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.

Development Solutions

Horizontal Drilling

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 per cent 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

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. Since 2008, more than 10,000 wells have been drilled in Alberta using the combination of multistage hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling for oil and gas development.

Responsible development

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: