Blog: B.C. natural gas: Montney leads the way

The Montney natural-gas play in B.C. and Alberta continues to dominate drilling activity, production, and growth in gas reserves.

This from the B.C. Energy Regulator, which notes that in the last five years, gas production in B.C. has increased 40.2%.

The regulator’s new report says B.C.’s estimated remaining raw gas reserves increased 18.3% in 2022, due to added Montney development wells. Of 374 wells drilled in 2022, all but one well were drilled in the Montney.

As well, “Hydrocarbon liquids reserves continue to increase as development is largely focused on the Montney play, where many operators are targeting liquids rich areas and layers of the Montney. . . .

“Significant development of the Montney began in 2005 and has since become the largest contributor to natural-gas production volumes in the province.

“Since 2019, drilling has focused on the liquid-rich gas portions of the play trend. As a result, production of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and condensate increased significantly.  . . .

“In the eastern area of the play trend, a prolific high-quality condensate window exists. Drilling continues along the eastern side of this super-condensate rich area where this window continues for a considerable distance on the northeastern side of the Montney play.”

B.C. had 9,988 producing wells in 2022 — 9,196 gas wells and 792 oil wells. Of the 9,988 wells, 5,277 were producing from the Montney formation.

It all reminds us that there’s more to natural gas than exporting it as LNG. About one third of Canada’s energy needs are met by natural gas.

More than six million Canadians use natural gas to light, heat and cool homes and businesses, heat water, and for cooking. And natural gas provides about 8.5% of Canada’s electricity generation.

As FortisBC points out: “Natural gas is a safe, reliable source of energy that’s easy to use in your home or business. . . .

“BC’s natural gas has an important role to play in helping our province meet its climate-action goals. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and it’s an abundant, local energy source with existing infrastructure that helps British Columbians heat their homes in a cost-effective way.”

Worldwide, natural gas accounts for roughly 24% of energy consumption, and demand is growing for gas as a transition fuel between fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

As well, almost 47% of the world’s hydrogen production is from natural gas. With the rich reserves of gas in B.C. and Alberta, both provinces are looking for hydrogen development — especially B.C. which can offer clean electricity from renewable sources.

(Hydrogen can also be produced from water, using electricity. Hence the recent proposal for a green hydrogen hub at Prince George.)

Natural gas is also is needed for producing biomethane/renewable natural gas, and synthetic methane.

And as noted by TC Energy (parent of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project): “Natural gas is directly used in the heating, drying and melting of the manufacturing process to make glass, concrete, steel, brick, ceramics, and tile.”

TC Energy adds: “Not to mention, natural gas and its associated infrastructure complement renewables for those times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, which is a reminder that our future is one of natural gas and renewables, not natural gas or renewables.”

Shell’s LNG Outlook 2023 reports global trade in LNG reached 397 million tonnes in 2022, and that “industry forecasts expect LNG demand to reach 650 to over 700 million tonnes a year by 2040.”

B.C.’s natural-gas liquids and condensates associated with natural gas are complex combinations of petroleum hydrocarbons. They meet a range of needs, from diluting heavy crude oil or bitumen (so they can be pumped through pipelines) to being used in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, fabrics, anti-freeze, detergents, and even artificial rubber for vehicle tires.

Condensates are also used as blending components in the production of gasoline, and can be used as a fluid component in oil and gas well drilling operations.

The B.C. Energy Regulator notes: “Much of the demand for condensate is for use as a diluent for Alberta heavy oil and bitumen, which allows it to be moved by pipeline. This demand has been heightened due to increased oil prices and production, as well as the completion of the Enbridge Line 3 expansion in late 2021.

Some other points from the regulator’s report for 2022:

  • The 2022 average daily gas production rate was 2.5 billion cubic feet a day in the Northern Montney field and 3.6 billion cubic feet a day in the Montney Heritage field.
  • The number of wells drilled in B.C. in 2022 decreased by 20% from 467 wells drilled in 2021; and more old wells were decommissioned than new ones were drilled.
  • Remaining oil reserves in B.C. decreased 9.3% due to oil-pool depletion, cessation of waterflood operations in some pools, and lack of new oil discoveries;
  • The top gas producers in the Heritage field are Ovintiv, ARC and Shell; in the Northern Montney they are Tourmaline, CNRL and Petronas. (Shell is a 40% partner in the LNG Canada project at Kitimat B.C., and Petronas a 25% partner. Woodfibre LNG near Squamish B.C. will get its natural gas from Pacific Canbriam Energy, a Canadian company operating in the Montney. )
  • Mergers and acquisitions have reduced the number of Montney operators while contributing to the growth of established larger companies.
  • Condensate/pentanes+ production rose 2% in 2022, while liquefied petroleum gas production increased by 13%.
  • Sulphur sales also increased in 2022, and recoverable remaining reserves of sulphur rose 8% in 2022.
  • A total of 2.687 megatonnes of carbon dioxide had been sequestered as of December 2022, and acid-gas disposal has diverted the atmospheric release of 8.822 megatonnes of sulphur dioxide.
  • Significant capital investment in gas processing, pipelines and gas and associated liquids export facilities, has continued in recent years.
  • And starting in 2023, the provincial government and several First Nations came to agreements which included limits on location and amount of new land disturbance for industry activities that impact treaty rights.

You can read the full report at

Montney map

Montney gas output

(Posted here 20 Sept. 2023)

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