CALGARY - Staggering amounts of oil and natural gas are locked in once-ignored Alberta rocks, according to a study released this week by the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Geological Survey.
The report estimates those tough-to-access areas contain 423.6 billion barrels of oil, 3,424 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 58.6 billion barrels of natural-gas liquids.
However, it's not known how much of that resource can be tapped using today's technology and in the current economic environment.
Five formations in particular — The Duvernay, Muskwa, Montney, Nordegg, and Basal Banff/Exshaw, also known as the Alberta Bakken — show immediate potential, the report said.
The study also included preliminary assessments of the Colorado, Wilrich, Rierdon and Bantry shales.
The researchers looked at 3,385 samples for the report.
"Data and information on reservoir characteristics and hydrocarbon resource potential of shale formations are rare because of the historical lack of interest in shale-hosted hydrocarbon reservoirs," the report said.
"Now, industry is looking for data and information on shale gas resources to decide if and where these resources may be developed."
The Duvernay, an emerging region where companies such as Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) and Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM) are active, is estimated to contain 443 trillion cubic feet of gas, 11.3 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 61.7 billion barrels of oil.
Celtic Exploration Ltd. (TSX:CLT), which also has acreage in the Duvernay, recently agreed to be acquired by Texas energy giant ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) for $3.1 billion.
Those companies are also active in the Montney, which is estimated to contain 2,133 trillion cubic feet of gas, 28.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 136.3 billion barrels of oil.
Development of shale formations such as the Montney and Duvernay have heated up in recent years as industry players continue to hone their extraction techniques. Those include drilling long wells that stretch horizontally through a formation and fracturing the rock to free the oil and gas.