British Columbia has seen near exponential growth in the areas of the Horn River and Montney unconventional shale gas plays situated in North Eastern B.C. (figure 1). The original gas in place volume for the Montney and the Horn River basins have not been formally calculated but have been estimated at more than 500 Tcf and continues to be revised upwards as new and more refined information is obtained as 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 drastic reduction in viable gas production from the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, and North America in general. Market predictions were favouring investment in import terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) where 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 as well as a myriad of infrastructure modifications to handle the resulting new flow regime.

In five short years, this dire future has been completely reversed due to 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 year of gas reserves in BC, reversing a previous decline, as shown in Figure 2.

British Columbia 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 moving rapidly from conventional vertical well developments to unconventional multi-well pads consisting of multiple fracture stimulated horizontal wells.

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