The project

The Haldimand project is located approximately 5 km from Gaspé. All of our drilling pads have been built in forested areas behind the city. Based on our research, the reservoir has a surface area of around 9 km2. It’s been over 100 years since the first oil wells were here. In fact, we can even say that Canada’s first well was drilled in Gaspé, making the city the birthplace of oil in Canada.

With the Haldimand discovery, we have proven that the Gaspé petroleum system works. In our years of research, an external firm estimated recoverable reserves at 7.7 million barrels.

It’s not a huge discovery, but it’s a major step forward. We think that the Anticosti and Bourque projects will produce a lot more oil than Haldimand.

Haldimand 4 will allow us to use all our knowledge, years of experience, heading work, and research, with the focus on a single well. We have chosen horizontal drilling to optimize our oil production and cut across as many natural rock fractures as possible. This is conventional drilling, with no fracking.

We believe we are positioned to bring these oil fields into production and make this the first commercial oil operation in Quebec.

Drilling near a populated area

Haldimand is the only Pétrolia project located so close to a population center. It’s normal for people to ask questions and have concerns. How will this industry operate in the vicinity of their homes?

Government regulations allow us to set up 100 m from a house. If the regulations say 100 m, it’s because the risk is minimal. For Haldimand 4, we are at a distance of 350 m, and we’re also outside the city’s existing and projected urban perimeter.

Even though the project is nearby, it’s in the middle of a wooded area, not downtown. All over the world, there are wells located right in the middle of cities. If these wells are possible, it’s because the risk is very low. There’s even a neighbourhood in the middle of Los Angeles with some 40 wells. This will not be the case for Haldimand.

Obviously, we’re not used to hearing about oil production in Quebec. But even though the industry isn’t part of our everyday experience, we do live surrounded by service businesses. There are enormous oil reservoirs at Ultramar to supply gas stations. We arrive with our cars and fill up, but forget that there is an underground storage tank filled with gas. And what about Gaz Métro and its gas lines running under the sidewalk? We’re used to being near the service part, but one day we’ll have to learn to live with the oil production part.

Horizontal drilling – Conventional drilling without fracturing

When we are in the exploration phase, as we are at Haldimand, we analyze different approaches to try to boost productivity. We’ve made a discovery and have found naturally occurring oil. Now that we know the oil is there, we have to answer another question: How can we optimize the oil production.

We thought about fracturing, of course, because fracturing is one technique for boosting production. But we said to ourselves: “there must be another way.” After two years of research we came to the conclusion that by drilling horizontally along a path designed to encounter as much oil as possible, we could produce even more.

So that is what we are doing: drilling horizontally along a path designed to maximize contact with naturally occurring pockets of oil so we can produce as much of it as possible. To get the same amount of oil with vertical drilling would take dozens of wells. And that would mean a totally different environmental footprint.

Horizontal drilling has been around for over 30 years now, so it’s time to change people perception and stop associating it with fracturing. That’s just not true. Fracturing is done all over the world in both horizontal and vertical wells. For Haldimand 4, we will not use fracturing. We will be drilling horizontally as a way to boost productivity while shrinking our environmental footprint.

Protecting the groundwater

Protecting our groundwater is critical: every living thing needs water to live. People started drilling oil wells over a century ago, and they’re still drilling new wells today. You never hear about groundwater contamination from so-called conventional wells.

And that’s exactly what Pétrolia is doing in the Gaspé area—drilling conventional wells. When we draw up a drilling program, we work with engineers. And while we’re drilling, the government keeps a close eye on things to make sure we follow the program.

There’s also the question of drill cuttings and drilling muds. Some people think we just dump them right there. But the government is there to monitor us. They do regular inspections and tell us where to dispose of our drill cuttings. Drilling muds are recycled. And the Ministry is keeping a close eye on us every step of the way, checking to ensure we’ve followed our drilling program, as the law requires.

Quebec doesn’t have an “oil culture” yet, so it’s normal for people to have questions. For us, it was clear right from the start—without the government asking us—that we would have to do a groundwater study before we started operating in the region. What is the current groundwater situation? Will our drilling operations impact groundwater? Is there any real threat to the groundwater?

That’s why it was important to get INRS to assess the current state of groundwater before we started drilling Haldimand 4. During drilling, INRS will monitor our activities so they can tell us, scientifically, and with the numbers to back it up, whether our work poses any threat to the groundwater. All this information will be public, and INRS will publish the results. Nothing will be kept secret. If INRS concludes that “this area is too sensitive to drill in,” Pétrolia will pull out and move to another place where INRS has told us “you can drill here without causing any problems.”

We think that it’s reassuring for people to know that scientists—outside, independent experts—will be giving their opinions. That’s why we’ll be following the recommendations made by experts in their field.

Regulation, monitoring, and research

The oil industry is tightly regulated. Even before drilling starts, we have to develop a highly detailed drilling program in consultation with engineers and other professional firms. Every aspect of the program is then revalidated as the project moves forward—whether it has to to with well casings, well depth, or the quantity of cement and drilling mud used. During this monitoring, everything we find out goes to the Ministry. And before even issuing a drilling permit, they have their own engineers check everything.

Once drilling begins, we have to send daily drilling reports to the Ministry. They monitor us as drilling proceeds. And we’re very happy that this monitoring process is in place. It’s a necessary safeguard for people, society as a whole, and the environment. I think that in today’s world, we have to see this as a team effort. It’s not a matter of the industry against the environment. Nowadays nobody has the right to destroy the environment. I see government and the industry as a winning partnership.

At Pétrolia, we hold ourselves to even higher standards than the industry demands. We work with universities and research systems to contribute to scientific progress. INRS University (one of Quebec’s leading research institutions) is studying underground reservoirs. They will most likely combine this research with other work currently being done in geothermy. These are major scientific advances. Having a company ready and willing to take part in this kind of research will help make Quebec a world leader. Others will look at us and say, “they went the extra mile to protect the environment. It is possible to do things differently. We can improve these systems.” It’s important to put money into this kind of research.