February, 1881: The Conservative government, led by John A. Macdonald, creates the Canadian Pacific Railway Co., with a mandate to build a rail line across the country. As part of the deal, the new company received 25 million acres of land, some of which came with surface and mineral rights.
1883-1886: A CPR crew drilling for water near Medicine Hat hits natural gas. This is the first natural gas discovery in what would later become Alberta, marking the accidental launch of Canada’s multibillion-dollar energy industry and Encana’s lineage in the oil and gas business. CPR then drills Alberta’s first producing natural gas well, which had a lifespan of about 50 years. Encana and Canadian Pacific offer differing timelines on the discovery.
1958: CPR forms Canadian Pacific Oil and Gas Co. to hold the railway’s mineral rights. The energy outfit is part of CPR’s expanding conglomerate.
1971: Canadian Pacific Oil and Gas merges with Central-Del Rio Oils to form PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd. It is the country’s biggest independent energy outfit.
1973: Alberta forms the Alberta Energy Co., a Crown corporation, in response to the Arab oil embargo and subsequent price shocks.
1975: AEC employs four people. It first offers shares to Albertans, selling $75-million worth of stock at $10 a pop. Half of the company remains under the province’s control.
1977: AEC’s utilities plant nears completion, and comes in under budget at $270-million rather than $300-million. The plant was designed to supply steam, electricity and processed water to Syncrude, a pioneer in the oil sands and another government-supported energy company. AEC’s plant provides electricity to Syncrude by the end of the year. AEC also finishes building its oil sands pipeline, providing a conduit between Fort McMurray, Alta., and Edmonton for Syncrude’s synthetic oil.
1979: AEC buys a stake of Syncrude in a $205-million deal. This makes one of Encana’s predecessor companies a player in the oil sands.
1982: PanCanadian moves its headquarters to Calgary.
1988: AEC opens a natural gas storage facility, known as AECO C. This hub gives natural gas in Canada a benchmark price, and therefore shapes much of Encana’s future.
1994: Gwyn Morgan becomes AEC’s chief executive. Alberta no longer holds shares in the company.
1997: PanCanadian buys assets in the oil sands, and expands its holdings off Canada’s east coast.
1999: AEC starts to build a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project in the oil sands. This effort, known as Foster Creek, would eventually be the first operation to extract bitumen using SAGD rather than mining. It requires two pipes: one funnelling steam down and the second ferrying bitumen to the surface. AEC also expands internationally.
2001: CPR breaks up its conglomerate, birthing five companies including PanCanadian Energy Corp. All of the new company’s shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. David O’Brien shifts from heading the conglomerate to the top boss at the new PanCanadian. The energy company continues to expand while AEC morphs into Canada’s biggest natural gas company.
2002: PanCanadian and Alberta Energy merge in a $23-billion deal to create EnCana Corp. The company later dropped the capital C in the middle of its name in favour of lower case. Mr. Morgan, who was previously AEC’s chief CEO, becomes Encana’s first CEO while Mr. O’Brien becomes the new outfit’s chairman. Encana has assets all over the world, although it is selling pipelines.
2005: Randy Eresman takes over as CEO, which sets the stage for massive change. Brian Ferguson is appointed chief financial officer. The firm continues its international selling spree so it can focus on energy in North America.
2006: Encana makes about $6.4-billion, setting a new Canadian record for profit. The company secretly plans to transform into an income trust, a structure that allowed companies to bypass some taxes and pass more cash on to shareholders. Jim Flaherty, then the finance minister under prime minister Stephen Harper, learns about Encana’s intentions, he kiboshes income trust conversions and sets a deadline for existing trusts to ditch the structure. Encana also announces plans to build the tallest office tower west of Toronto, dubbed the Bow, to suit its expansion aspirations.
2008: Encana announces plans to split in two: One company would focus on natural gas, the second on oil. But when the global financial markets crater, the company shelves this plan.
2009: Encana revives its spin-off plan and creates Cenovus Energy Inc., the company that would hold most of the company’s oil assets. Mr. Eresman believed investors would prefer focused companies. He prefers natural gas and is adamant the natural gas prices would rise again. Mr. Eresman remains head of Encana; Mr. Ferguson becomes Cenovus’s first CEO.
2010: Mr. Eresman announces plans to double natural gas production in five years, but when natural gas prices continue to sag, the company turns its attention to natural gas liquids such as propane. Investors are losing confidence.
2012: Encana partners with a Chinese state-owned firm on one of its projects. A Japanese partner joins another. Encana was already working with a Korean firm.
2013: Mr. Eresman announces surprise plans to retire. His attempt to turn around Encana are failing. Doug Suttles replaces Encana’s interim CEO later in the year. Mr. Suttles would spend years reversing Mr. Eresman’s strategy. The new CEO continues to shed international assets, increases Encana’s activity in the United States and revives its interest in oil. The company continues to deploy its fracking expertise in shale plays.
2018: Mr. Suttles, who is from Texas, moves to Denver. Encana says it is for personal reasons and its headquarters would not be following him. “The answer to that is, absolutely not,” then-Encana spokesman Simon Scott says. “We’re a Canadian company, we’re headquartered in Calgary. This decision doesn’t change that in any way.”