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Well of the Week – Escape From Oak Island!

The first post in this Petro NinjaEnlighten Geoscience Well of the Week series began by discussing how many people have come to the conclusion that exploring in the Second White Specks is like kicking a football held by Lucy van Pelt. What might seem promising at first will leave you lying flat on your back wondering why you still had not learned from previous experiences (I had lots of feedback from the first post, including one correspondent who referred to the Second White Specks as a widow maker!).

This post includes reasons for giving the play another try, the commonalities of revolutionary exploration paradigms and how the latter once again combine to make the Second White Specks the next big play.

The first point is the easiest one to make. Although the Montney, Duvernay, Charlie Lake and Clearwater are great plays and currently providing lots of growth, even the best plays have limited “running room.” Every capital allocator worth their stock options realizes the importance of looking to the future and to have a foothold in the next big thing. And the Second White Specks is one of only a few formations with enough resource to make a difference to operators big and small.

Assuming you accept the foregoing truism, what about the second claim, that significant exploration events are revolutionary? The discovery process can be seen as a form of punctuated equilibrium. We spend extended periods following a particular paradigm and, just as we are reaching the limits of positive returns, a new play emerges and off we go in a new direction. An important consideration is that these new plays are rarely due to a singular geological advancement. Game-changing plays come from advances in geology in conjunction with a corresponding technical breakthrough in engineering or another field. There are many examples. Multi-Fractured Horizontal Wells (MFHZ) as a means to exploit low permeability formations is an obvious one. Similarly, the advent of coiled tubing drilling (and high gas prices) led to a proliferation of Coal Bed Methane. Sometimes it is detailed geological work and advances in geophysics that lead the way. Regardless, new plays require the confluence of advances in disparate fields.

Bruce Hart, who has published extensively on the Second White Specks, gave a Canadian Energy Geoscience Association talk titled “Why the Second White Specks Didn’t Work as an Unconventional Play” (this talk is available for viewing the CEGA video library; this resource is, on its own, a good reason to be a member). And he has a point. As the plot by Kirby Nicholson of Pressure Diagnostics in Figure 1 illustrates, applying MFHZ technology to the Second White Specks didn’t meet with success.

Figure 1. Cumulative Oil Production Statistics for 2WS Oil Wells W5M

Figure 1 shows that most of the productive wells have been vertical (190). Hydraulic fracturing has not been beneficial, as a whole, to the play in vertical wells perhaps indicating why MFHZ wells have failed. Clearly a new completion technology is required!

Dunn et al., 2013 stated ,with regards the Duvernay, that “these “basinal” source rock deposits are inherently heterogeneous due to the dynamic nature of their depositional environment”. This statement is equally applicable to the Second White Specks. Marion (2018) catalogued a number of these anisotropies in the Second White Specks. But there is more to it than that. Figure 2 illustrates two closely spaced wells with similar petrophysical profiles.

Figure 2. Stratigraphic Cross-section of two proximal Second White Specks completions, Marion (2018).

One is a success and the other is a failure. Given the equivalent lithofacies, there is obviously another factor to be considered in a successful Second White Specks play. This is where the geological nuances can convolve with the new completion technology mentioned above.

To sum up:

· We always need to source new plays.

· The Second White Specks has demonstrated very productive wells and it is reasonable to expect we have not exploited most of the remaining pools.

· Our current paradigm of multi-stage fractured horizontal wells does not work for this play.

· To find success in new plays require innovative and collaborative thinking.

If you are interested in how we can release the Second White Specks from Oak Island, feel free to be in touch with Kirby or myself.


Dunn, L, Gordon, K. and Houle, M., 2013. Fifty Shades of Grey: Utilizing “Conventional” Sedimentology and Sequence Stratigraphy to unlock rock quality to reservoir quality relationships in the liquids rich Duvernay Shale play, Kaybob Alberta, Canada. Geoconvention 2013. [accessed 2023-10-02].

Marion, K. P., (2018) "Integrating Petrophysics and Allostratigraphy to Find Sweet Spots in the Upper Cretaceous Belle Fourche and Second White Specks Alloformations, West-Central Alberta, Canada". Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 5440.[accessed 2023-10-02].

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