What are unconventional resources?

In Alberta, there are three main types of unconventional resources:

  • Tight gas and oil: natural gas and oil found in sandstone, siltstones and carbonates
  • Shale gas and oil: natural gas and oil locked in fine-grained, organic rich rock
  • Coalbed methane (CBM): natural gas contained in coal.

Unconventional resources are found in reservoirs that require special production methods or technologies.  Due to limited or no flow pathways that unconventional resources are trapped in, methods to ‘crack’ or ‘fracture’ the rock are needed to allow oil and gas to flow through a well. The pyramid depicted below provides an illustration of a resource hierarchy. As you move towards the bottom, the resource volume increases but becomes more difficult to develop.   

Alberta's resource triangle image