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In 1980, a third successive all-time drilling record was set in western Canada, with 8,865 wells being drilled, up 20% since 1979. Exploratory drilling increased 30%, to 3,744 wells, and development drilling increased 14%, to 5,121 wells. The exploratory success rate increased to 66% in 1980, based on 1,017 oil discoveries and 1,463 gas discoveries. The development success rate increased marginally to 89%, with 1,774 oil discoveries and 2,778 gas discoveries. Average well depth increased in all four western provinces, and total land sales reached the record $1 billion mark in Alberta and a record $78 million in Saskatchewan. British Columbia land sales declined slightly to $181 million. Record highs in average price per hectare were set in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, nd Manitoba.
Alberta drilling activity continued in the deeper portions of the Alberta basin and foothills, with major gas discoveries at Hanlan, Big Mountain, Blackstone, and Elmworth. Significant oil discoveries were made in the West Pembina Nisku pinnacle reefs, in the Upper Devonian at Del Bonita and Eaglesham, and in the Lower Cretaceous glauconite river channels in southern Alberta between Countess and Grand Forks. British Columbia successes occurred as the Elmworth Deep Basin play spilled over into British Columbia with gas discoveries at Tupper and Steeprock. Gas finds were also made at West Sierra and Murray. A new play in the largely untested Nechako basin of central British Columbia was started in early 1980 by Canadian Hunter. Saskatchewan activity centered around the Lloydminister hea y oil area, and significant oil discoveries were made at Steelman and Bromhead.
The Arctic Islands continued to yield the largest discoveries. Last year's Whitefish gas discovery, off Lougheed Island, was followed up in 1980 by a stepout with a calculated absolute open flow potential of over 4 × 106 cu m/d gas. The nearby Char G-07 also tested the same Lower Jurassic sands and flowed 506 × 103 cu m/d gas from one zone and recovered 482 m oil from a shallower horizon. Two major successes occurred in the Beaufort Sea, in an oil and gas discovery by Esso at Issungnak and a reentry oil discovery by Dome at Tarsuit.
However, 1980 will especially be remembered for the introduction of the federal government's National Energy Program during October, with new taxes on revenue, lower than expected wellhead price increases, and major emphasis on increasing Canadian ownership and self-sufficiency. Industry and provincial government reaction was highly critical, and a major downturn in exploration is expected in western Canada in 1981.
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