ARCHIVED - Ultimate Potential for Unconventional Natural Gas in Northeastern British Columbia's Horn River Basin - Questions & Answers

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1. What is shale gas?

Shale gas is a form of unconventional natural gas that is trapped within shale, a sedimentary rock originally deposited as clay or silt and characterised by extremely low permeability. The gas exists as either free gas found within pore spaces in the rock, or as absorbed gas attached to organic material present in the rock.

2. Where is the Horn River Basin?

The Horn River Basin is located in Northeastern British Columbia. It is bounded to the west by the Bovie Fault Structure and to the east by the Presqu’ile barrier reef.

3. How does the potential of the Horn River Basin compare with other shale-gas basins in North America?

While some of its estimates are still early, the U.S. Department of Energy’s estimates of marketable shale gas place Horn River third in North America. The estimates are:

  • Marcellus - 262 Tcf
  • Haynesville - 251 Tcf
  • Horn River Basin- 78 Tcf
  • Barnett - 44 Tcf
  • Fayetteville - 42.6 Tcf

4. Who regulates oil and gas activities in the Horn River Basin?

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission regulates crude oil and natural gas drilling and production within the province of British Columbia. Pipelines are regulated by the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission where operated wholly within the province or the National Energy Board if the pipeline crosses a provincial or international border.

5. What does probabilistic mean?

Probability is a mathematical term used to describe the likelihood of something occurring. A probabilistic resource assessment for an oil or gas reservoir uses a range of possibilities for important characteristics, such as thickness or pressure, often in the form of low, expected, and high values. Monte Carlo simulations are then run, where values are randomly picked for each characteristic several hundred or more times to understand the range of possibilities for the reservoir as a whole.

As far as National Energy Board and B.C. Energy and Mines are aware, the Horn River Basin study is the first publicly released probability based assessment of a Canadian shale gas play.

6. What are the low, expected and high case scenarios for marketable gas in the Horn River Basin?

As mentioned previously, the expected case scenario is 78 Tcf. The low is 61 Tcf and the high is 96 Tcf.

7. How are discovered and undiscovered resources defined?

Discovered resources have been confirmed through wells already drilled. Undiscovered resources are those that are expected to be found through future drilling.

8. What are the economic implications of shale-gas development?

This report’s scope is restricted to addressing shale-gas potential in Northeastern B.C. It makes no recommendations on the merits of exploiting the shale gas resources and does not address the economics of discovering, developing or producing these resources.

9. How is marketable defined for the purpose of the report?

Marketable refers to gas volumes that are technically recoverable under current market conditions. The marketable volume is the gas volume that can be inserted into pipelines for sale.

10. What is hydraulic fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as "fraccing", "fracking", or "fracing") is widely used by the oil and gas industry to improve low permeability reservoirs. Fluid (often water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, or propane) is pumped down the well until the pressure surpasses the rock strength and causes the reservoir to crack. The "frac" fluid pumped down the well is loaded with ceramic beads or sand that infiltrate the formation and help to prop the fractures open, which are at risk of closing once the pressure is released. The frac fluid also contains a very small proportion of chemicals designed to carry the proppant as far into the fractures as possible. A number of chemicals may be used and each company develops its own proprietary formula. The choice of the fluid used in a frac depends on many factors, including whether clay in the reservoir is sensitive to water (some clays swell in the presence of fresh water, such as in the Colorado Shale) or whether the reservoir happens to respond better to particular fluids, usually only determined through experimentation.

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