A little known light oil shale play in central Alberta is getting plenty of attention after Crescent Point Energy Corp. quietly amassed a total of 142,000 hectares of drilling rights there.
The Calgary-based company said it spent about $112 million to build its position as one of the largest landholders in the East Shale Duvernay play. It said it added property through a series of transactions over the past year after entering the play by buying Legacy Oil + Gas Inc. in 2015.
“This play is real and it’s meaningful in scale to us with over 500 sections of land,” said CEO Scott Saxberg in an interview Wednesday.
“We’re pretty excited about the future of that play, with positive results to come.”
He said the East Shale Duvernay could grow to rival Crescent Point’s production from Saskatchewan, where it is the province’s largest oil producer, as well as its fast-growing oil operations in Utah.
Crescent Point’s entry into the play has likely tied up most of the available remaining land, said Bruce Baynon, president of Raging River Exploration Inc., which is considered the second-largest landholder with 100,000 hectares of drilling rights.
Raging River has drilled four wells in the play and expects to drill three more this year, he said.
The Alberta Geological Survey estimated in a report last year that the Duvernay formation, which underlies most of central Alberta, contains about 820 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 95 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 208 billion barrels of oil, though not all of that can be recovered.
The northern two-thirds of the play is better known and has attracted most of the attention from drillers, said geologist Brad Hayes, president of Calgary-based Petrel Robertson Consulting.
But he added the profile of the East Shale Duvernay between Red Deer and Edmonton to the south is on the rise thanks to attention from publicly traded companies like Raging River and Crescent Point.
Most of the current production comes from private equity backed Vesta Energy Ltd. and Artis Exploration Ltd., some of the earliest entrants into the play.
Artis CEO Darryl Metcalfe said Wednesday he expects “a little more spotlight” because of Crescent Point’s entry.
“We’re not necessarily all that happy it’s getting a higher profile,” he said ruefully. “Because costs to acquire land, competition for services and other resources around the play could escalate a little bit.”
Artis has drilled 13 wells with production expected to rise to about 3,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, he said.
The East Shale Duvernay produces mainly light oil, he said, versus liquids-rich natural gas from the northern parts of the Duvernay. The resource is much shallower, which means wells can be drilled from multi-well pads for $5 million to $7 million each instead of $10 million to $12 million in the northern Duvernay.
Crescent Point said it is a partner in two Artis-operated wells in the region that generated “impressive” initial oil flows of over 500 boe/d. It plans to drill four operated production wells there this year.
“We regard these as excellent initial results, likely ranking in the top quartile of all wells drilled in the play so far,” said CIBC Capital Markets analyst Dave Popowich in a report.
Saxberg said Crescent Point is offsetting the cost of its land purchases by selling non-core assets in Alberta and Saskatchewan.