BC Natural Gas Atlas (Northeastern BC)
- Dr. Michael Whiticar, University of Victoria

A Natural Gas Atlas

The BC Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA) is a Geoscience BC-supported, 3-year project led by Dr. Michael Whiticar of the University of Victoria. The project has two major goals: 1) to aid the understanding and prediction of hydrocarbon-type occurrences, maturation histories and production prediction of natural gas in BC; 2) create a carbon isotope/geochemical baseline which can be used to discern potential fugitive emitters into groundwater and/or the atmosphere.

The BC-NGA will be available as an open-access comprehensive geochemical database of the major natural gas pools/fields in northeast BC. For additional technical information, visit the BC Natural Gas Atlas website.


Natural gas development has a history of over 60 years in northeast British Columbia. With the advent of new drilling and completion techniques, British Columbia is experiencing a natural gas development renaissance. Extensive drilling will be needed to support a nascent LNG industry on the west coast of British Columbia.

Although new wells are being drilled utilizing state-of-the-art completion methods and production equipment, there is still a concern that compromised surface casing cements, from pressure cycling during hydraulic fracturing, could be funneling fugitive gases into the atmosphere. There are also additional concerns of fugitive gases from abandoned well bores.

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, thereby allowing the operator to quickly and efficiently plan remediation of leaking wellbore. This same methodology could be used to remediate old abandoned wellbores -- the methodology would allow the service company to pinpoint the horizon(s) which is (are) leaking, thereby reducing fugitive gas emissions. Isotopically-typed gases may also have exploitation benefits to the operator, potentially allowing them to optimize the gas revenue stream by understanding where certain gas-types might be found. Being able to detect natural gas emitted from natural gas development is critical to responsible development of the resource, and the health of communities and First Nations. Being able to document thermogenic sources of natural gas will be a critical first step in the development of an air monitoring network.

Systematic cataloging of B.C. natural gases may also reveal information about the development, migration, segregation and compartmentalization within petroleum systems and the distribution of natural gas liquids which help gas producers to target higher value natural gas streams. Additional information may be gained on the effectiveness of regional 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.

Value Proposition

This study will have value to communities, First Nations, the BC Oil and Gas Commission ("BCOGC"), the natural gas sector, as well as to government. Some of the value-adds include:
  • Identification of thermogenic vs. biogenic natural gas sources
  • Provides initial critical step in the evaluation of potential fugitive gas emissions
  • Identification of fugitive gas sources in abandoned and producing wellbores
  • Optimization of gas revenue stream by understanding where certain gas-types might be found
  • Reduction of remediation costs by providing a high level of certainty
    as to the location of the gas emitter
  • Provides the technical framework for air monitoring programs
  • Provides information which will aid regulatory agencies with aquifer protection.
    Ties with plans to monitor ground water and analyze dissolved methane
  • Increased understanding of petroleum systems, seal integrity, natural gas liquids ("NGL") distribution,
    which will help natural gas producers target higher value gas streams

Petition for Gas Samples and Analytical Data

In order for this initiative to be successful, the project will need to ideally get representative natural gas samples from all producing pools/fields throughout the geological column. In addition, temporal gas samples from the same well/pool/field can provide important information with respect to the gas stream and optimization of production practices.

BULLETIN INDB 2016-07 (BCOGC Information Bulletins) issued by the BCOGC on March 8th 2016, highlights how sample and data contributions from the oil and gas industry can both help this project and fulfill related permit obligations. This essential data for the project will come from three potential sources:

    1. Legacy Carbon Isotopic Data (and standard molecular analysis)
      - will likely come from older archived data from primarily
      conventional gas production
    2. Produced Gas Samples
      - from existing producing wells will help infill data gaps
      from the Legacy Carbon Isotopic Data
    3. New Gas Samples
      - from Exploratory Wildcat (EW) and Exploratory Outpost (EO) Wells
      will help update the project into new exploration areas


As of July 30, 2015, the BC Oil and Gas Commission ("BCOGC") outlined changes to the Drilling and Production Regulations (INDB 2015-21), which require natural gas isotope analyses to be submitted as per Section 34(5)(b) and 34(6.1).

