Canada’s Discovered Oil and Gas Resources North of 60*
Kenneth J. Drummond1
Search and Discovery Article #10102 (2006)
Posted April 10, 2006
*Modified from extended abstract prepared for presentation at AAPG Annual Convention, Calgary, Alberta, June 19-22, 2005
1Drummond Consulting, Calgary Alberta ([email protected])
The total discovered recoverable oil and gas resources for Canada north of 60 degrees are 1,665 million barrels of oil and 31,252 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Initial recoverable resources by territory are, Northwest Territories – 1,330 MMB oil and 14,930 Bcf gas, Nunavut – 323 MMB oil and 15,963 Bcf gas, and the Yukon – 12 MMB oil and 359 Bcf gas.
In Northern Canada 45 fields have discovered oil with original recoverable resources of 1,665 MMB, of which 230 MMB has been produced to December 31, 2004. There are 84 fields with initial recoverable gas of 31,252 Bcf, of which only 696 Bcf has been produced to December 31, 2004. There are 99 discovered fields, 29 oil and gas, 16 only oil and 54 only gas. The 29 fields with oil and gas contain 1,059 MMB of recoverable oil and 11,349 Bcf of recoverable gas. The 16 oil fields have 606 MMB, and the gas only fields have 19,903 Bcf of gas.
Fields with oil production include Norman Wells, discovered in 1920, Bent Horn (1974), Amauligak (1983) and Cameron Hills (2003). Gas fields with production include Beaver River, Pointed Mountain, Kotaneelee, Liard K-29, Liard P-66, Ft. Liard F-36, SE Ft Liard N-01, Cameron Hills, and Ikhil.
The largest discovered oil resource is the 1 billion barrels in the Beaufort/Mackenzie Basin. Largest discovered recoverable gas resource is in the Sverdrup Basin with 17.4 Tcf, followed by the Beaufort/Mackenzie with 9.7 Tcf.
A wide diversity of basins characterizes Canada’s sedimentary area north of 60 degrees north. The sedimentary basins of Northern Canada (Figure 1) occupy an area of 2.5 million square kilometers (965,255 square miles), with approximately 62% offshore. Significant occurrences of oil and gas have been discovered in several of the basins (Figure 2).
One of Canada’s earliest oil discoveries was made at Norman Wells in 1920. The Norman Wells oil field has produced 226 million barrels of oil to December 31, 2004, with remaining oil reserves of 76 million barrels. Signicant discoveries were made in the Mackenzie/Beaufort Basin and the Arctic Islands in the 1970’s and 1980’s. A resurgence of activity has resulted in discovery of oil and gas in the Cameron Hills and gas discoveries in the Liard Plateau.
Drilling activity, as shown in Figure 3, has been sporadic over the years, with increased activity in the war years, during the early1970’s, and the major development drilling at Norman Wells in the mid 1980’s. The mainland Territories has had a resurgence of activity in the late 1990’s and into the current decade. A total of 1544 wells have been drilled to the end of 2004, of which approximately 980 have been exploratory.
The first discovery in the Arctic Islands was Drake Point, which blew out in 1969. This is the largest discovery in the Arctic Islands Sverdrup Basin, with 5.4 Tcf of recoverable gas resource. The first discovery in the Mackenzie/Beaufort Basin was the Cretaceous Atkinson Point oil discovery in 1970, with 42 million barrels of recoverable oil. The most significant discovery to date is the Taglu gas discovery in 1971, with 2.7 Tcf of recoverable gas.
A listing of oil and gas discoveries, as of December, 2004, is shown in Table 1. A total of 99 fields are listed, with recoverable resources of 1665 million barrels of oil and 31,252 billion cubic feet of natural gas. To the end of 2004, cumulative oil production was 230 million barrels of oil (13.8% of the total) and cumulative gas production of 696 billion cubic feet (2.2% of the total resource).
The remaining discovered oil and gas resources in Northern Canada are large and an additional large volume remains to be discovered.
Discovered oil and gas north of 60 occurs in reservoirs ranging in age from the Cambrian to the Miocene (Figure 4). Cambrian gas been discovered in the Colville Hills of the Northwest Territories, with recoverable gas resources of 262 Bcf. Devonian oil and gas occurs in the Southern Territories and Liard Plateau, with 1.25 million barrels of recoverable oil and 1352 Bcf of recoverable gas. The only discovery in the Mackenzie Plain is the Devonian Kee Scarp oil discovery at Norman Wells, with 302 million barrels recoverable. Lower Paleozoic (Ordovician to Devonian) oil and gas has also been discovered along the southern basin margin of the Mackenzie/Beaufort Basin. There is one Devonian oil field, Bent Horn, in the Arctic Islands, which was abandoned in 1997, after producing 2.84 million barrels.
Carboniferous to Permian oil and gas have been discovered in the Liard area and the Eagle Plains, with total recoverable resources of 12 million barrels of oil and 104 Bcf of natural gas. The major Mesozoic oil and gas discoveries occur in the Arctic Islands Sverdrup Basin and along the basin margin of the Beaufort/Mackenzie. The Mesozoic discoveries of Beaufort/Mackenzie are primarily Cretaceous with recoverable resource of 66 million barrels of oil and 1,400 Bcf of gas. The Mesozoic dominates the discoveries of the Arctic Islands Sverdrup Basin with 332 million barrels of recoverable oil and 17,383 Bcf of recoverable gas.
Tertiary oil and gas discoveries occur in the prograding deltaic sequences of the Beaufort/Mackenzie Basin, with 939 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8295 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas. The one field in Baffin Bay has an estimated 2.3 Tcf in a Paleocene sandstone.
Basins with production north of 60 include Southern Territories, Liard Plateau, Mackenzie Plain, Beaufort/Mackenzie, and Arctic Islands Fold Belt. Annual production of oil and gas from Canada’s northern basins is shown in Figures 5 and 6. Oil and gas production from the Southern Territories began in February, 2002, from the Devonian in the Cameron Hills. Cumulative production to December 31, 2004, is 490,000 barrels of oil and 11.4 Bcf of gas. Cumulative gas production from the Liard Plateau is 682 Bcf. The Norman Wells oil field has produced 226 million barrels of oil, and production in December, 2004, was 19,973 barrels a day.
First production from the Mackenzie Delta was in July, 1999, from the Ikhil gas field, which provides local production to the town of Inuvik. Cumulative production to December 31, 2004, is 2.6 Bcf. In the Beaufort Sea a total of 317,000 barrels of oil was produced to a tanker in 1986.
In the Arctic Islands oil was shipped by tanker every summer from the Bent Horn field for the years 1985 to 1996. A total of 2.8 million barrels was produced with the field being abandoned in 1997. The oil reservoir is a thrust faulted Devonian carbonate below the southern margin of the Sverdrup Basin.