Regina, Consul – In the very southwest corner of the province, Savanna Drilling Rig 629 was drilling for a natural gas, but not the one you might think.
No, it wasn’t methane, CH4. It was helium, He.
North American Helium was Inc. was the company doing the well. The drilling was northeast of Consul, just south of Cypress Lake.
Melinda Yurkowski, assistant chief geologist, petroleum geology, with the Saskatchewan Geological Survey, has been working on the geology of helium exploration for several years. Speaking to Pipeline News on July 17, she said there were 14 helium wells in Saskatchewan.
Yurkowski said that North American Helium has six wells completed, with one planned and one abandoned. Royal Helium has one well. Weil Group has two wells near Mankota, where they opened a helium production facility two years ago. Canadian Helium has two wells, and the City of Medicine Hat has one.
Historically, Saskatchewan had helium production in the 1960s and 1970s. But prices dropped in the late 1970s and the bottom dropped out of the market. Oil and gas companies found it during their explorations in the 50’s, and three areas were identified – the Wilhelm, Battle Creek and Mankota structures.
In this decade, as the United States government sold off its strategic reserve, prices and demand for helium began rising again, fuelling the interest in helium in this province.
“We’ve seen at least 10 wells drilled in the last four to five years,” Yurkowski said. The development is now moving away from those three identified structures.
“I’m continuing to work on it. I did a report in 2016, and I’m hoping to do a new report soon,” she added. She presented her work on helium at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, N.D., this past May.
In 2018 there were 17 helium permits issued. In the year since July 28, 2017, 41 new permits were issued. Put in context, that’s nearly one quarter of the 171 helium permits and leases that are active with the province, most of which are on their primary term.
Yurkowski’s work on this new report focuses on the eastern part of Saskatchewan, having already looked at the southwest corner. This involved looking at gas analysis and compiling data for helium, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Those last two, if occurring naturally, can be telltale indicators for possible helium.
Asked about her preliminary findings, Yurkowski said, “I’m seeing some elevated shows throughout the stratigraphic column.”
At this time, she can’t explain those shows yet. She is hoping to release her results in the fall.