Distribution, Origin, and Implications of Hydrogen Sulphide in Unconventional Reservoir Rocks in Western Canada with Insights into the Stratigraphic Zonation and Lateral Variability of Producible Hydrocarbon Liquids

Lead Researcher(s):  M. Bustin

Project ID:  2017-014

Key Research Organization(s):  University of British Columbia

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Oil and Gas


This project will map and predict the distribution of sour gas and hydrocarbon liquids in important unconventional reservoirs in parts of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in northeastern BC.

The Need

Sour gas is natural gas that contains measurable amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Even in small amounts, H2S can turn ‘sweet’ natural gas into ‘sour gas’ – a colorless, flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs and can be deadly if inhaled. If gas well operators intercept a patch of sour gas while extracting, producing or treating natural gas, it creates health, environmental and economic risks and hazards.

The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin’s Montney, Doig, and Duvernay formations are important areas for natural gas activity, yet the distribution of sour gas within these formations is complex and poorly understood.

Project Goals

This project is designed to:

  • Gather gas analysis, isotopic data and intellectual contributions from industry partners
  • Generate new analyses of produced fluids and rock
  • Deliver detailed maps of produced gases and isotopic analyses together with predictive maps of hydrogen sulphide distribution and abundance
  • Deliver reservoir production models to help plan resource exploration and drilling programs

Project Benefits

This project fits with Geoscience BC’s ‘facilitating responsible natural resource development’ strategic objective.

The predictive maps of the distribution of hydrogen sulphide-bearing gas generated by this study will help natural gas operators plan safer and more cost-efficient programs. They will also provide regulators with data to evaluate and mitigate the risks and hazards associated with intercepting sour gas. Communities and First Nations will be able to use the data to understand risks and hazards.

Survey Area

The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin is a ‘wedge’ of sedimentary rocks that extends from northeast British Columbia, across most of Alberta and into southwest Saskatchewan. It is divided into regional basins, sub-basins, and rock formations.

The Montney, Doig, and Duvernay shale formations examined in this project are located deep below Dawson Creek and the surrounding area in northeastern British Columbia.

How was data collected?

Gas analyses and isotopic data for this study will be obtained from industry partners. A major regional sulphur and hydrocarbon isotopic data set has been provided by an industry partner in the study and commitments of data from others have been made.

Additional industry partners are also anticipated to provide data to the study which will also require analyses of produced fluids and rock. Intellectual contributions from the industry partners will provide valuable insight.