A Canadian delegation visited the Bakken region this past week to see the uprising North American oil play.
David Ramsay, Minster of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Minister of Transportation for the Government of the Northwest Territories, toured multiple Bakken sites in an effort to see what the NWT needs to prepare for with its projected oil play.
Ramsay said oil underneath the Northwest Territories is still in the exploratory phase, but companies do have a few rigs ready to drill.
As the most recently successful oil play in North America, the Bakken was an easy choice to visit and learn from for the minister.
“I thought there’d be a lot more going on,” Ramsay said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot going on. With what I heard about the Bakken, I was expecting a lot more drilling and a lot more activity, but it’s good to finally get a chance to see it and its not big, bad and scary like a lot of people make it out to be.”
The NWT’s shale is the Canol play in the Mackenzie Plains and Franklin Mountains in the Central Mackenzie Valley.
The play is still early in its stages but Shell, Conoco-Phillips, Husky Oil and Imperial are already out in the valley and eyeing the production possibility.
Two wells have been approved to be horizontally drilled and Ramsay said he believes the play can become commercially viable, which the industry hasn’t determined quite yet.
He said according to their experts, there could be between one and four or five billion barrels of recoverable oil.
“We want to get down here and learn as much as we can about Williston’s experience, North Dakota’s experience,” Ramsay said. “We also spent some time on the Canadian side of the border.”
The delegation visited Statoil and New Town among other sites in its Bakken travels.
Ramsay said it was important to visit the Fort Berthold reservation because the NWT has a sizeable Native population, amounting to about 50 percent Aboriginal people.
“So it’s important for them to connect with Aboriginal people here in the United States that have experience with development, experience with hydraulic fracturing, experience with the economic boom and how they’ve connected to that with the opportunities for people and business,” he said. “We saw that front and center.”
Infrastructure is also a main concern in the Canol play, but not for the same reasons it was in the beginning stages in Williston.
Ramsay said the targeted areas are in a remote part of the Northwest Territories, which means some roads aren’t accessible in the spring and summer months because the access is off winter roads.
Winter roads are roads made of ice and are typically only accessible from December to March in the Northwest Territories.
Ramsay said he hopes the NWT officials can talk to the industry and it can help put in non-seasonal roads for access throughout the year.
“We have a big challenge when it comes to infrastructure in the area,” he said. “The Canol play is located right in the middle of the Mackenzie Valley ... there’s an 11-12-week window you can move equipment around. Very difficult operating circumstances for companies in the area.
We wish we had a road. We believe with activity going on there we can get the industry to help build infrastructure and a road.”
In regards to hydraulic fracturing, Ramsay said there are certain circles still opposed to the practice and said alleviating concerns was a big part of his trip to North Dakota.
He referenced other provinces in Canada—Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia—which have had success and few issues when it comes to the hydraulic fracturing process.
Ramsay called the trip to the Bakken a successful one for the Northwest Territory.
He said the trip will help him manage the Canol as it progresses.
He also said the officials in the area gave him one piece of advice to make things easier as the play progresses: Stay prepared and ahead of the game.