Rocky Mountains may hold 800 bn cf of raw gas

Dec 17, 2004 01:00 AM

by Patrick Brethour and Dave Ebner

For decades, what lies beneath the limestone shelf deep below the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains has been a mystery to energy companies, left to guess what kind of energy riches might be trapped underneath in the ancient coral. The sound waves used to map oil and natural-gas reservoirs simply could not make their way through the folds of the mountain range and the limestone.
"It just bounces right up and you couldn't see below it," says Greg Stringham, vice president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

No more. Advances in three-dimensional seismic technology have allowed Shell Canada to penetrate that sound barrier, giving it the tools to pinpoint the massive natural-gas discovery it recently announced. Shell found as much as 800 bn cf of raw gas, the most expansive measure, in the Foothills.
Along with the lure of higher gas prices, the industry -- or at least those that can match Shell's technology -- now have the "will and the way" to peer into untapped reservoirs, Stringham said.

Shell does not want to talk in detail about its breakthrough, for fear of giving away its competitive edge, but the company did say its innovation centres on the interpretation of seismic data. Such data start out as sound waves, but can be assembled into 3D models using powerful computer programs and the expert interpretative skills of petroleum engineers.
The improvement has allowed Shell to avoid the "soap opera" of its last similar effort, which was plagued by high costs, missed targets and paltry discoveries, said Wilf Gobert, vice-chairman of Peters & Co.

The rugged Foothills in Canada extend from south-western Alberta outside Waterton Lakes National Park through north-eastern British Columbia. Wells already dot the Foothills, but the prospect of big finds at deeper levels is getting people excited as other players also ride advances in 3D seismic technology.
"The Foothills is where it's at for big new discoveries," Jim Buckee, president and CEO of Talisman Energy, said. Talisman is known for its international operations, but the Calgary company's attention to its own back yard is increasing substantially.

In October, Talisman announced a big success at its Monkman play in the British Columbia Foothills, where it is already the dominant player.
The latest Monkman well could have more than 200 bn cf of gas in place, and Buckee said there is clear potential for "many more" such hits, predicting there could be several trillion cf of gas in the surrounding area. That would easily outstrip Shell's discovery.

Source: Casper Star-Tribune
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