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Our history

Canada, as a country, was only 13 years old when the Imperial Oil Company was formed by 16 oil refiners in southwestern-Ontario. As Canada has grown, Imperial has grown with it, sharing its prosperity and weathering the tough times.

Scroll down to view the 135-plus year story of Imperial.


Sixteen southwestern-Ontario refiners form The Imperial Oil Company in London, Ont., to find, produce and distribute petroleum products in Canada.

Imperial moves its operations to Petrolia, Ont., after lightning strikes its London refinery.

In need of expansion capital, Imperial sells a majority interest to the Standard Oil group in the United States.

Imperial takes over Standard’s Canadian assets and moves its head office and operations to Sarnia, Ont.

Photo — 1880 - First twenty-three employees of Imperial Oil Company Limited, London, Ontario
1883 - Grease plant, Imperial Oil Company refinery, Petrolia, Ontario
1899 - Office of Imperial Oil, Sarnia, Ontario


Imperial opens Canada's first service station in Vancouver, B.C.

Imperial becomes the first company in Canada to adopt a system of joint industrial councils, an innovative approach to labour-management relations.

Imperial Discovers oil at Fort Norman (now Norman Wells), N.W.T., on the Mackenzie River.

Reginal Stratford is hired by Imperial to found the Canadian petroleum industry’s first research department.

Photo — 1907 - The first gasoline service station in Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia
1924 - Doctor Reginald Killmaster Stratford, Chief Research Chemist, Imperial Oil Limited, Sarnia, Ontario
1936 - Hockey play-off game which is being broadcast on radio
1942 - Truck from first army convoy to come from Whitehorse via the Alcan Highway to Norman Wells, Northwest Territories.
1947 - Crowd at opening day, Imperial Leduc #1 discovery well, Leduc, Alberta

Imperial develops the phenol-extraction process for the manufacture of lubricants.

Imperial sponsors Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts for the first time.

Imperial joins the Canadian and U.S. governments in Canol, a project to provide fuel for the U.S. war effort in the northern Pacific.

Imperial discovers oil at Leduc, marking the beginning of Western Canada’s great oil development.

Imperial and others from the Interprovincial Pipe Line Company build a pipeline from Edmonton to Superior, Wisconsin.


At Cold Lake, Alta., Imperial begins an experimental program to extract bitumen from the oil sands.

The company discovers natural gas at Taglu in the Mackenzie Delta.

Imperial’s Strathcona refinery is built to replace older refineries in Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg and Calgary.

Photo — 1975 - Aerial view of Imperial Oil Limited refinery at Strathcona, near Edmonton, Alberta

Esso Resources Canada Limited, a Calgary-based wholly owned subsidiary, is formed to manage all of the company’s natural resource activity.

A new division, Esso Petroleum Canada, is formed to manage all of the company’s petroleum product operations.

Sixty years after research began in Sarnia, the new Sarnia Process and Automotive Research Centre opens.

At the Norman Wells oil field in the N.W.T., a three-year expansion project is completed, making it the largest single project in the company’s history.

Imperial purchases Texaco Canada Inc.; it is the second largest corporate acquisition in the nation’s history.

Photo — 1989 - Imperial purchases Texaco Canada Inc.


A $10 million grant is given to the University of Alberta for a new research facility mandated to find more efficient, economically viable and environmentally responsible ways to develop Canada's oil sands resources.

Imperial moves its head office to Calgary from Toronto in Fifth Avenue Place.

Imperial and ExxonMobil Canada acquire a multi-year exploration license, covering more than 500,000 acres, to explore for hydrocarbons in the Beaufort Sea.

Imperial announces its decision to fund the first phase of the Kearl oil sands project, a new mining development northeast of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Imperial announces approval of an expansion of the company’s Cold Lake operation in northeastern Alberta, called Nabiye.

Photo — 2012 - Nabiye, Cold Lake’s operation in northeastern Alberta

Imperial announces the start-up of the initial development of the Kearl oil sands project, which incorporates next-generation technology innovations that significantly enhance environmental performance.

Photo — 2013 - Kearl, Alberta

Imperial launches new corporate brand, logo and the name of the company becomes Imperial.

Imperial announces the successful startup of the Kearl oil sands expansion project, ahead of schedule.


Imperial launches ‘Synergy’ gasoline, developed with seven key ingredients and engineered to help improve fuel economy.

Imperial announces on March 6, it had reached agreements with five fuel distributors in Canada to sell its remaining 497 company-owned Esso retail stores.

Moves to a new campus-style office complex in southeast Calgary are completed.

Imperial opens new oil sands research centre in southeast Calgary, a state-of-the-art, 40,000 square foot facility, focused on oil sands innovation and technology.

Photo — 2016 - Imperial campus in Calgary, Alberta