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27 November 2008

Saskatchewan's Ultimate Potential for Conventional Natural Gas

Canada plays an important role in the current North American natural gas market by providing about one-quarter of North American gas production. Canada's ability to remain a key supplier of natural gas will largely depend on the size and quality of its resource base. Within Canada, the province of Saskatchewan is a small, but important contributor to natural gas supply, accounting for about four percent of total Canadian production in 2004. Annual non-associated natural gas production from Saskatchewan is currently 6.9 billion cubic metres (109m³) or 245 Billion cubic feet (Bcf), and comes mostly from its western regions. (Figure 1.1)

Oil and Gas Pools of Saskatchewan

This Energy Market Assessment, Saskatchewan's Ultimate Potential for Conventional Natural Gas, provides an outlook for what natural gas resources could be available in the future. Ultimate potential for natural gas is a key factor in making projections of future supply. It provides basic information for further investigation of the pace of development, deliverability and economics.

This report is the result of a joint study by the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources (ER). It provides information on the undiscovered conventional natural gas resources remaining in the Saskatchewan portion of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), and provides information on unconventional natural gas resources that could potentially be developed in the province of Saskatchewan. The joint study includes these key findings:

  • The estimate for Saskatchewan's ultimate potential of marketable conventional natural gas resources was calculated to be 297.4 109m³ or 10.6 Trillion cubic feet (Tcf). The new estimate of ultimate potential is 42 percent higher than the NEB's previous estimate. About half of that volume has already been produced; the remaining volume is 150.6 billion cubic metres (109m³) or 5.3 trillion cubic feet.
  • Discovered resources have increased by 30 percent since 1997. Large discoveries made since 1997, such as the Abbey and Lacadena pools, have resulted in the redistribution of undiscovered potential in the geological section, giving greater recognition to shallow gas intervals, compared with previous assessments.
  • Based on production to the end of 2004, the remaining conventional natural gas in Saskatchewan available for future Canadian domestic and export demand is 150.6 109m³ or 5.3 Tcf.
  • Limits on surface access have significant impact on the exploration for undiscovered resources. The agencies consider 5.0 109m³ or 178 Bcf of the ultimate potential to be located under lands where access is not currently allowed and where the reservoirs cannot be accessed by directional drilling.

Determining Ultimate Potential

Ultimate potential for natural gas is a key component required to make projections of future supply. It provides base information from which subsequent examinations of the pace of development, deliverability and economics can be conducted.

The term ultimate potential refers to the estimate of the volume of marketable gas reserves that will be proven to exist in an area after exploration has ceased.

Ultimate potential = discovered resources + undiscovered resources

For example, the total ultimate potential for Saskatchewan is 297.4 109m³ (10.6 Tcf). That number includes the amount already produced to the end of 2004, which was 146.8 109m³ (5.2 Tcf), and the remaining gas available for future demand, which is 150.6 109m³ (5.3 Tcf). (Figure 2.2)

Ultimate Potential
Category Gas In Place Marketable Gas
109 Tcf 109 Tcf
Discovereda,b 319.7 11.3 221.5 7.9
Cumulative production (to 31 Dec. 2004) 211.7c 7.5c 146.8 5.2
Remaining discovered 108.0 3.8 74.7 2.7
Undiscovered 109.4 3.9 75.9 2.7
Ultimate potential 429.1 15.2 297.4 10.6
Remaining ultimate potential 217.4 7.7 150.6 5.3

a. Includes the discovered volumes of gas in the Frobisher and Alida Beds, whose resource potential is not estimated in this study
b. Deviation from Oil and Gas Reserves Summary Reports, 2004 because of miscellaneous pool reserve estimates
c. The value in the GIP column is an estimate of the volume of in-place gas represented by the produced marketable gas volume

Better understanding of geological plays

As drilling and technology advance, they bring forth new information on the resources of a basin, which in turn, contributes to increased certainty. Increased drilling activity in Saskatchewan, the discovery of at least one large pool in an existing play not previously accounted for, and the fact that cumulative production was approaching the previous NEB ultimate potential estimate, warranted the need for a new assessment of Saskatchewan's ultimate potential for conventional natural gas.

Location of Western Canada Sedimentary Basin

As exploration has shifted to new areas and into overlooked horizons since 1997, the understanding of the WCSB in Saskatchewan has continued to evolve. In a general sense, there has been an increased recognition of the undiscovered potential of the shallow gas intervals, due in part to better technology and production practices such as infill drilling that allows industry to step out into “less permeable” frontiers and expand play areas.

Gas-bearing areas are almost entirely in the western third of the province. The report does not cover areas in eastern Saskatchewan which make only minimal contributions to current gas reserves.

Only conventional non-associated and associated gas reserves data were analyzed in the report. The shallow gas in the Milk River, Medicine Hat and Second White Specks formations were considered conventional because of their long production history. Importantly, dissolved gas was not included in our study because the reserves have not been assigned by ER; however, it accounts for 7.7 percent of marketable gas production in Saskatchewan, so it is not insignificant.

Resources for the future

Saskatchewan holds about four percent of the ultimate remaining conventional natural gas resources in the WCSB - the same percent it contributes to the annual production from the basin. There is also potential for additional unconventional gas resources to be developed in the province.

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