Unconventional resource potential
Decades of oil and gas production has resulted in a decline in Alberta's conventional oil and gas reserves. The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) estimates a reserve outlook each June. The Summary of Alberta's Shale- and Siltstone-Hosted Hydrocarbon Resource Potential (2012 AGS) estimates:
|Location||Barrels of oil||Barrels of natural gas liquids||Cubic feet of natural gas|
|Montney formation||136.3 billion||28.9 billion||2,309 trillion|
|Duvernay formation||61.7 billion||11.3 billion||443 trillion|
|Muskwa formation||115.1 billion||14.8 billion||419 trillion|
|Nordegg member||37.8 billion||1.4 billion||148 trillion|
|Wilrich member||47.9 billion||2.1 billion||246 trillion|
|Banff and Exshaw formations||24.8 billion||92 million||35 trillion|
In 2013, the National Energy Board prepared a briefing note on the potential for unconventional petroleum from the Montney formation.
A steerable drill-bit to drill around rock, has been around for decades but recently has it been paired with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing. More than half of western Canada's oil and natural gas wells are being drilled horizontally, and since 2013, an estimated 80% of all oil wells placed on production use the same technique. Horizontal drilling reduced surface impacts, a single well can do the work of several vertical wells. These techniques have the advantage of being able to increase resource recovery while reducing surface impacts. Multiple wells from a pad further help reduce surface impacts with less roads and pipelines required. Early landowner engagement is required when multiple industrial activities are planned.
Multiple wells from a pad
Drilling multiple wellbores, or drill holes, from a single surface location, further help reduce surface impacts with less roads and pipelines required. Early landowner engagement is required when multiple industrial activities are planned.
Hydraulic fracturing sometimes referred to by the non-technical term "fracking", involves pumping fluids, typically water, into a formation at a high enough pressure to crack, or fracture, the rock layer. The fluid also contains proppant, such as sand, that helps keep the fractures open so that oil and gas can flow to the surface. Instead of water, some fracture operations use liquefied propane, nitrogen, liquefied carbon dioxide, diesel or other fluids. Hydraulic fracturing has been safely used in Alberta on more than 180,000 wells since the technology was introduced in the 1950s, the Hydraulic fracturing in Alberta fact sheet explains the benefits and safeguards.
The departments of the Government of Alberta provide policy direction to the AER; the AER directives guide the regulation of all natural resource development in the province.
Some standards include:
- water for life
- groundwater protection (AER directive 059)
- wellbore integrity (AER directives 008, 009 and 083)
- air quality (AER directive 060)
- noise and light (AER directives 056 and 038)
- induced seismicity
- Summary of Alberta's Shale- and Siltstone-Hosted Hydrocarbon Resource Potential: Alberta Geological Survey under the AER
- ST59: Alberta Drilling Activity Monthly Statistics: annual reports (AER)
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