The Wild West: Reporting Canadian liquids
The Wild West spirit lives on in Western Canada, at least when it comes to reporting condensate volumes in gas wells. Operators in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) do not consistently report these volumes due to the existing measurement and reporting guidelines for Alberta and British Columbia. This results in public disclosures that can be misleading and hinder a proper understanding of wellhead liquids production in some of the most important Canadian plays. Operators can interpret the guidelines as reporting “gas equivalent volume” in certain operating conditions, creating the appearance of a dry gas production stream.
For investors who rely on public production data for analysis, such reporting inconsistencies can lead to an underestimation of wellhead liquids, negatively affecting net present value calculations. This renders the data useless for meaningful analysis. Currently, there are limited solutions available at scale in the market, leaving customers with no way to perform meaningful well analytics unless they use production data from their own wells. These flawed systems and processes can impede progress and success, leading to frustration, cynicism and a lack of trust in the effectiveness of institutions. It highlights the need for transparency and accountability in both government and industry.
As a result, some prominent Canadian plays are receiving less attention and investment, which leads to reduced exploration, delayed technological development and fewer optimization opportunities. In this blog, we will focus on two Canadian plays that Enverus Intelligence® | Research (EIR) considers highly competitive and among the most profitable plays in North America: the Montney and the Duvernay.
The two plays: Montney and Duvernay
The Western Canadian sedimentary basin is renowned for its diverse endowment of unconventional oil and gas resources. The Montney play is found in Northeast British Columbia and Northwestern Alberta, while the Duvernay is situated in Central Alberta. Both plays are highly sought after by the Canadian unconventional oil and gas industry, with Montney being rich in natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids from the Early Triassic period, and Duvernay boasting high-quality light oil and liquids-rich natural gas from the Devonian age. Their abundant resources and potential for growth have made Montney and Duvernay the primary drivers of unconventional oil and gas production in Canada, making them the industry’s focal points.
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The misunderstood play: The Montney
EIR reported at the beginning of 2023 that despite its high profile, the Montney play, a significant unconventional play, remains the least delineated across North America. Despite being well-known and highly regarded in the oil and gas industry, its potential reserves and economic extents are not well understood or well defined. This lack of knowledge contrasts with other similar plays in North America. Over time, EIR has developed its own liquid correction models to provide a more precise estimation of the actual liquid composition and estimates that around 40% of Montney wellhead liquids production has been underreported in raw data since horizontal well development began almost two decades ago. This underreporting has led to an overestimation of the breakeven price in some areas of the play, potentially by up to 50%. However, if this issue is resolved, the entire Montney fairway is considered highly competitive and among the most profitable plays in North America.
“We estimate that approximately 40% of cumulative Montney wellhead liquids production, equivalent to approximately 302 MMbbl, has been underreported in raw public production data since the start of horizontal well development. After correcting for the underreporting, the entire Montney fairway emerges as an extremely competitive and profitable player among North America’s top plays,” said Trevor Rix, senior vice president at EIR.
Enverus can improve your well analytics and reporting in Canada by providing accurate condensate allocation to wellbores. This precise allocation allows for a comprehensive analysis of all available analytics in Enverus PRISM®, making the data more meaningful. Enverus uses proprietary variables derived from in-depth analysis to fuel its model-based allocation process. This process is calibrated to real-world data from clients, ensuring greater consistency and accuracy in reporting.
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The smaller, but still strong, Duvernay play
On April 17, the EIR team released a report titled “Duvernay economics | Better, not the best,” which acknowledges the challenges of extracting oil from the Duvernay Shale in central Alberta but highlights its significant value. Unlike the Montney Formation, the Duvernay is composed of deeper, less-porous rock, making oil extraction more capital intensive. However, the belief that these challenges are insurmountable can hinder innovation and risk taking, limiting the potential of the industry and the Duvernay play to achieve its goals.
“Duvernay economics have been quietly improving throughout the last few years, but they still lag behind that of the Montney because of the greater depth of the formation and the proppant required for hydraulic fracturing,” said Rix.
In the last eight years, the Duvernay Shale has seen a reduction of around one-third in its median half-cycle breakeven, making it more competitive against other plays. Additionally, recent mergers and acquisitions involving major operators in the play suggest that the Duvernay will likely experience more substantial growth in the medium term.
Canadian basins still have a lot to offer
Unfortunately, due to the higher costs, the Duvernay has some ground to make up if it is going to catch up to the Montney. However, with investors seeking long-term exposure to deep natural gas inventory and the increasing accessibility of North American LNG egress, the basin’s growth will be profitable. Despite advancements in play understanding, drilling and completion technologies, and cost efficiencies, the Duvernay still falls behind the Montney in terms of half-cycle discounted well economics. Additionally, based on analog well cost data from U.S. plays, it seems unlikely that the length-normalized capital costs will decrease any further in the Canadian play.
In conclusion, the inconsistent reporting of condensate volumes in gas wells in the WCSB has a significant impact on the analysis and evaluation of wellhead liquids production. This problem is compounded by the lack of meaningful solutions available in the market, leaving investors with limited options for reliable data analysis. The implications of this flawed reporting system can have a significant impact on the success and progress of plays in the region, leading to less investment in exploration, technological development and optimization. While the Montney and Duvernay plays are highly competitive and profitable plays in North America, the current reporting guidelines and measurement systems must be improved to promote further investment in these two areas.
About Enverus Intelligence Research
Enverus Intelligence Research, Inc. is a subsidiary of Enverus and publishes energy-sector research that focuses on the oil and natural gas industries and broader energy topics including publicly traded and privately held oil, gas, midstream and other energy industry companies, basin studies (including characteristics, activity, infrastructure, etc.), commodity pricing forecasts,