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What work is done during the exploratory phase?

In order to find natural gas and oil resources, it is necessary to have a good scientific strategy to choose and carry out the good work. The exploratory phase in the field of hydrocarbons corresponds to a maximum risk taking for investors, and one could say minimum for the environment because the presence of the resource is then only assumed. So we will see here how the oil companies spend their money, hoping in the end that their investments are not going to be in vain and that they will find a deposit large enough to be produced economically.

As a first step, the company must obtain from the government, which is the owner of the natural resources, exploration permits over a territory.  The territory is usually selected according to geological assumptions that are based on existing studies or by similarity with producing regions. An exploration permit gives the company the right to search for hydrocarbons only.  It does not allow to produce them. The MERN calls them “Research Permits”.

On the MERN web site, we find a very good summary of what needs to be done by the companies in order to hope to find the resource and, if they find it, how to apply for a production license: “Based on the geological knowledge and the Hydrocarbons potential of a given territory, geological or geophysical studies can be conducted and drilling work carried out. Geological work includes the field examination of rock outcrops, litho-geochemical analyses and geological compilations. With regard to geophysical work, these are methods of researching hydrocarbons by indirect measures of the physical properties of the basement. This work is done by air or directly on the ground. The most frequently used survey types in oil and gas exploration are seismic, gravimetric, magnetic and magnetotelluric surveys. Finally, drilling works include the preparation of the drilling site, drilling, completion, modification, testing and temporary or permanent closures. »Of course, it is very rare, especially in Quebec, that companies can quickly find oil or gas reservoirs.  Therefore, this work can be spread over several years or even decades.

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