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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


DOI: 10.1306/12032121141

The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin: A confluence of science, technology, and ideas

Paul MacKay1 and Per Kent Pedersen2

1Shale Petroleum Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada; [email protected]oleum.com
2Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; [email protected]


The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin is the second largest intracratonic basin in the world. It covers more than 1.4 million km2 from an eastern zero edge against the Precambrian shield to the western boundary at the Rocky Mountains, where it is up to 7 km thick. The basin has estimated reserves of 171 billion bbl of oil and 632 trillion ft3 of gas and produces approximately 15 billion ft3 of gas/day and 3.5 million bbl oil/day (over two-thirds is heavy oil and bitumen).

The basin has multiple major source rocks, numerous reservoir horizons, and an abundance of data. Multiple hydrocarbon systems exist with generation in the western part of the basin, migration to the east, with extensive hydrocarbon accumulations across the basin, including the oil sands deposit in the Fort McMurray area. The principal migration direction is lateral and seems to be highly influenced by highs and lows in the underlying crystalline basement. This lateral migration of hydrocarbons has created one of the richest hydrocarbon basins in the world.

Although exploration history of the basin has spanned more than a century, the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin has appreciable untapped zones, and new plays are developing continuously. With the advancement of multistage fractured horizontal wells, numerous new unconventional plays have rejuvenated the basin. The economics of the basin are strong, with its extensive service industry and infrastructure, but are hampered by the long distance to tidewater and the lack of sufficient take-away capacity.

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