The unconventional resource

8-2 Kevin HeffernanBy Kevin Heffernan, CSUR president

Saskatchewan, as Canada’s second-largest oil producer and third-largest producer of natural gas, is in an enviable and strategic position at this game-changing time in our industry’s history.

Our organization, the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR), like Saskatchewan, is technology-driven. The province, known for its world-class geoscience research, has been both an innovator in petroleum research and a pioneer relative to horizontal well drilling.

The oil and gas industry continues to evolve and change as a result of the unprecedented growth of unconventional resource exploration and production. Across Western Canada, significantly, more horizontal wells completed with multistage hydraulic fracturing are being drilled than conventional vertical wells. Unconventional has truly become conventional. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been integral to that transition, and to the myriad of challenges that the industry must address in today’s resource development environment – social licence, commodity prices, capital requirements, market access.

CSUR has recognized the fundamental changes that all aspects of the industry are experiencing. The re-emergence of a strong and growing oil industry in Saskatchewan is a reflection of the impact technology can have. The rejuvenation of legacy oil pools, such as Dodsland (Viking), Whitemud/Dollard/Chambery (Shaunavon) and Viewfield (Bakken) are a strong testament to the impact that unconventional resource development is having in the province.

The industry has also entered a new era of technological and operational transparency. Never before has our organization (CSUR) faced the number of inquiries about resource development and calls for engagement from the full spectrum of stakeholders – landowners, operators, communities, municipalities, NGOs, professional organizations, governments, and regulators – as it faced in 2012 and so far in 2013. In the past year, we undertook a doubling of face-to-face engagement with that spectrum of stakeholders, including involvement in 60 presentations, symposiums, workshops, and community and multi-stakeholder meetings. Operators are also responding at the community level and through actions, including voluntary disclosure of chemicals, development and publication of hydraulic fracturing operating practices, increased community engagement, and collaboration to reduce the footprint of development. Service companies, too, recognize the need for transparency and visible recommitment to a set of health, safety, environmental (protection) and community values. Other industry associations (CAPP, PSAC) besides ourselves have significant initiatives, guiding principles, etc., around their members’ unconventional activities.

The evolution of technology is continuing from drill bits to software to geological models, and it will continue to influence the way resources are developed, how we perceive Canada’s resource endowment, and how we talk to stakeholders and communities where the industry operates.


What plans does CSUR have to support and morph with the evolution? We will continue to:

• Participate in speaking engagements, including face-toface with communities and multi-stakeholder groups, for the purpose of raising the understanding and awareness of the technologies and development processes related to the unconventional resource industry in Canada, as well as highlighting emerging resource-play opportunities.

• Host our Technical Luncheon Series, field-trips and playspecific workshops – these are popular learning experiences and in high demand. CSUR’s flagship technical event is the 15th annual Canadian Unconventional Resources Conference (CURC), to be held in October 2013.

• Develop and update our Understanding booklet and fact sheet series, as well as the video collection, all of which are very popular destinations on our website for a diverse group of surfers and stakeholders, world-wide. With a very keen group of staff and volunteers, we’ll also renew our efforts to tackle the communication and understanding challenges presented by audiences seeking improved science and engineering literacy.

• Engage in dialogue with regulatory agencies to ensure a solid understanding of evolving technologies and development processes, and that issues identified by the industry are considered.

CSUR is active across Canada, facilitating communications and understanding between the unconventional oil and gas industry, provincial, federal and municipal governments, the public, First Nations and the media. With a strong focus on technology transfer amongst professionals (engineers, geologists, etc.), CSUR’s major role is to provide this information that enables resource development in an environmentally, socially and economically sensitive manner.


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