British Columbia (B.C.) has seen near-exponential growth in the areas of the Horn River and Montney unconventional shale-gas plays situated in northeastern B.C. (Fig. 1). The original-gas-in-place volume for the Montney and Horn River basins has not been formally calculated, but it has been estimated at greater than 500 Tcf and continues to be revised upwardly as new and more-refined information is obtained and development takes place. The Cordova embayment and Liard basin, east and west (respectively) of the Horn River basin, are at early stages of assessment but promise additional massive gas-in-place values.

Approximately 5 years ago, industry experts were predicting a dramatic reduction in viable gas production from the western Canada sedimentary basin, and from North America in general. Market predictions were favouring investment in import terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG), in which gas from offshore suppliers could be imported and moved through the North American transportation grid to market. Regulators were anticipating an influx of LNG-facility applications and myriad infrastructure modifications to handle the resulting new flow regime.

In 5 short years, this dire future has been reversed completely because of the advent of economically viable methods to access gas trapped in shales and similar tight formations. At the current rates of production and exploration, there are more than 20 years of gas reserves in B.C., reversing a previous decline, as shown in Fig. 2.

B.C. is ideally positioned to provide gas to North America with ready access to a number of major gas-transportation pipelines, including systems operated by TransCanada Pipelines, Spectra Energy Gas Transmission, and the Alliance Pipeline. Many of these systems are undergoing significant capacity expansions to accommodate the influx of gas from these new plays.

This paper will explore the challenges posed to regulators in rapidly moving from conventional vertical-well developments to unconventional multiwell pads consisting of multiple fracture-stimulated horizontal wells.

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