Saskatchewan’s natural gas drilling is all but dead

Regina – Picking up on a line of questioning to previous speakers, Melinda Yurkowski, assistant chief geologist for Saskatchewan began her presentation on the petroleum geology of Saskatchewan 101 with this sobering statement:
“Truthfully, the gas industry has been really, really quite in the province. I do believe last year we only had 10 wells that were targeted for (natural) gas.
“Right now, oil is king.”
Yurkowski acts as host of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference on the years that it is held in Saskatchewan. On alternating years the conference shifts to Bismarck, N.D. Each year Yurkowski provides an update on what is happening in this province, geologically speaking.
“Waters are a little choppy, I agree. We’ve seen that in our delegate numbers,” Yurkowski noted. While the numbers were smaller, that was not reflected in the quality of the conference.
On the science side, she said there are close to 92,000 oil and gas wells in the province, of which approximately 52,000 are currently operating.
There are about 35 formations that produce in the province, but the Mannville Formation around Lloydminster (heavy oil) and the Mississippian in southeast Saskatchewan (light oil) are the “bread and butter” producers. 
There were 3,665 wells drilled in Saskatchewan in 2014. In 2015 from Jan. 1 to March 31, there were 575 wells drilled in Saskatchewan. Of those, 484, or 84 per cent, were horizontal.
A new record was set for horizontal wells in 2014. 
Viking grows in importance
Saskatchewan’s Viking play is increasingly where it’s at when it comes to drilling activity, according to Yurkowski.
In 2014 the Viking led all formations in the number of wells drilled, far outstripping the Bakken (light oil) and Manville (heavy oil) plays.
Viking horizontal oil production has been on the rise, with essentially a hockey stick graph from late 2010 onward. By the end of 2014, the Viking’s horizontal production (not counting vertical production) totalled 53,000 barrels per day, up from 7 barrels per day in 2007. By Dec. 31, 2014 there were 3,842 horizontal Viking oil wells.
“You can see the Viking is playing a major role now,” Yurkowski said, noting it is accounting for over one-third of all wells drilled in the province.
“The Viking is becoming a major story last year in terms of drilling for the province.”
In contrast, the Saskatchewan Bakken formation has started seeing an overall decline in production from its peak in 2012. At the end of 2014 the Bakken produced 61,420 barrels per day. It’s hockey stick graph, when production took off, started slowly in 2006 then shot up in 2008 before leveling off and then peaking in 2012.
Torquay production takes place in two areas – the Flat Lake area along the U.S. border near Oungre, and the Ryerson area near the Manitoba border. It’s the Flat Lake area that’s seen the most attention. After a slow start in 2005-2006, production started to jump in 2012 and has kept rising from there.
“The newer play is the Flat Lake and Northgate, and there’s about 181 producing wells there. About 77 were drilled in 2014, and about five so far this year,” she said.
The Viking is a Cretaceous section and fairly shallow, with wells about 600 to 700 metres deep. It produces a light 36 degree API oil. There are approximately 14 million barrels reserves recoverable at 9 per cent recovery, “And that number is going to change,” she said.
It is unconventional in the manner that it is difficult to produce from.
The oil is so light, Viking cores don’t look oily, as it bleeds off easily. “It’s hard to see the oil staining, because it’s so light,” she said.
Out of the Viking, Lower Shaunavon, Torquay and Bakken (in the southeast), only the Bakken dropped in horizontal (unconventional) production compared from 2013 to 2014. The other three formations grew.  
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