British Columbia Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA)

Key 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


The BC Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA) project is the first-of-its-kind: an open-access geochemical database containing analysis of samples of the major natural gas ‘varieties’ found across northeast British Columbia from natural gas fields and pools.

The database contains gas chemistry and isotope data, as well as geochemical ratios and calculated parameters for use as gas ‘fingerprints’. These can help to predict the location of valuable natural gas liquids in the subsurface and to identify undetected natural gas leaks into aquifers, groundwater or air.

The Need

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

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


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

The ability to identify a leaking gas source has many benefits. In the case of a leaking wellbore, an operator can lower remediation costs by having a high level of certainty as to the gas source and associated depth. This helps quick and efficient repairs.

Isotopically-typed gases may also allow operators to optimize the gas revenue stream by understanding where certain gas types might be found.

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 to target higher value natural gas streams.

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 is a geochemical database of the molecular and stable isotope compositions from natural gas wells primarily collected in Northeast BC. All the data is publicly sourced and accessible, and contains includes data essentially from the Montney Formation, and the Horn River, Liard, and Cordova Basins.  A limited number of samples are from other sedimentary basins within BC.