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British Columbia Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA)

Lead Researcher(s):  M. J. Whiticar

Project ID:  2015-013

Key Research Organization(s):  University of Victoria

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Oil and Gas

Summary



The BC Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA) is a compilation of natural gas data, research, publications and maps.  The atlas includes an open-access geochemical database containing analyses of samples of the major natural gas types found in gas fields and pools across British Columbia’s Northeast Region. The database contains gas chemistry with molecular and isotope data, as well as geochemical ratios and calculated parameters for gas ‘fingerprinting’ and subsurface mapping.

These can help to identify the potential source of natural gas leaks into aquifers, groundwater or air, with the potential to help meet the CleanBC target to reduce methane emissions from upstream natural gas operations by 45 per cent by 2025. They can also help to improve natural gas exploration efficiency by helping to map valuable natural gas liquids in the subsurface. In 2020, the project was expanded to begin sampling and adding data from up to 112 wells in northeast BC operated by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL).

The Need

Around 30 percent of Canada’s natural gas comes from operations in BC’s Northeast Region. The BC-NGA database can be used to identify and characterize the origin of a natural gas sample, to assist in subsurface exploration and in natural gas leak remediation.

Carbon isotopes can be used to predict which hydrocarbon type is most likely to be present (i.e. oil or natural gas) in a given location, and to optimize production of natural gas liquids.

The ability to detect and identify if a natural gas sample is from a natural source or is associated with gas development is critical to monitoring and remediating natural gas leaks into air, groundwater or aquifers.

Goals

This Energy project fits under our Strategic Objective of Enabling Clean Energy, and our goal to:

  • Increase research into innovative and practical ways to detect and implement cost-effective methane reduction techniques associated with natural gas development that assists energy companies and the Province to meet their regulatory obligations.

Benefits

Interpreting geochemical and isotopic signatures of different natural gas sources helps to characterize high-value natural gas liquid deposits and to identify sources of leaks.

The ability to fingerprint a leaking gas source has many benefits. In the case of a leaking wellbore, an operator can lower remediation costs by having a higher level of certainty as to the gas source and associated depth. This can help reduce the time and cost of remediation.

Isotopically-typed gases may also allow operators to optimize the gas revenue stream by understanding where certain gas types might be found, including variations and ‘pockets’ of gas within reservoirs. Systematic cataloguing of BC natural gases may also reveal information about the development, migration, segregation and compartmentalization within petroleum systems and the distribution of natural gas liquids, which can help gas producers target higher value natural gas zones or areas.

Additional information may be gained on the effectiveness of regional geologic seals and the impact of structuring on seal integrity, information which is critical to ensure shallow aquifers are not being compromised during hydraulic fracturing operations.

Survey Area

The BC-NGA project includes a geochemical database of the molecular and stable isotope compositions from natural gas wells primarily collected in northeast BC. The majority of the data is publicly sourced. Once the live database is available, new data will be added as it becomes available. The database includes data from the Montney Formation and the Horn River, Liard and Cordova basins. Carbon, hydrogen and CO2 isotope data from 112 CNRL operated wells will be added to the database starting in late 2020. These CNRL well data will help fill gaps in the existing atlas database of formational gas fingerprinting.

What Was Found

This project has compiled and integrated natural gas data for northeast BC from public sources.

From November 2020, additional data from CNRL wells will be added and Geoscience BC continues to seek donations of other gas and isotope datasets to the BC-NGA database.

Dr. Michael Whiticar’s team at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria is running a quality assurance–quality control (QA-QC) script on incoming data. A .csv export of the database is available alongside other BC-NGA information on the BC-NGA website. A project goal is to have the database updated on a real-time basis.

View Project Website

Deliverables