Tight & Light Oil Research

The Bakken and other tight hydrocarbon plays in
Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Montana and North Dakota are increasingly important for Canadian and North American energy self-sufficiency. The PTRC has recently instituted funding to help improve recovery and lessen the environmental effects of recovery from tight oil formations.


The PTRC is meeting the challenge of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the Bakken and other light and tight oil plays in Western Canada, by working with our industry partners and Innovation Saskatchewan, to develop field trials of new technologies that seek to stimulate reservoirs and move horizontal well production to secondary and tertiary recovery. 


In 2018, the PTRC agreed to fund the Saskatchewan Research Council in a multi-client research program looking into the use of novel surfactants and polymers for use in the Viking formation.  Additional field-level and pilot work is being planned.

Tight/Light Oil in Saskatchewan

Not many Canadians know that Saskatchewan's  conventional heavy and tight/light oil production of around 500,000 barrels per day is almost equal to Alberta's (excluding that province's oil sands).  In Saskatchewan, Bakken extraction alone, in the southeast, accounts for over half of the province's light oil production.  Tight/light reservoirs like the Shaunavon and Viking in the southwest, and the Three Forks along the borders with North Dakota and Manitoba, could all benefit from innovative technologies that the PTRC is now engaging researchers to conduct.


Advances in Research

In 2018 PTRC took two steps that have allowed tight oil research in the province to make significant advancements:

  • Providing funding to the Saskatchewan Research Council's "Viking 6" program, a series of research projects examining surfactants and polymers that could be tailored to specific fields and wells associated with key oil field operators in the Viking.
  • Successfully applying for $800,000 in funding from Western Diversification Canada to aid in the purchase of a $1.5 million dollar industrial x-ray CT-scanner, which has been installed at the SRC's Energy Division Labs in the PTRC building. 

Understading Tight Oil at the Microporous Level

The PTRC's industrial-scale CT-scanner, now in operation at the SRC's Energy Division in Regina, affords both University of Regina and SRC researchers the ability to examine and characterize tight oil reservoir rocks at a microporous level.  What exactly does this mean?


 Dr. Mars Luo of the Saskatchewan Research Council examines a core sample using the new CT-scanner (picture courtesy of SRC)



To begin with, tight oil formations are notoriously unpredictable and variable when operators are trying to optimize conditions for recovering oil from rock.  If companies provide core samples from particularly difficult reservoirs, the CT-scanner may be able to characerize the location and flow of fluids within those samples, which in turn may help identify processes and products that can help get more of the oil out.

SURFACTANT AND POLYMER USE: Planned Field Applications

Saskatchwan Research Council's Viking 6 Program - which is networking with many of the smaller companies operating in Viking play on the west side of the province - is using what it has learned from laboratory testing (including core examinations using the CT-scanner) to move its surfacant and polymer optimization program towards field applications.

Engaging with major tight oil players in the province will be key to increasing the recovery rates from horizontal wells that are very expensive to drill, and very quick to experience production dropoff. For more information on how to participate in the PTRC's tight oil research, please contact us.