1960 - 1980

A large group of employees arrive for work at a Suncor site in the morning. Many are wearing blue hard hats and work clothes.

Exponential growth, with all the benefits and challenges that come with it.

Sun Oil Inc. invested almost a quarter-billion dollars in the Great Canadian Oil Sands project in Fort McMurray – fondly known as “the biggest gamble in history.”

It pays off with an eventual merger that forms Suncor Inc. in 1979.

Explore the milestones and events in our history from 1960 to 1980.


Darwin W. Ferguson becomes president of Sun Oil Company Inc. of Canada.


Sun Oil Company reduces interest to 55% in Sun-Canadian (a joint partnership with a company called Canadian Oil).
A group of seven Sun Oil employees stand in front of one of the giant bucketwheel excavators used for mining at the time. The employees all wear hard hats.


  • Sun Oil invests almost a quarter-billion dollars in the Great Canadian Oil Sands project. Some describe it as “the biggest gamble in history” and a “daring venture into an unknown field.” For Canada, the sum made financial history. It was the largest, single private investment in the country at that time.
  • Bucketwheels are the technology of choice. Each bucketwheel excavator weighs 1,600 tonnes and towers over a 10-storey building.


  • Kenneth F. Heddon becomes president of Sun Oil Company Limited.
  • Construction begins at the oil sands plant (then known as Great Canadian Oil Sands) in Fort McMurray.


Construction ends on September 30 of the 45,000 barrel per day oil sands plant at a cost of $240 million and five days ahead of schedule.
A sign that reads “Great Canadian Oil Sands Limited, World’s First Oil Mine”. It also offers some information on tours of the plant. A car is passing in the background.


  • Up to 1968, Great Canadian Oil Sands spends more than $1 billion in capital and operating costs; the majority with Canadian-based companies.
  • The first oil flows down the Interprovincial Pipe Line from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Sarnia, Ontario.
A large group of employees arrive for work at a Suncor site in the morning. Many are wearing blue hard hats and work clothes.


Sun Oil Company of Canada celebrates its 50th Anniversary.


Sunoco in Sarnia, Ontario opens first car wash and is the first company in Canada to offer low-lead gasoline.
Sunoco Exploration & Production Limited workers work in ‘Canadian Frontier Areas’, in northern Alberta to discover new opportunities for oil and gas development.


  • Sun Oil Company Inc. establishes Sunoco Exploration & Production Limited to explore in Canadian frontier areas.
  • The reclamation process at oil sands starts.
A man stands with a Sunoco attendant at one of the brand-new self-serve gas stations. The man wears a plaid jacket and the employee wears a Sunoco uniform.


  • The Sarnia refinery expands and makes its first shipments of bunker fuel to Detroit Edison.
  • First Sunoco self-serve gas station opens.
Two employees stand in the plant in northern Alberta. Both wear hard hats, button-up shirts and gloves.


Sunoco Exploration & Production Limited merges into Sun Limited.


Employees in Fort McMurray uncover bones of a woolly mammoth while extracting oil sands. Later, the company donates the bones to the provincial museum in Edmonton.


Sun Oil Company transfers almost all of its downstream assets into a newly created subsidiary – Sunoco Inc.


Ross A. Hennigar becomes president of Sun Oil Company Limited and deputy chairman of Great Canadian Oil Sands Limited (GCOS).
A sign welcoming visitors to Suncor’s crude oil production plant in northern Alberta. A bucketwheel is pictured with a large 1980, as well as the slogan “Digging into the future”.


  • Suncor Inc. forms when all the Canadian operations of Sun Company Inc. are amalgamated with Great Canadian Oil Sands.
  • Once amalgamation takes place, Ross A. Hennigar becomes president and chief executive officer of Suncor Inc.


Ottawa begins the controversial National Energy Program removing world crude oil price from first 45,000 barrels per day of oil sands production.
Two men in suits shake hands.


  • Sun Oil Company Inc. sells 25% of its interest in Suncor to the Province of Ontario.
  • Suncor celebrates 200 millionth barrel of oil.
  • A $185 million expansion brings production to 58,000 barrels per day.
Suncor’s compressor house at the oil sands facility covered in a thick layer of ice.


  • At the oil sands facility, the compressor house catches fire in -45C weather. When extinguished, the building is covered in ice that is chipped away.
  • Tragic plane crash north of Toronto kills Ross A. Hennigar, chief executive officer of Suncor.
  • William R. Loar replaces Hennigar as president and chief executive officer of Suncor Inc.
  • Later in the year, Suncor dedicates a park in Fort McMurray in Ross A. Hennigar’s memory.


The federal government deregulates oil prices allowing oil producers to sell at market value.
A group of eight men in suits pose for a photo. Four men hold awards and a caption reads ‘The magnificent five’.


  • Thomas H. Thomson becomes president and chief executive officer of Suncor Inc.
  • World crude oil prices collapse.
  • Oil sands plant achieves record annual production level of 55,015 barrels per day.
  • A long and bitter labour dispute ensues at the oil sands facility. After six months, the union and company ratify an agreement for the 1,100 Suncor workers.