1917 - 1960

A group of employees for Sun Oil Company stand outside of a service station in the early 1900s. The majority are men wearing suits.

Unlocking the oil sands in the early years

The Sun Company Inc. opened in Canada in 1917 supplying lubricating oils, kerosene and spirits to war plants in the Montreal area.

Meanwhile out west, in a lab at the Alberta Research Council in Edmonton, Dr. Karl Clark worked on the hot water extraction process that separates oil from sand – a process that originated in 1923 and is still used today.

Explore the milestones and events in our history from 1917 to 1960.


Sun Company Inc. opens in Canada supplying lubricating oils, kerosene and spirits to war plants in the Montreal area.


The first Canadian office opens in Montreal as Sun Company of Canada.


The business grows and adds new product lines, including fuel oil and gasoline brought in by rail from the U.S.


  • Dr. Karl Clark begins work to separate oil from the sand, perfecting the process still used today.
  • Sun Company of Canada incorporates as Sun Oil Company Limited.


Blue Sunoco, a single grade, no-lead gasoline replaces previous gasoline and is advertised as “the high-powered knockless fuel at no extra price.”


  • First Sunoco-branded service stations open in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.
  • Sunoco builds a lubricating oil and grease storage plant in Toronto.


Canadian headquarters of Sun Oil Company moves from Montreal to Toronto.


  • Montreal businessman Lloyd R. Champion produces 450 barrels per day of oil at the Bitumount plant in Fort McMurray.
  • Sun Oil Company first considers developing the oil sands, negotiating with Lloyd R. Champion. 


Sun Oil Company drills its first well in Canada – a dry hole in Nova Scotia.


Plans to build the 10,000-barrel refinery in Sarnia, Ontario begin.


  • Sun Oil Company Inc. evaluates development of the oil sands to keep the U.S. from dependency on foreign oil. Site identification begins.
  • Sun Oil Company Inc. establishes Canadian Production Division in Calgary.


Sun Oil Company contemplates construction of a refinery in Canada to supply its Central Canada product needs. Sarnia is the location under consideration.


Sarnia refinery receives first crude.


New, improved “Blue Sunoco” motor fuel is a huge success with increased sales of up to 23%.


Wilburn T. Askew becomes president of Sun Oil Company of Canada.


Canadian crude oil runs through for the first time at the Sarnia refinery.


Sunoco introduces revolutionary custom blending pumps at service stations.