#Lookback: The Husky Oil Company and Riverton’s Second Refinery

    Because of the great expenses associated with producing, transporting, and marketing oil, it was extremely rare for an individual to find great success in Wyoming without the help of an industry giant. An exception to this rule was Glenn Nielson and his Husky Oil Company. 

    Like other small independent refineries in the state, Nielson faced two issues when he first took over a refinery in Casper in the 1930s: finding a market for its products and acquiring enough crude to meet the demand of that market. Luckily, Nielson had remarkable salesmanship abilities and instinct. While most of the other refineries in Wyoming were producing bunker fuel, Nielson went about making asphalt, a smart decision considering most roads in the state, and in the country at large, were still unpaved at this time.

    With the start of WWII, Nielson quickly switched production to navy fuel oil and got a contract with the Navy for essentially as much as he could produce. His Casper refinery could make 5,000 barrels a day, but seeing that he needed to expand the business, Nielson went about making a second Husky refinery, this time in Riverton. 

    During the war, all construction was exceedingly difficult, slow, and full of red tape because of rationing. For example, a 100-octane fuel plant in Cheyenne took close to two years to build, even though the government considered it relatively high priority. Amazingly, Nielson was able to complete his refinery in Riverton in only 28 days in 1944, using old parts from his Casper plant. 

    Located in the southwest part of town near the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and on the north bank of the Wind River, the topping refinery was initially able to produce 5,000 barrels a day, using crude from the Maverick Springs, Pilot Butte, Winkleman Dome, Dallas Dome, Derby Dome, Hamilton Dome, Circle Ridge and Lander fields. Together with the Casper refinery, Husky was able to refine 15,000 barrels a day into fuel for United States ships fighting German U-boats and Japanese destroyers.

    With the end of the war, Husky’s contract with the Navy was terminated. Nielson decided that it would be profitable to move the Riverton Refinery back to his home country of Canada. He chose Lloydminster field in Alberta as the site, a relatively remote area at the time where crude was still being stored in pits. He saw Canada as a good market where much work was still needed on the roads and the farms could use a closer source of fuel. 

    The oil found at Lloydminster was also superior for making asphalt – Nielson’s specialty – to that of the fields around Riverton as it stayed rubbery in the cold. Nielson eventually built an empire worth $600 million, being one of the only true rags to riches stories in the 20th century oil industry.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    September 30, 1-3:00pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Apple Fest” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    September 30, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “J.B. Okie Manor Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series; This trek has been rescheduled for September 23rd.

    October 4, 6pm at the Riverton Museum, “Fremont Haunts: Alma Law” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    October 13 & 14, 6-9pm at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, “Halloween Night at the Museum” Baily Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    October 14, 5-8pm at the Riverton Museum, “Pumpkin Trail” 

    October 15, 5-7:30 at the Riverton Museum, “Riverton Haunted Downtown Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?