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Prince Edward Island’s Shale and Tight Resources

A product of the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference

Prince Edward Island’s Oil and Gas Resources

    Technically Recoverable Natural Gas
    Technically Recoverable Crude Oil
    Total Natural Gas Production (2013)
      Shale/Tight Gas Production (2013)
    Total Crude Oil Production (2013)
      Tight Oil Production (2013)


  • Resource estimates: Government of Prince Edward Island
  • Production estimates: National Energy Board (may not align with provincial data due to differences in methodology)

Geography and Geology

Prince Edward Island, located on the east coast of Canada in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, lies on a large sedimentary basin that may have significant reservoirs of natural gas. In fact, exploration activities have identified the existence of these potential reservoirs, including a significant discovery made offshore in East Point, Prince Edward Island. However, Prince Edward Island's hydrocarbon potential has yet to be fully assessed as to date only twenty exploratory wells and one re-entry well have been drilled on and around the island.

Petroleum and natural gas are found in, or associated with, sedimentary source rocks, which, as newly deposited sediments, contained an abundance of animal or plant remains. The source potential of carboniferous rocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence area is of particular interest to Prince Edward Island because of wide-spread distribution of these rocks at drillable depths, both onshore and offshore.

Specifically, Prince Edward Island is underlain entirely by rocks correlative with those of the Pictou Group of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. On the Island, these deposits of sandstones, shales and conglomerates are informally termed the "Prince Edward Island Redbeds." Understanding of the surface and subsurface geology of the Prince Edward Island Redbeds may be enhanced by reading Geology of Prince Edward Island by H.W. van de Poll.

The reservoirs in Prince Edward Island are classified as being of Permian-Carboniferous age. These reservoirs typically have extremely low permeability (tight sands) and relatively low porosity. However, neither permeability nor porosity has been strictly the problem for bringing commercial gas to the surface.  Nonetheless, well stimulation will likely be required.

Exploration and Production

Twenty exploration wells for hydrocarbon resources have been drilled on Prince Edward Island and offshore.  The first reported well was Hillsborough No.#1, drilled in Charlottetown Harbour in 1944 (the world’s first offshore well), and the most recent was New Harmony No.#1 in 2007.

The shallowest wells have been in the 1,600-metre to 2,000-metre range but are more typically at a depth of 3,000 metres or more. For example, the New Harmony well reached a total depth of 3,234 metres. All of the recent wells (since 1997) have been drilled strictly for natural gas. Wells drilled offshore in the 1970s and 1980s were for oil but also had significant gas shows.

Since the resurgence of exploration in the mid-1990s, all wells that have shown promising gas deposits have been stimulated through hydraulic fracture or “fracking”. The main delivery constituent has been water with a silica additive. However, as noted above, low permeability has not been the only factor that has restricted flow. It is believed that the use of water has swelled the kaolin content, which has caused the blockage of pore throats. Well stimulation will likely be required, and other delivery fluids such as foam, propane and carbon dioxide (CO2) have been proposed but not yet used.


All oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation activities on Prince Edward Island are governed by the Oil and Natural Gas Act (PDF, 192 KB) R.S.P.E.I. 1988, Cap. 0-5 and its associated regulations and orders:

  • Fees and Rentals Regulations
  • Forms Regulations
  • Oil and Gas Conservation Regulations
  • Permit, Lease and Survey System Regulations
  • Royalties Order

Public Research

Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference

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