Historical Drivers of the WCSB Industry: Introduction

by Neil Watson


The response to the Petro Ninja Enlighten Geoscience Well of the Week (WotW) short articles we started on LinkedIn in 2020 was very gratifying. The limitations of a LinkedIn post, however, became more pronounced as the series progressed. The new year lends itself well to a new home for the Well of the Week. The WotW will be posted on the Enlighten blog and then shared on LI. This will allow greater freedom with regards what we include on each well and a better opportunity to find archived posts beginning with this first post for 2021. And 2021 is a great time to start a new series of WotWs covering a single topic. In this case, how resource plays have, throughout history, been a driving force in the Canadian oil and gas industry.


But first, it is important to outline how I distinguish between resource plays vs. unconventional plays. A resource play is a pervasively hydrocarbon saturated interval extending over a significant portion of a formation. These plays may be under- or over-pressured relative to a hydrostatic gradient. They can be gas or oil bearing. They can produce from vertical or horizontal wells. Stimulation, such as hydraulic fracturing, is commonly required but not always necessary.


"Unconventional" plays refer to plays developed through horizontal, multi-stage fractured wells as opposed to vertical wellbores. This definition implies that the unconventionality is the engineering application rather than the geological setting. Unconventional drilling and completion techniques have been applied in non-resource plays such as the Midale or the Torquay in the Williston Basin or the Swan Hills complex in central Alberta. The development of horizontal, multi-stage fractured wellbores was very important. It was as significant an event as the transition from cable tool to rotary drilling. But neither overrode the importance of the rocks and resource plays.


To illustrate why this distinction is important, I pose this question. "What do we produce oil and gas from?".


We don't produce hydrocarbons from vertical or horizontal wells. We produce oil and gas from rocks using wellbores. This series will outline the resource plays that helped drive our industry forward through time and the continued importance of focusing on the rocks.

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