Regulations can be downloaded here:

BCOGC Industry Bulletin 2015-21.pdf

BCOGC Drilling and Production Regulation.pdf

The BCOGC provides guidelines for collection and submission of natural gas stable carbon isotope ratio data, and also a manual (November 2015, Version 1.10) with submission requirements for well data. Section 34 (6.1) of the BCOGC "Drilling and Production Regulation" details the submission requirements for submitting the 'Gas and Fluid Analyses' data. These requirements include submission of a PDF and PAS file on the BCOGC eSubmission Portal. Gas isotope data are submitted as a PDF and/or CSV file to .

Submission Requirements can be downloaded here:

BCOGC Isotope Analysis and Submission Guideline.pdf

BCOGC Well Data Submission Manual- November 2015 Version 1.10.pdf


The BC Natural Gas Atlas Project offers, at no charge, to make molecular composition and stable carbon isotope ratio measurements of the light hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide on representative gas samples from exploration and production wells in BC (reservoir gas, well bore/mud gas). These measurements will be made on samples sent to the Biogeochemistry Facility at the University of Victoria.

Relevant, dissolved and fugitive gases within the scope of the project will also be analysed at no cost, require prior agreement and arrangements. It is expected that sample full metadata will accompany any samples sent (e.g., well ID, location, depth, geologic horizon).

Examples of the types of gas samples and existing gas geochemical data (both with metadata) acceptable for this project BC-NGA include:

  • Drill Stem Test (DST) samples as gas or condensate
  • Production Packer samples as gas or condensate
  • Production Flow samples as gas at the separator
  • Solution Gas from wells
  • Surface casing gas samples and existing data
  • Mud gas or Cuttings gas from wells and existing data
  • Dissolved gas from groundwaters, aquifers, formation fluids and existing data
  • Fugitive release gas in the airsheds with active petroleum exploration, production and transportation in BC
  • Gas geochemical analytical data (molecular and stable isotope) from existing wells
  • Geochemical data of oils and condensates (molecular and stable isotope)from existing wells


All samples received will be properly logged and safely stored on-site. All analyses will follow industry-standard procedures (SOPs upon request). All data will be stored and backed up on University of Victoria's computer servers. It will also be delivered to Geoscience BC for input to a publicly accessible data portal.

The molecular composition will be analysed by a combination of TCD-GC, FID-GC and GC-IonTrap-MS. The stable isotope ratios of the light hydrocarbons (C1-C5) and carbon dioxide (CO2) with be measured by variations of GC-IRMS. A glossary of the types of analyses, can be found at: BC-NGA Analytical Glossary.

It should be noted that:

  • ALL SUBMITTED DATA AND ANALYTICAL RESULTS FROM SAMPLES PROVIDED WILL BE AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN ON THIS SITE AND OTHER PLACES.The BC-NGA database will be maintained by Geoscience BC(contact: Carlos Salas via email: salas@geosciencebc.com).


Details on the instructions and protocols for the collection and shipment of the gas samples can be obtained from the Biogeochemistry Facility at the University of Victoria (Sergei Verenitch or Curtis Evans).

Email (Curtis Evans): c2evans@uvic.ca

Telephone: 1-250-721-6183

Shipping (Physical and Courier) address:

Biogeochemistry Facility
Room B417, Bob Wright Centre
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
University of Victoria
3800 Finnerty Road
Victoria,BC V8P-5C2, Canada

Mailing address:

Biogeochemistry Facility
Room B417, Bob Wright Centre
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
University of Victoria
PO Box 3065 STN CSC
Victoria, BC V8W-3V6, Canada

Technical Articles and Presentations
2019: "Molecular composition and isotope mapping of natural gas in the British Columbia Natural Gas Atlas"
- Summary of Activities 2018: Energy and Water, Report 2019-02 (pdf, 7.6 MB)
2018: "BC Natural Gas Atlas - Preliminary Insights into Geochemistry from Profiles"
- Unconventional Gas Technical Forum 2018 (pdf, 7.6 MB)
2018: "British Columbia Natural Gas Atlas update 2017: recorrelation changes the picture"
- Summary of Activities 2017: Energy, Report 2018-04 (pdf, 114 KB)
2017: "British Columbia Natural Gas Atlas Project: 2016 Project Update"
- Summary of Activities 2016, Report 2017-01 p. 75-978 (pdf, 93 KB)
2013: Mapping and Characterization of Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) Fairways in Northeast BC
-Quantifying the Gas and Liquids in Place and the Flow Characteristics of Shale and other Fine Grained Facies in BC Project Brochure, pdf

If you are interested in other Geoscience BC Projects of this type or in this area, try searching through all our projects:

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