Petroleum & Natural Gas Geoscience

A branch of economic geology, petroleum geoscience studies the origin, migration and accumulation of oil and gas, particularly for the discovery and development of profitable deposits.

Petroleum geoscience demands scientific and technical information, both for finding oil and gas and for deciding whether, and how, to develop it. Petroleum geologists apply geochemistry, geophysics, paleontology, stratigraphy, sedimentology and structural geology. They produce maps, statistical data, scientific studies and general reports to determine the characteristics and best management of oil and gas resources.

Petroleum (oil and gas) is created when organic-rich sedimentary rocks are buried and heated, converting their decomposed organic matter (plant or animal) into mobile hydrocarbons. This oil or gas can migrate through the rock column and become trapped below impermeable rock formations to form conventional oil and gas pools. 

Some hydrocarbons remain in the organic-rich rock formations or can be found in low-permeability zones surrounding conventional oil and gas pools. These hydrocarbons are developed as unconventional oil and gas resources.

Explore the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas:

Oil and Gas in British Columbia

Oil and gas are found in sedimentary rocks that have accumulated in depressions termed 'basins'. Several B.C. basins are undergoing oil and gas exploration, development or production. Others have experienced oil and gas exploration in the past, while still others have the potential to host economic occurrences of hydrocarbons.

B.C.'s sedimentary basins are:

  • The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (includes the northeast B.C. and Fernie regions)
  • The Interior Basins (Bowser, Sustut, Quesnel, Nechako region, Whitehorse and Tyaughton-Methow)
  • The Offshore Basins (Queen Charlotte, Hecate, Georgia, Winona and Tofino)

All current oil and gas exploration, development and production occurs in B.C.'s northeast region, within the province's portion of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. The areas of development include:

  • Montney Play Trend
  • Horn River Basin
  • Liard Basin
  • Cordova Embayment

Historically, exploration has also occurred in the following basins:

  • The Interior Basins (Bowser Basin and Nechako Region)
  • The Georgia Basin and Fraser Delta in southwestern B.C.
  • The offshore Queen Charlotte, Hecate and Tofino basins
  • Southeast B.C.’s Fernie region, which is part of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin


Access geoscience data collected by the Government of B.C. from the province’s various sedimentary basins:

Geological and engineering data obtained through drilling of oil and gas wells in the province can be obtained from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Other agencies can be accessed via the Related Links box at right.