Before drilling a well, the ideal location must be found and the area prepared for the facilities. The land selected for drilling must be cleared, levelled and compacted before the drilling rig can be installed. Pétrolia conducted research at Bourque and discovered reservoir rock at the surface that may contain oil. We are now ready to move to the next and most important phase: exploratory drilling to verify if oil is actually present further down. Two wells, Bourque 1 and Bourque 2, will help determine whether our hypothesis is correct.

Each of the drilling sites will measure about 90 metres by 120 metres. The drilling rig will arrive in pieces on a convoy of 40 trucks and will be assembled at the centre of the rig site. A camp will be set up around the site to enable drill operators and employees to work and live on site (dormitories, canteen, offices, lab, etc.).

When the first well is completed, the drilling rig will be dismantled and the temporary facilities moved from Bourque 1 to Bourque 2. The Pétrolia team will perform a number of tasks, including drill-stem tests, to determine the number of barrels per day that the well may produce. Once all operations are finished, nothing will be left on site but a few pieces of equipment needed for basic operations (pump and storage tanks).


For the Bourque project, drilling rig #501 will come from Precision Drilling in Calgary. It can drill to depths of 3,800 metres and will arrive on a convoy of 40 trucks.

Land-based drilling rigs are machines that can be completely dismantled, since they need to be moved frequently. A drilling rig is easily identifiable because of its derrick. The drilling rig is primarily a lifting device, as it has to support the entire weight of the drill rods that are screwed together. The drilling rig causes the drill rods to rotate, which is what makes it possible for the drill bit to bore into the rock.

The process involves successive drilling and casing of holes of increasingly smaller diameters at increasing depths. The casing is made up of steel pipes that are cemented into place, thus ensuring the well is leak proof and liquid is kept inside the circuit. Casing and cementing are designed to prevent the liquid from different formations from mixing and rising to the surface. To be sure of this, the drilling company injects liquid cement into the well until it returns to the surface through the annulus (space between the steel casing and the wall of the hole). Once the cement is dry, a specialized instrument is sent down the well to make sure the entire space is filled with cement. Pétrolia and the drilling company can thus be sure the well is leak proof.

Generally speaking, there are two steps to drilling a well:

  1. The first phase of drilling is usually performed by a small service rig that can drill up to 10 metres deep. A 50-cm diameter steel pipe is placed in the hole and cemented (conductor casing);
  2. The drilling rig is set up and begins drilling to about 10% of the overall well depth and then stops. A second steel pipe is inserted into the well and also cemented into place (surface casing). This casing protects the water table. Safety valves are also installed (BOP – blowout preventers). During the drilling process, several other casings may be installed before the total depth is reached. A rock sample is also taken every five metres and analyzed under a microscope to determine which geological stratum the rig is currently crossing.

Once drilling has reached the planned depth, a reading is taken of the petrophysical characteristics of the rock penetrated, as required by Quebec's Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF). This involves dropping specialized tools down the well on the end of an electric cable. Data allow us to assess the rock strata to confirm the type (limestone, sandstone, etc.), porosity and fluid content (gas, oil or salt water). These analyses allow us to identify potential zones of hydrocarbon production, which are then assessed using drill-stem tests. These brief tests are used to determine the presence of hydrocarbons and measure the initial pressure of the wells. Pétrolia will also collect fluid samples from specific areas of the well. This is a key stage, as this is when Pétrolia must decide whether to pursue completion operations or abandon the well. The completion phase is designed to prepare the well for later production.


Pétrolia will endeavour to minimize both the social and environmental impact of the campaign throughout the work. There is, of course, no such thing as zero risk, but sound exploration practices and government legislation are designed to reduce risk. For instance, drilling near wetlands or streams is prohibited. Moreover, Pétrolia's policy is to adopt global industry best practices in order to meet the highest prevention criteria.

The exploration work at Bourque 1 and 2, located on forested Crown land, is at the drilling stage. The main repercussions are noise from the drilling rig, the view of the derrick above the trees and transportation of the crew and equipment. An increase in road traffic can be expected at three key times:

  • Arrival of the drilling rig;
  • Relocation of the rig from Bourque 1 to Bourque 2;
  • Departure of the rig for Haldimand 4.

These effects will be felt for six to eight weeks, i.e. the planned duration of the drilling. In addition, all debris and mud that has come into contact with hydrocarbons will be analyzed by an independent firm and carried to a landfill or company specializing in decontamination, which must be approved by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP).


The Quebec government supplies the legal framework for oil exploration and development activities. The main pieces of legislation applicable are the Mining Act, the Regulation respecting petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs and the Environment Quality Act.

Before drilling even starts, all preparatory work must be in line with current legislation and industry standards. In addition, if Pétrolia wanted to change its drilling program, it would have to apply for a special licence from the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF).

The Mining Act and the Regulation respecting petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs
The Mining Act allows licence holders to explore for oil and natural gas and gives them exclusive rights to explore for hydrocarbons in the area covered by the licence.

Once the licence has been granted, the holder is required to carry out exploration operations. The MRNF wants to ensure that projects help increase knowledge of the land and its wealth. Thus, licensees are required to submit reports to the Ministry. Any geophysical surveying, well drilling, well conversion, well completion or well closure work must also be covered by a specific licence before the work can start. Pétrolia must apply for the licence from the MRNF. These legal obligations ensure that safety criteria and industry standards are met and that results are submitted to the MRNF.

The Environment Quality Act
Drilling is also subject to a series of regulations stemming from the Environment Quality Act, which governs drilling locations, waste disposal and use of certain products such as diesel for the drilling rig and site equipment. The drilling crew camp and its septic tanks, among other things, are also governed by the Act.


Occupational health and safety standards at an oil rig site are the same as those that apply to the construction industry. In addition, Pétrolia is required to comply with a number of other standards (WHMIS, RSST, etc.).

Pétrolia and all of its subcontractors comply with all laws and industry standards in effect in Quebec. In addition, the drilling company hired by Pétrolia has a complementary, industry-specific health and safety plan. All companies and people who enter the site must comply with this plan. For example:

  • Toolbox (safety) meetings are held at every shift change and at the start of each new drilling phase;
  • Vehicles are checked at the site entrance to monitor the nature of the loads and ensure safety of the premises and crew.

The precautions that are taken to avoid workplace accidents also help reduce the environmental impact that can result.