Canada’s natural gas inventory has grown by 219 Tcf, based on the first official forecast of shale supplies that horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing would make available in the northern Liard Basin of British Columbia (BC).

The assessment by the Yukon Geological Survey, Northwest Territories Geological Survey, BC Oil and Gas Commission, BC Ministry of Natural Gas Development and National Energy Board raised projected marketable supplies in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin to 853 Tcf.

The Liard is a remote, sparsely populated region of woods and muskeg swamps bisected by the 60th Parallel of northern latitude and straddling the boundaries of BC and the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

But pipelines put the new shale supplies within industry reach, said the report. Vertical wells have tapped naturally flowing Liard reserves since the 1960s in small conventional fields known as Beaver River, Pointed Mountain, Kotaneelee and Maxhamish.

The much bigger zones that fracturing makes available — known to earth scientists as the Exshaw and Patry shales in the Besa River Formation — are “thick and geographically extensive,” said the new assessment.

The new assessment made the Liard area stand out as Canada’s second-biggest shale gas target after the more accessible Montney formation, where a forecast 449 Tcf, plus rich sidelines in tight oil and light liquid byproducts, are under active development (see Shale Daily, Jan. 4; Nov. 7, 2013).

The gas-bearing dense rock is 300-2,000 meters (984-6,560 feet) thick. Drilling targets lie at variable depths, sometimes as shallow as within a kilometer (3,281 feet) of the land surface. The richest, most economic pay zones are 20-300 meters (66-984 feet) thick.

About 167 Tcf, or 76%, of the Liard marketable shale gas is forecast to be in BC, a projection that prompted an enthusiastic prediction of future development by BC Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman.

“The report’s findings mean that the potential amount of natural gas available for export has increased substantially,” Coleman said of the assessment. BC “continues to show prospective LNG (liquefied natural gas) companies just how much natural gas is available. This certainty makes our province an attractive location for investors.”

But only four exploratory wells have been drilled in BC’s share of the Liard shale zones to date. The earth sciences agencies steered clear of making development predictions that depend on performance by the long lineup of LNG export terminal projects on the northern Pacific coast. Despite six years of marketing and regulatory approval efforts, none have made it into construction yet.

“It is too early to know whether the Liard Basin will significantly contribute to Canadian gas production in the near-term because gas prices are expected to remain low for the next several years, deterring development,” the assessment noted.

For more information on the various shale and unconventional plays in Canada, including acreage tables and sweet spots for specific plays, check out NGI’s All New North American Shale and Resource Plays 2016 Factbook.