In 1979, another all-time drilling record was set in Western Canada, with 7,387 wells being drilled, an increase of 7% over 1978. Exploratory drilling decreased slightly to 2,884 wells, down 5%, but development drilling reached record numbers, with 4,503 wells, up 17% from 1978. The exploratory success rate was significantly higher at 63% in 1979, based on 713 oil discoveries and 1,101 gas discoveries. The development success rate stayed constant at 88%, from 1,597 oil discoveries and 2,349 gas discoveries. Records were set in average well depths and average land prices paid in Alberta and British Columbia.
The most significant event in petroleum exploration in Western Canada for many years was the massive Kopanoar oil discovery in the Beaufort Sea, with estimated flow rates of 1,900 cu m/d (12,000 b/d) of 28° sweet crude. A major Arctic Island gas discovery was also made in the Whitefish well near Drake Point.
Alberta activity shifted into the deeper Alberta basin and foothills, with oil and gas discoveries south of Calgary at Claresholm, gas discoveries in the central foothills at Erith-Hanlan, Blackstone, and Brown Creek, and oil discoveries farther north in the deep-basin area at Wembley and Beaverlodge. A record $28.2 million bonus (or $8,400/ha.) was paid for a single license in the Beaverlodge Triassic oil play by Esso and Pan-Ca-nadian. Deep-basin development drilling in the tight Cretaceous sandstones continued in the Cutbank oil play and Elmworth gas trend, with emphasis on the westward extension of Elmworth into British Columbia. In eastern Alberta, shallow gas exploration is proceeding strongly at Suffield and Primrose Lake.
Major British Columbia gas strikes were made in the southwest corner of the explored area at Sukunka and Monias. In southeast Saskatchewan, a Mississippian oil strike was made at Tatagwa.