Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

REGINA – On Nov. 15, Saskatchewan Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre announced a Helium Action Plan, meant to foster further development of the industry. The announcement took place in the Legislature, and had invited representatives from the helium industry, including Patty Thomas, vice president of geosciences for North American Helium, and Andrew Davidson, president and CEO of Royal Helium.

Global production

In announcing the Helium Action Plan, Eyre said Saskatchewan, which currently puts out one per cent of global helium production, is aiming to grow that to 10 per cent.

Thomas explained that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) used to control the helium industry in North America, but got out of the business in the late 1990s. Old helium pools were producing helium as a secondary product of the hydrocarbon industry, but that has been diminishing.

Davidson said the U.S. has been the largest supplier of helium, followed by Qatar and Russia. But over the last ten years, there has been a shift away from American production. American production is principally from conventional vertical natural gas wells, and a lot of those wells are no longer economic and have timed out.

“In Russia and Qatar, they are very, very firmly natural gas projects, the concentration of helium is exceptionally low, but the volume of gas it’s processing is exceptionally high. That’s what makes them tick. Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction that we can see, anywhere in the world, which has a really large producer, without any significant hydrocarbon production.”

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Thomas made similar comments, noting, “We actually have green helium, it’s a nitrogen gas 99 per cent nitrogen, 1 per cent helium. That’s what we’re producing. It’s green. So the market is there, we see that we will be able to do that internationally as well. Liquefaction, we’d all love to see that. It’ll be there in the future.”

North American’s wells are between 2,500 and 3,000 metres deep, producing from the Deadwood formation, sitting on top of the PreCambrian. The depth means there’s a lot of distortion of data, making if more difficult.

One of the challenges, Thomas noted, is surface land access issues. “I think that’s truly a growing problem,” she said, noting the Frenchman River traps access.

Expanding exploration

Up until now, helium development has been almost exclusively in the extreme southwest corner of Saskatchewan, with the exception of Weil’s efforts at Mankota. But this fall, Royal drilled its first well near Ogema, and is working on its second.

Royal Helium president and CEO Andrew Davidson. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Davidson said, “I guess you’d call wildcat drilling, in that no one is drilled for helium in this part of the province. In fact, nobody’s explored for it, ever. We’re the first. Very, very interesting. The wells are a bit deeper. We targeted our depth of 2,800 metres there. And we’re actually drilling below that now, because the formations are still coming back with helium charge. So, very big development for the southeast, if we can expand the oil and gas industry, and the helium, on that side of the province, there is just a wealth of talent over there to help us develop.

Minimizing environmental impact

Davidson said Royal has about a million acres of helium rights, but it has chosen to develop in areas close to existing infrastructure, on purpose.

“Helium wellsites, themselves, are not large sites. When you get into building facilities, certainly the site gets larger. But the footprint remains small for the project as gas, it’s moved into that refining state. Don’t expect to see something the size of the Co-op Refinery that’s exponentially larger than anything we would ever need in the province. And, in terms of environmental impact, the fact that we’re producing without natural gas, without any significant emissions, is a clear win for the resource industry in Saskatchewan.”

North American Helium has a property in Utah that is tied up with environmental regulations. All of their wells and production are in southwest Saskatchewan.

 

  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0020 Sk Oil Show PO Ad 02 speakers with voiceover
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0017 eventworx
  • 0016 Estevan Meter Services
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0015 Latus Viro PO Ad 01
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0009
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
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This is Part 3 in a series regarding helium development in Saskatchewan.

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 1: Saskatchewan announces Helium Action Plan, with goal of 10 per cent of global production by 2030

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 2: The role of incentives, and future revenue from helium development in Saskatchewan

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 3: Our place in global production and minimizing environmental impact

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 4: Helium development is entirely dependent on oil and gas expertise and services

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 5: Getting into the helium wildcatting game: Global Helium

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 6: Royal Helium finds helium in its first two targeted wells in southeast Saskatchewan

Helium in Saskatchewan, Part 7: Saskatchewan releases geological study into helium across southern part of province