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Dr. Karl A. Clark


Karl Clark was born in Georgetown, Ontario, on October 20, 1888. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from McMaster University and a doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1915, all three in Chemistry.


In 1915, Dr. Clark began working with the Geological Survey of Canada, but it was as a mines division employee that he first learned of the tar sands of Athabasca. In 1921 he joined the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta. He began experimenting with ways of separating and recovering the oil from the tar sand using hot water and a chemical reagent. Dr. Clark continued his research with two pilot plants sponsored by the Alberta Government, one at Clearwater in 1930, the second at Bitumount in 1949. The successful operation at Bitumount marked a milestone in tar sands history. It proved conclusively that the hot water process he perfected yielded up a clean dry oil and was capable of being upgraded to commercial requirements. The tar sands were accepted as a legitimate part of the petroleum industry and Dr. Clark became the father of oilsands extraction as it is known today.


In 1938, Dr. Clark joined the University of Alberta's department of Mining and Metallurgy. One of Clark's colleagues indicated his influence on students by saying that under his instruction they "learned the wider significance of truth, responsibility, and devotion to the cause."


Dr. Clark passed away in 1966, nine months before completion of the first major oilsands plant, Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor).


Career Summary:

  • 1907 Began to study chemistry at McMaster University.
  • 1915 Awarded doctorate from University of Illinois.
  • 1915 Joined Geological Survey of Canada.
  • 1921 Separated oil from tar sand using hot water.
  • 1949 Bitumount plant producing oil.
  • 1965 Witnessed sod turning at GCOS Plant.


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