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Big Gun, Part 2 - Why Natural Gas Production Took Off in British Columbia’s Montney Region

The Montney Formation in British Columbia and Alberta is exclusively responsible for the turnaround in Western Canada’s natural gas production in the past decade. Gas production in the Montney — a vast area with extraordinary reserves — has doubled in that time, with most of that growth coming from the BC side of the formation. This phenomenal growth story stems from a few key factors, including steadily improving gas well performance and increasing wellbore length, coupled with access to an established network of gas pipelines. Today, we delve into what has made BC’s portion of the Montney such as standout.

After the acclaimed oil sands of Alberta, the Montney Formation is probably the most talked about geologic play in Western Canada in the past 20 years. Mostly known for its immense reserves and growing production of natural gas, the Montney has risen to prominence in the context of both the Canadian and broader North American gas markets. Within a few years, its reserves will also begin feeding the currently under construction LNG Canada liquefaction plant and export terminal on the BC coast, extending the access of Montney gas to overseas markets.

In Part 1 of this series, we said that the immense Montney Formation straddles the provincial boundary between BC and Alberta (yellow-outlined region in Figure 1) and covers about 50,000 square miles (~130,000 square kilometers), making it about two-thirds the size of the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico. Joint studies between the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) and the provincial energy agencies of BC and Alberta have estimated remaining recoverable reserves for the Montney at 567 Tcf, with about 342 Tcf in BC and 224 Tcf in Alberta. We noted that the Montney is sandwiched between the Duvernay Formation and the Alberta Deep Basin, areas that also have considerable hydrocarbon reserves.

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