The latest in tech that has opened up new shale gas works just as well for the old fields
You hear it everywhere: new natural gas production from shale is revolutionizing the energy industry. And it’s breakthroughs in horizontal drilling, multi-stage fracturing and micro-seismic technologies that have enabled it.
There’s a massive truth here, but that doesn’t leave conventional fields in their dust. Far from it, in fact. With the same techniques, entire new looks at some of the old fields may be less glamorous but just as revolutionary. Take central Alberta. It doesn’t get the same press but the numbers can be as large: for example last summer Bonavista Energy Trust paid EnCana $698 million for largely mature properties west of Red Deer. Bonavista reckons that gives them easily 165 drilling locations which represent four to five years of drilling inventory with the new tech.
There are distinct advantages to old fields in a central Alberta location - a major one being proximity to connecting infrastructure. Many of these fields have been producing so long much of their infrastructure is becoming under-utilized. No need to build new gas plants, just drill the wells and tie them in. Moreover it’s close to Red Deer, a centre of Alberta’s oilfield service industry and labour pool. And it’s all-season access. All unique advantages when compared to some of the hot new shale plays. “This isn’t north-eastern BC, this is not the Horn River,” says one executive.
Another positive: the resource is already well understood and the geology is known. It’s no secret there are large contiguous resources that can’t be accessed economically through the old vertical wells. Production could now double.
It goes for oil too. The nearby Pembina oilfield west and southwest of Edmonton, Canada’s most prolific, has produced only about 20% of its reserves. The new horizontal drilling and multiple fracturing techniques will open up vastly more of the almost 8 billion barrels remaining there.