Petroleum exploration and development have been underway
since 1952 in the northeastern region of the province, a 194,000
square-kilometre area spanning the northern foothills of the
Rocky Mountains and the northwest part of the Western Canada
Sedimentary Basin. Almost 19,500 wells have been drilled to
date. Estimates of marketable conventional natural gas resources
that remain to be discovered vary from 26 to 44 trillion cubic feet (Tcf).
The potential for significant additional natural gas reserves exists
in the B.C. Foothills, shallow Cretaceous, Deep Basin tight gas
and deeper plays.
The total coalbed gas resource in the northeast region is
estimated to be 60 Tcf. This resource is being evaluated by
several companies. It is estimated that up to 145 million barrels
of recoverable oil remain undiscovered.
With the commercial success of several shale gas plays in the
United States, British Columbia’s shales are recognized as
potential reservoirs which may have the capacity to hold 250
to 1,000 Tcf gas-in-place. Though recoverable volumes will be
considerably less, shale gas remains a significant untapped
resource. In 2005, a Ministry study of the shale gas potential
within the Devonian strata of northeast B.C. focused on the
Exshaw, Besa River, Fort Simpson and Muskwa formations. Areas
of interest included parts of the Liard Plateau and Basin, and
Prophet Trough in northeast B.C., and western extensions of the
Peace River Arch/embayment. A more recent study evaluates the
regional shale gas potential of the Triassic Doig and Montney
Formations of northeast B.C. by quantifying the potential
gas-in-place using spatial analysis.
Tight gas is likely to hold the highest potential for remaining
technically recoverable natural gas resources in the northeast.
Tight gas is now being specifically targeted in basin-centered
resource play developments, like those focused on the Devonian
Jean Marie at Greater Sierra and the Cretaceous Cadomin at
Cutbank Ridge. In 2003, the Min