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Questions and Answers - The Unconventional Gas Resources of Mississippian-Devonian Shales in the Liard Basin of British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon

Who produced this report?

This is a collaborative study between the NEB, the British Columbia Ministry of Natural Gas Development, the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, the Yukon Geological Survey and the Northwest Territories Geological Survey.

What and where is the Liard Basin?

The Liard basin is a geographically extensive depression that straddles the boundaries of British Columbia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. It collected sediments from about 540 million years ago to about 65 million years ago, some of which became shales that generated natural gas.

What were the report's main findings?

It shows that the ultimate potential for marketable, unconventional gas in the Liard Basin is estimated to be very large at 219 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). This makes it one of the largest shale gas resources in the world and Canada’s second largest gas resource behind the Montney Formation. The study is important to the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments, because this is the first assessment of northern, unconventional, marketable resources near a gathering system of pipelines.

How much of this resource lies in which of the three jurisdictions?

Most of the gas lies within British Columbia (167 Tcf), while a smaller amount of gas is located in NWT (44 Tcf) and Yukon (8 Tcf).

What does marketable mean?

Marketable means the total amount of petroleum expected to be recovered from the formation that is ready to be used by consumers. In particular, for natural gas, the marketable estimate includes some "shrinkage" because impurities are removed before the gas is sold. While marketable could be interpreted to mean the gas is economic, no economic assessment was performed

What is ‘unconventional gas’?

It is gas that is very difficult to economically remove from rock formations without using complex drilling techniques and/or well-stimulation technology, or the formations may have other technical challenges to production. Shale gas is an example of unconventional gas and requires horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing to achieve economic production.

What is shale gas?

When a shale contains organic material from plankton and/or plants and is heated as it’s buried over geologic time, the organic matter starts breaking apart. At lower temperatures, oil can be generated. At higher temperatures, natural gas is generated. Some of this oil and gas escapes to fill conventional reservoirs, but most remains trapped in the shale.

Why did this resource assessment not look at potential environmental impacts?

This assessment was done as part of the NEB’s market monitoring duties, where the Board assesses the state of Canadian energy markets to ensure that Canadian energy requirements are being met. An environmental assessment is beyond the scope of these activities.

Why does the Liard Basin contain so much natural gas?

The prospective shales in the Liard Basin are very thick and spread over a large geographic area, which means the “container” for the gas is very large. The prospective shales also buried very deeply and have extremely high pressures, meaning much more gas can be compressed in that container than normal.

How does the Liard Basin fit within Canada's total natural gas supply and demand?

Canada’s total natural gas usage in 2014 was 3.2 Tcf, making the Liard Basin unconventional gas resource equivalent to more than 68 years at Canada’s 2014 consumption rate. Canada has more than 850 Tcf of remaining, marketable gas in areas already served by major pipeline systems. This is the equivalent of 267 years of supply based on Canada’s 2014 consumption rate.

What does this mean for natural gas production in Canada?

This report indicates that Canadian markets will continue to be very well supplied with natural gas for many decades to come.

Who regulates hydraulic fracturing?

Horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing in the Liard Basin will be regulated at a provincial and territorial level. Please contact the BC Oil and Gas Commission in BC or the Oil and Gas Resources Branch of Yukon government and the Northwest Territories Geological Survey for more information on their regulatory processes.

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