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February 6, 2021 Petro Ninja - Enlighten Geoscience WotW: Another Oil Resource Play

This is the fourth Well of the Week post in a series describing how Resource Plays (basin-wide plays in which hydrocarbons are the continuous phase) have often driven development throughout the history of the Canadian oil and gas industry. Links to the previous posts are provided at the bottom of the post.

Resource Play: Mudrock hosted oil (Canol)

Discovery Well UWI: Northwest Discovery No. 1 (along the banks of the Mackenzie River near Normal Wells)

Drilling/Completion Technology: Pre-Conventional (Cable Tool)

It is, to me, less surprising that the next driver of the western Canadian oil and gas industry after Oil City in Waterton was a resource play than that it was way up in the Northwest Territories at Norman Wells. While I understand that they were prospecting based on oil seeps along the Mackenzie (Deh Cho in Dene) River, the NWT 100 years ago was a very wild and isolated place.

But drill for oil they did. And they found it. The Northwest Discovery No. 1 well struck oil in the Canol. According to the Northern Oil and Gas Directorate (1995): "Northwest Discovery No. 1 flows oil from fractures in the Canol Formation. "Oil comes to surface to black globules ... trenches fill with oil .". Oil flowing from a fractured shale. A pressure test at the time indicated the reservoir was about 20% over-pressured. Sounds like a resource play to me. And it launched industry icon, Imperial Oil. This discovery was one of the first of many feathers in Ted Link's cap.

And what a resource play it is. Terlaky (2017) estimates the Oil in Place to be 145 billion barrels or more, and it is waiting for us to access in the Canol. Modern data captured during a recent spate of exploration illustrates a thick target with excellent reservoir characteristics.

Terlaky, 2017

And it sits in a mature fairway extending the length of the Central Mackenzie Valley.

Hogg, 2015

The dominant contribution of resource plays in developing our industry is pretty long and we are just getting started.

Next week, a decade on and another start on developing one of our massive resource plays.

Previous Posts

January 16, 2021 WotW - Historical Drivers of the WCSB Industry: Introduction:

January 29, 2021 WotW - First Oil Well in Western Canada:


Hogg, J., 2015. The Canol Oil Shale Play, Central Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories, Canada: Geoscience, Operations and Social License. CSPG Playmakers.

Northern Oil and Gas Directorate; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1995. Petroleum Exploration in Northern Canada: A Guide to Oil and Gas Exploration and Potential.

Terlaky, V, 2017. Canol Formaon and Bluefish Member Shale Play Summary, Central Mackenzie Valley.


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