Previous Work on the Haldimand Deposit

The Haldimand Deposit was discovered in 2005 when the Haldimand 1 test well yielded superior quality, “light” oil. The industry rates the “lightness” (quality) of oil using the API gravity standard, with four recognized categories: light (> 31.1° API), medium (31.1° API to 22.3° API), heavy (22.3° API to 10° API) and extra heavy (below 10° API).

The oil recovered from Haldimand 1 was rated at 53° API. By way of comparison, the average product from Alberta’s oil sands is rated at 8° API. The “lightness” of the oil in the Haldimand deposit means that very little refining will be necessary.

Test drilling at Haldimand 1 ushered in a period of intensive work in the field and in the lab for Pétrolia and Québénergie’s technical teams, including a 3D seismic survey, geochemical and magnetotelluric surveys, drilling of the Haldimand 2 test well, and production tests on Haldimand 1.

Gaspé residents have seen our work progress over the last seven years. Another milestone was the Sproule Associates independent assessment of oil initially in place (OIIP). Sproule found a total of close to 70 million barrels and estimated total recoverable barrels at just under 8 million. These numbers were arrived at through analysis of geophysical work and exploratory drilling and reservoir modeling.

In light of the results of all this preliminary work, Pétrolia and Québénergie believe the deposit can be produced conventionally by means of horizontal drilling. Haldimand 4 will tell us whether our hypothesis is correct.

Haldimand 4 is a critical step: the culmination of years of research, work, and studies. It will also mark the transition to true production.

Drilling on Haldimand 4 is scheduled to begin in January 2013, once drilling on Bourque 1 and 2 is completed. Though the well is located in a wooded area outside Gaspé’s current and projected city limits, but is nevertheless not far from an inhabited area (350 m). Pétrolia and Québénergie plan to consult with municipal authorities and local residents to make sure the new project is harmoniously integrated into the community.

Equipment and Infrastructure

The location of Haldimand 4 was chosen based on data gathered by Pétrolia and our partner Québénergie over the last few years. We chose the site’s location, the near-horizontal path of one section of the well, and its direction with a view to maximizing the odds of success. This round of drilling will corroborate our theory that the Haldimand deposit can be produced with conventional techniques.

Like other wells Pétrolia has drilled on the Haldimand peninsula, Haldimand 4 will be located on private land. We have signed an agreement with the landowner covering the portion of the property where the well will be sited and use of the access road. The owner of the access road leading to Haldimand 4 has also signed a multi-clause agreement.

The site is approximately 90 by 120 meters. It will be cleared of trees, leveled, and compacted to hold the drilling equipment (drills, trailers, etc.) The equipment will arrive from Bourque 2 on a convoy of forty trucks over a three-day period, at a rate of around 15 truckloads per day. It will take about a week to move, assemble, and install the equipment before the real work of drilling can begin.

The map shows the Haldimand 4 site and the path the well will take. Also visible on the map are two wells we drilled previously, Haldimand 1 and 2.


The well will be drilled using Rig #501 owned by Calgary’s Precision Drilling Corporation. The rig, which can drill to a depth of 3,800 meters, is currently in operation at the Bourqe site, where several Quebec drillers are working.

Land-based drilling rigs are machines that can be completely dismantled, since they need to be moved frequently. A rig is easily identifiable because of its derrick. It 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. Each section must be cased and cemented before boring the next section begins.

The casing is made up of steel pipes around 1 inch thick that meet strict quality standards. The pipes are cemented into place along their entire length, thus ensuring the well is leak proof to protect liquids outside the circuit. Casing and cementing also prevent the liquid from different formations from mixing and rising to the surface.

Cementing and casing are a crucial step in the drilling process that demands great care. A specialized firm is brought in to inject liquid cement (free of the aggregates found in concrete) into the well until it returns to the surface via the annulus between the steel casing and the rock surface. Once everything has dried, a specialized instrument is sent down the borehole to verify that the cement has been correctly poured and is adhering properly to the casing wall.

Drilling an oil well generally involves three steps:

  1. The first step is usually performed by a small service rig that bores down to a depth of 10 m. A 50 cm diameter steel pipe is placed in the borehole, then cemented: this is known as the “conductor casing.”
  2. The rig is then set up and drilling started until about 10% of the total planned depth is reached. A second steel pipe is inserted in the well and cemented into place. Known as the “surface casing,” it protects groundwater and also holds the blowout preventer (BOP) safety valve. The surface casing depth is regulated and varies based on the total well depth.
  3. As drilling proceeds, several other intermediate casings may be needed before the well reaches its intended depth. Rock samples are taken every five meters and analyzed with a microscope to determine which geological stratum has been reached.

