Wastewater Disposal in the Maturing Montney Play Fairway of NEBC

Lead Researcher(s):  Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.

Key Researcher(s):  Howard Anderson; Dr. Mark Cooper; Pat McLellan; Dr. Ben Rostron

Project ID:  2019-004

Key Research Organization(s):  Geoscience BC; AGAT Laboratories; Petrel Robertson

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Oil and Gas


This project combines geological information and production data from natural gas operations in British Columbia’s Northeast Region to identify and characterize disposal zones for the waste fluids recovered during natural gas operations.

Research Statement

The Montney Play is a gas-prone area within the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in BC’s Northeast Region that contains some of North America’s most significant natural gas deposits.

During natural gas development, wells are drilled and completed. Completion is the process of finishing a drilled well with downhole equipment and any methods required to improve flow from the formation, including hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping a mixture of sand, water and additives into rocks, causing them to fracture and flow natural gas or oil. The well is then flowed-back, a process that recovers fluid and additives and allows natural gas or oil to flow up the well. Once the fracturing fluid has been recovered, additional water may flow back up the well; this is called produced water Produced water could be residual water from the producing zone, groundwater from underlying saline aquifers or a combination of both.

Recovered wastewater is a mix of hydraulic fracturing fluid and produced water. After it is recovered, it is often pumped into disposal zones via a disposal well. Disposal zones are porous and permeable zones within formations, and may include depleted pools where natural gas or oil was previously extracted.

Deciding where to place a disposal well is a complex process, especially in a maturing natural gas production area like the Montney Play where existing disposal zones can be near capacity.

Research is needed to find new disposal zones as natural gas development continues. This work needs to include a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates hydrogeology, geomechanics, reservoir characterization (including petrophysics), and structural geology to evaluate suitable wastewater disposal zones below the base of usable groundwater.

Additional research into wastewater disposal options was recommended in the Scientific Review of Hydraulic Fracturing in British Columbia report published by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in March 2019.


This project fits under Geoscience BC’s Strategic Objective of ‘Advancing Science and Innovative Geoscience Technologies’ and our goal to:

  • Improve economic competitiveness of the Montney Play through advanced science and innovative geoscience technologies.

Specifically, this project is:

  • consulting with the regulator (BC Oil & Gas Commission) and operators on wastewater issues and knowledge gaps;
  • compiling available information (BC Oil & Gas Commission and operators) from prospective wastewater zones on geophysical well logs, well tests and production data, reservoir pressures, and assessing pertinent geomechanical data; and
  • identifying and characterizing potential wastewater disposal zones.


Benefits of this project include:

  • more efficient, continued natural gas operations in the Montney Play;
  • reduced costs for exploration of wastewater disposal zones and reduced wastewater disposal costs;
  • improved knowledge of wastewater disposal zones within the Montney Play; and
  • new, peer reviewed literature to guide future operations and research.

Location Details

The Montney Play is in BC’s Northeast Region.