Oilmen Get Hopes Pumped Up
J-Y, J-Y, J-Y, AL'31ST 15, 1990 CLIfOiT F,;CE PRESS ilmen get hop es pwiiped up Crisis could revive boomfwm, Ontario exec savs By David McKay Free Press Staff Writer OIL SPRINGS, Ontario As the Mideast crisis drives up oil prices, there is new excitement in the 140-year-old 140-year-old 140-year-old 140-year-old 140-year-old oil fields of Lambton County, Ontario. Not long before Iraq invaded oil- oil- rirh Kuwait Phil Mnrninoctnr was. talking about the 19th-century 19th-century 19th-century days when Oil Springs was a boomtown. . It was the hope of a 20th-century 20th-century 20th-century boom that prompted Morningstar and his twin brother, Paul, to leave their factory jobs and return home to start in the oil business in 1979. l"We didn't know nothin' except what the old people told us," Phil Morningstar said. "We didn't realize we had a lot more to learn." By 1984, Morningstar Oil Producers Producers Ltd. was making $365,000 (about $337,550 U.S. at today's exchange) a year. Phil said the brothers turned down $1 million for the company. They were getting $41 or more a barrel then. ; They had no idea that pricing de- de- i -I -I ui i- i- reguiauon ana an ou giui wouia stock. the bottom out of the market. Just before the Aug. 2 invasion, the brothers brothers were getting less than $25 a barrel Canadian it had recently been as low as $16 and Phil Morningstar was talking about quitting. A week after the invasion, he was getting $26.65. As of Tuesday, it had climbed to about $33 Canadian. "I'm making good money right now. It doesn't take long to add up to big ... i MICHIGAN Oil producers hope the current Mideast situation will be profitable 1 Lake) Detroit St C.lnir Windsor Huron J Port I J Huron w-- w-- w-- v Sarnia l I Springs 3 ONTARIO Chatham O 20 Miles . Detroit Free Press money. He expects the price to climb to $40-45 $40-45 $40-45 if the crisis lasts until year's end. "If this thing lasts six months, guys'll come in and buy the small oil fields. There's nobody going to buy now. They're going to wait it out for six months or so." While they wait, the brothers, 51, and other Lambton County oilmen pump as much high-sulfur, high-sulfur, high-sulfur, low-grade low-grade low-grade crude as they can, using a technology little changed from the 1860s, when the county was a center of the petroleum petroleum world. When production was high, Black Creek would carry crude three feet deep through Oil Springs. In 1862, Hugh Nixon Shaw drilled 158 feet and tapped a gusher that spewed oil over tree tops at a rate of 3,000 barrels a day. By 1864, Oil Springs had Canada's first planked main street, lit with lamps that burned kerosene refined from its own crude. But by 1866, oil prices were down, and Oil Springs went into decline. Full-scale Full-scale Full-scale mining later began in Petrolia, to the northwest, where Oil Springs' oil barons lived upwind of the oil fields. Fumes from the new fields soon enveloped their grand homes in the sulf urous smell of wealth. Canada's "Victorian Oil Town" was booming and pridefully throwing up expensive homes and public buildings as exuberant exuberant brick and stone monuments to the industrial age. But in 1874, there was a depression, depression, demand was down, and competition competition was keen. The county's oilmen eventually took their expertise to 87 countries, including what is now Iran. Today, oil is drawn in the same gentle, clicking rhythm from hundreds of wells near the Oil Museum of Canada Canada at Oil Springs, and at Petrolia Discovery, a 60-acre 60-acre 60-acre park devoted to demonstrating pioneer oil drilling. But Phil Morningstar is ready to give up, no matter what. "If I can get a million bucks, I'd jump at it," he said. The park, museum and oil fields of Oil Springs and Petrolia are on King's Highway 21, southeast of Sarnia. There is a visitors center at Reece's Comers, at Highway 7. Look for the derrick.