Evolving technology for tapping shale, coal and tight formations will eventually increase Canada’s recognized natural gas endowment about six-fold to an astronomical 4,000 Tcf, according to a new national inventory of deposits prepared for the Canadian Society for Unconventional Gas (CSUG).
But just how much of the contents of the vast geological warehouse will be marketable or produced commercially remains unknown. The inventory, derived from a technical review by the geology consulting firm of Petrel Robertson, describes Canada’s unconventional gas sector as still “emergent” or in an infancy stage of pilot projects in adapting techniques developed in the United States to northern economic and field conditions.
The best available current estimates peg the amounts of Canadian unconventional gas likely to be produced from coal at 34 to 129 Tcf, tight rock formations at 215 to 476 Tcf, and shale at 128 to 343 Tcf. When added to consensus estimates of remaining marketable conventional supplies in porous and permeable formations of 357 Tcf, the forecast total of Canadian potential production works out to a wide range of 733 to 1,304 Tcf.
Rather than crafted as a precise technical guide to resources like reports of the disbanded Canadian Gas Potential Committee, the brief CSUG summary forecast is intended to stimulate development of national policies favoring gas use by assuring decisionmakers that adequate supplies can be made available for generations to come.
“Natural gas is a strategic resource for the country,” CSUG said. “It’s abundant, safe, reliable and affordable. It’s the lowest (greenhouse gas) emitting hydrocarbon and an ideal energy partner for transportation and power generation. It has a key role to play in meeting Canada’s long-term energy, environment and economy objectives.”
And the resource endowment could well turn out to be much larger than even the new estimate. The CSUG report points to eight major deposits where there has been too little exploration, technical study or disclosure of early drilling results to even begin to generate resource estimates: the Devonian, Montney and Colorado shales of Alberta; the Devonian and Liard deposits in the Northwest Territories; and a variety of shale and hydrates formations in Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Arctic and offshore regions.
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