EnCana Looks to British Columbia for Natural Gas

EnCana Chief Executive, Gwyn Morgan, said that British Columbia holds the best potential for natural gas discoveries in Canada. However, it may be years before the company considers drilling off the coast despite a government push.

"I think gas production in other parts of the country is going to have trouble staying even, but in B.C. we see growth," EnCana chief executive Gwyn Morgan told reporters after addressing a business audience in Vancouver.

EnCana owns two major resource plays onshore in northeastern British Columbia, Greater Sierra and Cutbank Ridge -- both hold large natural gas resources whose geology makes extraction difficult. The company is developing new technology to exploit these resources and believes more land in the province's north contains major reserves. "We're going to continue to move in to get more resources out of northern B.C.," Morgan said.

But on recent publicity surrounding gas resources off the west coast, Morgan said a lot needed to be done by the provincial government and other stakeholders before the industry would want to sink large amounts of capital into the undeveloped fields.

"From the industry point of view, most people are not overly anxious to drill a whole bunch of wells off the west coast of Canada," he said.

There is a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the region, which was imposed in the early 1970s.

A three-member federal panel is holding hearings on whether the government should lift the moratorium -- a move backed by the provincial government that sees offshore drilling as the salvation for coastal communities that have struggled for years with problems in the forest and fishing industries.

Environmentalists have panned the hearings. The Haida Indian Nation, which claims the area including the seabed as their traditional territory, have boycotted the session.

Geologists have estimated that the Queen Charlotte Basin has reserves of some 10 billion barrels of oil and 26 trillion cubic feet of gas, which would make it one of Canada's largest energy reserves.