The Pembina oil field in West Central Alberta is known as one of the largest and most prolific conventional oil fields in Canada. Covering more than 283 000 ha (700 000 acres), one of the main hydrocarbon bearing formations being tapped is the Upper Cretaceous Cardium formation. The Cardium is represented by marine sandstone with massive sandstone beds separated by siltstone and silty-mudstone interbeds. Since the 1950's the Cardium has produced an estimated 1.3 billion barrels of light gravity oil and over 12 tcf of gas. With resource potential pegged at 1.2 billion m3 (8 billion barrels) of original oil-in-place, it has the potential to rival some of the most profitable light oil plays being exploited today.
Historically, many conventional fluid systems have been utilized to hydraulically stimulate the Cardium and over-time field development has favored hydrocarbon based systems. This preferential treatment towards hydrocarbons was due to the fact the Cardium has long been known to exhibit a desiccated reservoir character. With the introduction of horizontal drilling and multi-stage completions in 2009, successful development of thinner, lower permeability and porosity sandstones outside of the previously designated Pembina field boundaries ("the halo") was made possible. The methodology and stimulation technique within the Cardium was then reevaluated. As a result, the traditionally considered fluid system evolved to a slickwater based application as an unconventional completion technique was applied to a conventional resource.
This paper will examine the multiple facets of this unconventional approach with a particular focus on a single operator's ingenuity. Despite the concern in introducing a water based completion strategy, the outcome has proved to be beneficial, in fact superior, to previously utilized approaches. Within the West Pembina Cardium halo play, sustained production from various stimulation fluids including the slickwater system will demonstrate the success of this bold initiative.