight and planning of a small group of well servicing contractors such as George Blackstock and some of the present well servicing inductees in the Hall of Fame that the Canadian oil well servicing industry is recognized as the world leader in equipment, technology, and the expertise of its people.


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