Petroleum History Society Recognizes Dan Masterson for his Arctic Adventures

Alberta’s Petroleum History Society has honoured a former Chevron Canada Arctic engineer for his historical work, which was based on his research and time in the country’s North.

Dan Masterson, who retired from Chevron Canada in June after an illustrious 45-year career that saw him work onshore and offshore in civil and structural engineering in the energy industry, was honoured by the society for his paper called The Arctic Islands Adventure and Panarctic Oils Ltd.

The article appeared in the Journal of Cold Regions Science and Technology. The history society named it the article of the year.

“I was pleased to have received the honour from the Petroleum History Society,” said Masterson, who was a member of the Chevron Arctic Center in Calgary.

Masterson, a PhD, was a consultant for Panarctic, a private-public partnership that included up to 37 companies, in the Arctic in the 1970s and 1980s.The consortium was launched in 1968 to explore for oil and gas in Canada’s North.

Challenging Work

Panarctic drilled 150 wells, including 38 offshore from floating ice platforms, until the late 1980s.

“It was challenging work because there were no codes, no procedures,” explained Masterson. “You had to establish those procedures. Companies had procedures to work on land but none for the ice or in the water.

“If you wanted to be an engineer that was the place to be,” he continued. “The work was good and extremely interesting.”

Masterson’s experience in the Arctic included designing the first offshore ice platform well, which included a 500-tonne rig floating on a 17-foot thick ice base.

But Masterson’s tasks went beyond straight-ahead engineering. It also included figuring out how to get materials and goods in place so teams could get projects off the ground. For example, he had to design airstrips in remote and frigid areas so aircraft like a Hercules could deliver cement, casing, fuel, rigs, and supplies to build camps for hundreds of workers.

 “We’d be flooding the strip in November and December,” he recalled.

And then they’d string lights up along the 5,000-foot by 400-foot runway so pilots could see the airstrip and land the giant planes on the short winter days. “We had to string the lights or they wouldn’t land,” Masterson explained.

Once when a small twin-engine Otter was delivering supplies and there were no lights to be found, Masterson and his teammates dipped rolls of toilet paper in diesel and set them alight so the pilot could see the runway.