Petroleum Geology

Petroleum geology is a branch of economic geology that studies the origin, migration and accumulation of oil and gas, particularly with respect to the discovery of economic occurrences. 

This discipline uses geochemistry, geophysics, paleontology, stratigraphy, sedimentology and structural geology in the pursuit and understanding of hydrocarbon resources.

Petroleum (oil and gas) is produced when organic-rich sedimentary rocks are buried and heated, converting the contained organic matter into mobile hydrocarbons. Generated oil and gas can migrate through the rock column and be trapped below impermeable rock formations to form conventional oil and gas pools. 

A considerable amount of hydrocarbons remains in the organic-rich rock formations or can be found in low-permeability zones surrounding conventional oil and gas pools, and are developed as unconventional oil and gas resources.

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 either have the potential to host economic occurrences of hydrocarbons, have experienced oil and gas exploration activity, or are currently undergoing oil and gas exploration, development and production. These 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 basins)
  • The Offshore Basins (Queen Charlotte, Hecate, Georgia, Winona and Tofino basins)

This map shows B.C.'s sedimentary basins:

All current oil and gas exploration, development and production in B.C. occurs in the province's northeast region, within B.C.'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 southeastern British Columbia
  • The Queen Charlotte, Hecate and Tofino basins of the offshore.
  • Fernie region of southeast British Columbia which is part of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin.

Further Historical Reading: