Luncheon – November 17, 2000

Title: Canadian Rocky Mountains: Undeveloped Gas Potential

Speaker: Dietrich Roeder, Murnau Geodynamics

Date: Friday, November 17, 2000

Publication: The Outcrop, November 2000, p. 4-5

The Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia are a detached fold-thrust belt of Oligocene age, developed from two stacked parts of the Western Canada basin: the Paleozoic shelf and the post-Triassic Cordilleran foredeep. Prior to 1970 and during a depressed gas market, a marginally successful industry developed 7 to 10 TCFG and 120 to 1200 MMBO and condensate (depending on exclusion or inclusion of the pressure-depleted Turner Valley field). Scientifically, Foothills exploration was much more successful: most of the geological concepts used in understanding fold-thrust belts worldwide have originated in Alberta through the work of industry and the Geological Survey of Canada.

An inventory of 19 structure sections through this classic fold-thrust belt has been newly assembled from public domain data. They illustrate the structural style of this fold-thrust belt and the gas-condensate fields contained within. These sections also illustrate the style and setting of leads and prospect areas that should be re-examined for their economic potential.

A restudy of the Canadian Rockies and their foothills is needed despite their uncontested place as a geological type locality. This opportunity arises from global changes in the gas market, from bulk hydrocarbon data, and from modern models of basin evolution. Renewed demand for Foothills gas is boosted by the pipeline system linking Beaufort Sea gas with the population centers of the western United States. Developed reserves in the mature Western Canada basin suggest a hydrocarbon yield of 11,500 b/kmˆ³ of basin fill. This is significantly less than, but still within the range of, the non-Mid-East world average of 17,000 b/kmˆ³. Developed reserves in the Foothills yield only 5,300 b/kmˆ³  (Alberta) and 6,400 b/kmˆ³  (British Columbia). The Turner Valley field would increase the Foothills yield to 12,000 b/kmˆ³. These figures suggest, it can be argued, that renewed Foothills exploration could at least double the oil and gas reserves.

Renewed foothills exploration would take entrepreneurial courage. It would have to add and telescope 30 years of technological progress in basin concepts, data management, risk analysis, seismic acquisition, and seismic processing. It would have to rediscover historical or archived data. It would have to absorb the cost of deeper and much more expensive drilling, and it would have to find and keep motivated the human technical expertise.