Welcome to the debut of the Petro Ninja(TM) – Enlighten Geoscience Well of the Week (WotW), now a weekly feature on the BOE Report. There is a lot packed into this first of many posts to come. Previously available through the Enlighten Geoscience blog and LinkedIn posts, the WotW celebrates the fascinating and colourful history of the western Canadian oil and gas industry by telling the story of a key well that exemplifies a particular period or play. We are grateful for the opportunity to now reach a wider audience for these stories through the BOE Report. You might find these articles insightful and thought provoking or you might find them to be worth what you paid for them. I hope it is more the former than the latter and that you look forward to reading this space every Tuesday.
This opportunity arose during the final stages of a series outlining how resource plays have, throughout history, been a driving force in the Canadian oil and gas industry. I have decided that refreshing this series and seeing it through to its conclusion is the best way to merge the WotW into the BOE Report.
First, how does a resource play differ from an unconventional play? A resource play is a pervasively hydrocarbon saturated interval extending over a significant portion of a formation. These plays may be under-or over-pressured relative to a hydrostatic gradient. They can be gas or oil-bearing. They can produce from vertical or horizontal wells. Stimulation, such as hydraulic fracturing, is commonly required but not always necessary. “Unconventional” refer to plays developed through horizontal, multi-stage fractured wells as opposed to vertical wellbores. This definition implies that the unconventionality is the engineering application rather than the geological setting. Unconventional drilling and completion techniques have been applied in non-resource plays such as the Midale or the Torquay in the Williston Basin or the Swan Hills complex in central Alberta. The development of horizontal, multi-stage fractured wellbores was very important. It was as significant an event as the transition from cable tool to rotary drilling. But neither overrode the importance of the rocks and resource plays.
To illustrate why this distinction is important, I pose this question. “What do we produce oil and gas from?” We don’t produce hydrocarbons from vertical or horizontal wells. We produce oil and gas from rocks using wellbores. This series will outline the resource plays that helped drive our industry forward through time and the continued importance of focusing on the rocks.
Now on to the story of the first gas well in western Canada.
Resource Play: Milk River – Medicine Hat Biogenic Shallow Gas
Discovery Well UWI: 100/03-29-015-10W4/00
Drilling/Completion Technology: Pre-Conventional (Cable Tool)
Perhaps this WotW was the inspiration for the opening credits of The Beverley Hillbillies, in which Jed Clampett discovered oil through the luck of his poor marksmanship.
Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
And then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground come a bubblin’ crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.
As dedicated geoscientists, we might scoff at the idea of so easily finding hydrocarbons, but back in 1883 a crew drilling for water messed up and discovered natural gas. Currently designated as 100/03-29-015-10W4/00 (also known as the Aldersyde well), what this well discovered was the Giant Milk River / Medicine Hat Biogenic Gas Field. A very interesting and detailed article on 3-29 may be found here.
Not surprisingly, given the spud date, there are no well logs for 3-29 but there are several offsets withi a few hundred metres (e. g.: 100/07-29-015-10W4/00).
And, based on the number of wells, it sure looks like people thought 3-29 was worthwhile following up on over the years. The best producer in this field was the subject of an earlier WotW. Pretty impressive for a shallow gas well. This well discovered a truly massive field and launched the western Canadian oil and gas industry.
So, based on the evidence, the first gas well in western Canada was drilled into a resource play manifested as a giant biogenic gas field. It was discovered by pre-conventional technology. That is a cable tool drilling rig.
Next week we discuss the first oil well in western Canada and the resource play it represents.
Beverley Hillbillies lyrics
Chen, Zhouheng & Shuai, Yanhua & Osadetz, Kirk & Hamblin, T. & Grasby, Stephen. (2015). Comparison of biogenic gas fields in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and Qaidam Basin: Implications for essential geological controls on large microbial gas accumulations. Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology. 63. 33-52. 10.2113/gscpgbull.63.1.33.