string(18) "[Energy-Resources]"

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-Resources


The BC Natural Gas Atlas (BC-NGA) is a compilation of natural gas data, research and publications.  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 CleanBC methane reduction targets for upstream operations. 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 over 100 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.


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.


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.

The database includes data from the Montney Formation and the Horn River, Liard and Cordova basins.

What Was Found

This project compiled and integrated natural gas routine analysis and isotope data for northeast BC from public sources and from over 100 CNRL wells.

Dr. Michael Whiticar’s team at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria ran 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.

View Project Website