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Cardium Reborn

Two years ago, the Cardium Formation in central Alberta was stale and tired, with well known areas drilled to exhaustion, and fringes deemed un-economic. Today, thanks in large part to new technologies that include horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracturing ("multistage horizontals", as nonsensical as it sounds, is becoming a mainstream term), the Cardium is once more at the centre of Alberta's recovering energy sector.

Drilling in the woods

The Pembina field is one of Alberta's most mature fields. It emerged in the late 1950s and became the largest onshore field by area in the 1960s. The Cardium Formation stood at the center of this oil field, as it has outstanding storage properties, the thick overlaying shales of the Wapiabi and Muskiki Formation ensure stratigraphic traps, while dark underlying shales act as source rocks. 221 million m of crude oil and 30.8 million m natural gas were produced between 1953 and 2008 from the Cardium Formation.

Enhanced recovery operations including water and CO2 flood schemes were tried in the water free Cardium sand. However, it was horizontal drilling combined with multi-stage fracturing stimulation techniques that dramatically increase the recovery factor.

Flaring gas

A host of junior and mid sized oil and gas companies applied the new drilling technologies (proven already in high profile plays such as the Montney, Horn River and Bakken) to the Pembina Cardium. In secrecy at first, the new trend spread like wildfire within a year, with more and more operators embracing the idea as oil prices stay relatively high; the play extends well outside of the Pembina field, towards the distal reaches of the Cardium fairway, from the Deep Basin in the north-west, south towards Calgary and east past Edmonton.

The Cardium Formation is by no means a singular case. Other plays re-opened on large scale by multi-stage fracs in horizontal wellpaths include the shallow Notikewin, Glauconite sandstone and Viking Formation, with smaller scale schemes in the Falher, Cadotte, Wilrich, Dunvegan and even Nordegg. Many other niche plays are sure to follow.

Chinook Consulting assists oil and gas companies with field and office geological supervision of operations pertaining to all areas of the Cardium Fairway. Several of our wellsite geologists are specialized in this particular play. Our company has solid expertise related to the specific drilling process of the Cardium play.


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