For Haldimand 4, once we reach 600 m of depth, the drill path will be gradually deviated until it is nearly horizontal. This near-horizontal section will be around 2 km in length. The total well depth will be over 1 km. Horizontal drilling will be used in this case to cut across the natural fractures in the reservoir in order to collect oil pooled there.

Once the well is finished, a reading of the petrophysical properties of the rocks encountered on the drill path will be taken and recorded in a log, as per Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) requirements. This involves lowering specialized tools down the well to determine the type of rock strata (limestone, sandstone, etc.) and their porosity and fluid content (gas, oil, salt water). These tests are also used 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. Once this step has been completed we will decide whether to prepare the well for production.


Pétrolia will endeavour to minimize both social and environmental impacts throughout the work. There is, of course, no such thing as zero risk—but by observing sound exploration practices and following government legislation we can keep risk and impacts to a minimum. For instance, drilling near wetlands or streams is prohibited. Moreover, our policy is to always adopt overall industry best practices to make sure we meet the highest prevention criteria.

Main Nuisances
Though it is located outside the city limits, the Haldimand deposit is still relatively close to an inhabited area. A drilling operation like Haldimand 4 can cause inconvenience to residents who live near the worksite.

  • Increased traffic, mainly trucks (arrival and departure of equipment, supplies, and services throughout the work
  • Noise from trucks and the rig
  • Dust raised by traffic on unpaved road
  • Light from round-the-clock operation

In the case of Haldimand 4, the impact will be lessened because work is being done in winter. Though it is in an inhabited area, the drilling site is 350 m from the nearest home—far enough to reduce or even eliminate nuisances. In addition, work will last only six to eight weeks. Indeed, we decided to drill Haldimand 4 after Bourque 1 and 2, and in the low tourist season, to minimize potentially impacts. Winter also mitigates other nuisances like noise and dust.

The site will be accessed via a private road as per an agreement made with the landowner. We have met with all neighbors and shared all the information they may need.

Environmental Risks

By complying with laws and regulation and applying the best industry practices, we can keep environmental risks to a minimum.

We have implemented a number of environmental protection measures. Surface casing and cementing enable us to prevent groundwater contamination. A blowout preventer (BOP) is another key protection measure.

All drilling muds and wastes, whether or not they have been in contact with hydrocarbons, will be analyzed by an accredited independent lab, then taken to an authorized treatment or burial site. Only laboratories, treatment centers, and burial sites accredited by Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (MDDEFP) will be used.

What’s ahead?

If Pétrolia and Québénergie are satisfied that drilling was successful, we will focus our efforts on producing the deposit. However, there are many steps to be completed first, including a public consultation and a development plan. These steps are an essential part of making sure oil production becomes a harmonious part of the community. The Haldimand 4 project is a milestone in the exploration process.

The Legislative Framework

The Quebec government regulates oil exploration and development activities through legislation, mainly the Mining Act, the Regulation respecting petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs,and the Environment Quality Act.

The Mining Act and the Regulation respecting petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs

The Mining Act gives exploration license holders exclusive rights to explore for oil and natural gas in the area covered by their permit.

Once the license has been granted, the holder is required to carry out exploration. MRN wants to ensure that projects in Quebec contribute to advancing the collective knowledge of the land and its wealth. Licensees are thus 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 license before work can begin. Pétrolia must apply for the license from MRN. These legal requirements ensure that safety criteria and industry standards are met and that results are submitted to MRN.

To obtain a license, a certified engineer must sign off on the drilling plan, which is then submitted to MRN for approval. If changes must be made in response to conditions encountered during drilling, a revised plan incorporating these amendments and signed by an engineer must be resubmitted to MRN, which also receives daily drilling reports and can, at will and without notice, inspect the worksite during operations.

Environmental Quality Act
Drilling is also subject to a series of regulations stemming from the Environmental Quality Act, which governs drilling location, waste disposal and the use of certain products (e.g., diesel to power the rig and other worksite equipment). The drilling crew camp must also comply with the provisions of the act in such matters as septic fields.


Occupational health and safety standards for oil rig sites are the same as those that govern the construction industry. Pétrolia must also comply with a several other standards (WHMIS, RSST, etc.).

Pétrolia and all of its subcontractors comply with all Quebec laws and industry standards. As a further preventive measure, the drilling company hired by Pétrolia has its own 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 loads and ensure safety of the premises and crew.

To further ensure safety, the equipment used must meet stringent standards and be subject to frequent inspections. For example, the blowout preventer (BOP) must be able to handle the pressure liable to be encountered at the depths the well will reach, as certified by an engineer and approved by government authorities. Once installed, the BOP must also be tested regularly to make sure it is working properly.