It is well-known that production from shale gas and tight oil resources has surged in North America due to new hydraulic fracturing technology and this development has profound implications for Canada. The large increase in natural gas production has led to lower prices. Furthermore, since late 2014, oil prices have dropped dramatically. Some oil, natural gas and oil sands producers and some governments are now struggling due to the low price environment.
In British Columbia, prolific production of shale gas has created new opportunities for export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). In Alberta, light oil production has increased due to contributions from tight zones in formations such as the Cardium and the Viking; in addition, significant growth could take place if the Duvernay and Montney formation are found economic to develop. In Saskatchewan, tight oil production from the Bakken formation has been significant. Provinces in eastern Canada, such as Quebec and New Brunswick are studying opportunities offered by the new technology. Finally, opportunities are known to exist in Northern and Arctic regions.
Tight oil and shale gas development is relatively new to Canada, but it does build on technology and practices in use during past decades in conventional oil and gas. While a successful production technology, hydraulic fracturing has raised concerns about environmental impact, particularly concerning water. The concerns with respect to water focus on: the high volume of water injected into the well, the chemicals added to the water, and the handling of the contaminated water that flows back from the well after fracturing. Concerns have also been expressed about the possibility of triggering earthquakes, high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and social impact from truck traffic and industrial activity. As a result, the technology has been subject to regulatory reviews in several jurisdictions internationally.
Thus, it is of high value for industry and for Canadian and provincial governments to study and understand challenges and opportunities from the increasing production of shale gas and tight oil from hydraulic fracturing technology.
Purpose and Scope
The purpose of the Tight Oil and Shale Gas Innovation Roadmap (the “Roadmap”) is to provide knowledge for industry, government and academia to address current and anticipated research and technology challenges and opportunities related to the development by multistage hydraulic fracturing of unconventional tight and shale oil and gas resources. The outcome will be to deepen the understanding of the potential for scientific research and technology development to provide solutions in this industrial sector, and to propose an initial blueprint for future technology investments.
The Roadmap is not focused on any specific company or play, and recognizes that individual producers and service companies have an excellent understanding of technology challenges and opportunities related to their business. It does not enter the realm of government policy and regulatory frameworks, and acknowledges that several government organizations may have studied internally technology gaps and possible futures.
The Roadmap is focused on issues directly related to hydraulic fracturing technology. As such, challenges, gaps and opportunities that apply generally to conventional oil and gas activities are only briefly mentioned, if at all. One such area is well integrity and the potential occurrence of wellbore leakage, which is analysed in reports from the Council of Canadian Academies and of the Canadian Gas Migration Society and will be the topic of a future technology roadmap by Natural Resources Canada.