Oilpatch Icon Clayton Riddell Dead At 81

Clayton (Clay) Riddell, a geologist who took Paramount Resources Ltd. public nearly 40 years ago, died on the weekend after a short illness. He was 81.

An icon of the Canadian oilpatch, Riddell was a fervent advocate for the responsible development of Canada's natural resources and epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit, the company said in a release. He was also a committed philanthropist.

"He was an incredible man with so many accomplishments," said Jim Riddell, Clay's son and Paramount's CEO. "He will be dearly missed."

Riddell also had been chair of Perpetual Energy Inc., since its spinout from Paramount in 2002.

A graduate of the University of Manitoba with a bachelor of science degree in geology, Riddell began his career as an exploration geologist with The Standard Oil Company of California in 1959. He left after 10 years to start his own business, C.H. Riddell Geological Consultants Ltd. In 1971 he incorporated Paramount Oil & Gas Ltd. as a private oil and gas company and took that company's assets public in 1978, as Paramount Resources Ltd., concurrently raising $5 million on the Alberta Stock Exchange.

Paramount’s early exploration success was centred around shallow gas in northeastern Alberta. By fine-tuning the application of air drilling technology in low-pressure gas reservoirs, Paramount recorded several large discoveries— its Liege field alone contains an estimated 1.1 tcf of gas in place.

By 1982, enough of a "critical mass" of gas had been proven to allow Paramount to make the shipper commitments needed by NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. to extend its transportation system to the area with the Liege Lateral—known more intimately as "the line that Clay built,” according to the website for the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame to which Riddell was inducted in 2015.

Even as the Liege volumes were being established, Riddell pioneered a second major shallow gas play in northeastern Alberta, involving the discovery of gas at Chard.

Beyond Alberta, he directed Paramount's activities into the Northwest Territories, where reserves and, in some cases production, were established: in the Liard Basin; in the Cameron Hills region; at Colville Lake near the Arctic Circle and in the Mackenzie Delta.

Riddell received many accolades over the years, including that of an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008. He was also inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame (2006) and the Canadian Business Hall of Fame (2017).

He also was recognized by his peers with various awards including  the Stanley Slipper Gold Medal from the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (1999) and the Outstanding Explorer award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (2004) and the J.C. Sproule Memorial Plaque from the Canadian Institute of Mining (1994).

Beyond taking an active leadership role in various industry organizations, Riddell’s philanthropic contributions resulted in the creation of the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources at the University of Manitoba, the Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management at Carlton University and the Riddell Library and Learning Centre at Calgary's Mount Royal University.