Oldest Continuously Running Refinery

What is now called the Imperial Oil Refinery of Sarnia is the oldest continuously running refinery in the world. It is not just the oldest refinery, it is majority owned by one of the biggest oil companies in the world, ExxonMobil. How this early industrial refinery came to be here on traditional Aamjiwnaang land was not only the result of the rapid expansion of the oil business, it was also made possible by colonial laws and practices of the new colonial nation of Canada that cleared the way for the oil industry to prosper. 

Early Expansion

1873 map showing the location of the Dominion Oil Refinery along the river.

The refinery began as the Dominion Oil Refinery in 1871. It was one of the first industrial-style refineries built in the area. It was built on Aamjiwnaang Land along the water near land that was already “surrendered” to the Great Western Railway Company. After a disagreement among the company owners, the land sale to Dominion Oil was clarified  through an Indian Land Grant in 1876, which can be viewed below. 

1858 Map from the Land Grant of Sarnia Reserve Land to the Great Western Railway Company, showing some of the buildings and other structures on the land where Dominion Oil would later build.

Excerpt from 1876 Indian Land Grant

"Whereas the lands hereinafter described are part and parcel of those set apart for the use of the Chippewas of Sarnia Indians and Whereas we have thought it fit to authorize the sale and disposal of the lands hereinafter mentioned in order that the proceeds may be applied to the benefit and support and advantage of the said Indians in such a manner as we shall be pleased to direct from time to time And Whereas a certain company called and known as "The Dominion of Canada Oils Refinery Company" "Limited" incorporated under certain acts of the Parliament of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland contracted and agreed to and with our Minister of the Interior of Canada, Our Superintendent general of Indian affairs duly authorized by us in this behalf for the absolute purchase at and for the price and sum of Five Thousand dollars of lawful money of Canada of the lands and tenements hereinafter mentioned and described of which we are seized in right of our Crown."(footnote 1)  

View The Indian Land Sale Grant, 1876

refinery history
Dominion Oil


  1. Indian Land Sale Grant to Beverly Jones, Township of Sarnia, County of Lambton. Dated 24th March 1876 Recorded 8th April 1876 Lih: 31 Fol. 98, sgd L. A. Catellier Dep. Registrar General of Ref. No. 8223, Canada.  Glenbow Archive Box  IM 1 Box 15