Saturn Minerals Inc. oil finds indicate boom times in central Canadian province But what about its vast centre?
In Canada's middle kingdom of Saskatchewan it is well known that an ancient sea has left behind an abundance of potash and coal which has made this province a global natural resource powerhouse.
But also in the thick and diversified succession of sedimentary rocks below the Prairie lands known as the Williston Basin, lie some of the world's largest reserves of oil and natural gas. Since the mid-2000s, exploration and development of the Bakken Formation of the Williston Basin that stretches through North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan have resulted in this area becoming the second largest oil producing area in North America.
Today there are some 3,000 to 3,500 new oil and gas wells being drilled each year in Saskatchewan said provincial Energy and Resources Minister Tim McMillan on the sidelines of the CAPP Scotiabank Investment Symposium in Toronto earlier this month. According to the Fraser Institute's Global Petroleum Survey, Saskatchewan ranks number three in the 10 most attractive jurisdictions for investment in the oil and gas industry, after Oklahoma, Mississippi.
In 2011 Saskatchewan passed Alberta in light-oil production. Last year, crude oil production in Saskatchewan recorded an average 487,400 b/d and is expected to grow further in 2014. Saskatchewan is expected to take in revenues of C$15 billion ($14.6 billion) from the sale of crude and natural gas in fiscal 2014/15.
Spurred by strong industry and investor interest, a favorable permitting regime and growing demand for stable and secure energy sources, sleepy corners of Saskatchewan are seeing boom times as companies hone in on the oil and gas potential of the Williston Basin. One such place is the Town of Hudson Bay, a vibrant community of 2,500 people nestled between the Porcupine and Pasquia Hills that rise above the northern section of the Williston Basin in Northeastern Saskatchewan.
Here where a spider web of railway tracks run in all four directions, Saturn Minerals Inc. (TSX.V: SMI) (FSE: SMK) has set up shop after making three large coal discoveries and identifying at least one, and potentially up to three, new petroleum systems.
Between 2008-2010, Saturn acquired over 1,700 sq. km of exploration rights for coal and oil & gas in the area and since that time scaled the property holdings to 370,000 acres of core oil rights and 26,500 acres of coal rights which either host discoveries or a high potential for discovery.
Saturn today is one of the most active explorers and the largest land owner in the northern Williston Basin. "Saturn's mission is to be a leading industry player in the discovery and commercial production of oil & gas resources in the Northern Williston Basin," said Saturn director Stefan Szary. "Our oil prospects are conventional targets and do not involve horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing making the prospects extremely attractive on a cost/return basis," he said.
Saturn's properties are underlain by a thick succession of sedimentary geology which has been shown to host high TOC (7-14%) source rock (Devonian), high quality reservoir rock (up to 28% porosity) and excellent cap rock states the company's initial analysis.
"That rock is what you'll find in an oil field," said Stan Szary, President and CEO of Saturn Minerals, adding "if you put this rock under the right heat and pressure, it'll start sweating out oil." Saskatchewan's crude awakenings are also a boon for the First Nations people. In 2011, Saturn co-founded Inowending Exploration & Development Inc. with a consortium of Saulteaux First Nations whose Traditional Territories encompass Saturn's project areas.
The purpose of Inowending is to allow First Nations an incorporated entity through which their communities can meaningfully participate, own, and benefit from the development of the natural resources of their homelands. Saturn is a minority shareholder of Inowending with a 20% interest, the majority 80% of Inowending is owned by the various First Nations whose home communities are within the projects area.