In 1983, petroleum industry activity in western Canada increased moderately after 2 successive poor years. This increase resulted from record activity in Saskatchewan, a shift from gas to oil exploration, renewed heavy oil development, and provincial government incentives. The total number of wells drilled increased by 7% to 6,755. Exploratory drilling decreased by 14% to 1,973 wells, but was more than offset by a 20% increase in development drilling to 4,782 wells. Exploratory success rate decreased to 62% from 65% in 1982, with 757 oil discoveries and only 461 gas discoveries. The development success rate increased slightly from 89% to 90%, with 3,393 oil completions and 913 gas completions. Exploratory drilling declined in all areas except Saskatchewan, whereas development drilling increased in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories-Arctic. Average well depths increased only in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Total revenue from land sales rose dramatically by 46% to $564 million4. Alberta land sale bonuses totaled $429 million, Saskatchewan $108 million, British Columbia $26 million, and Manitoba $1 million. Average price per hectare increased substantially in the 3 westernmost provinces, but decreased in Manitoba, exactly the opposite trend from 1982.

Alberta exploratory and development drilling continued to decline, but still constituted 68% of western Canadian activity. Significant Devonian reef discoveries were made in the northern half of the province at Senex, Sawn Lake, Gift Lake (Nipisi), and Sturgeon Lake South, and major activity continued at Fenn–Big Valley (Rumsey), Carrot Creek, Valhalla, and Amigo-Shekilie. Two major oil sands projects, at Wolf Lake and Cold Lake, are underway. Two major oil sands projects, at Wolf Lake and Cold Lake, are underway. British Columbia recorded a major Mississippian oil find at Desan, the first major oil discovery in some time from this gas-prone province hard hit by gas surplus and marketing problems. Drilling activity in Saskatchewan soared to record levels and was the prime reason for the overall increase in 1983 western Canadian activity. Exploratory and development drilling increased, and a total land sale record was established, most of which can be attributed to the Saskatchewan government’s incentive program of royalty holidays. Manitoba activity continued its rejuvenation started at Waskada in 1980.

Frontier activity was highlighted by a major oil and gas discovery at Itiyok in the Beaufort Sea, and by continued development of the shallow Norman Wells field on the Mackenzie River. Arctic Islands results were disappointing in that a development well at Cisco recovered less oil than anticipated due to structural complications. Major farmouts in the Beaufort Sea indicate continued activity in this area for years to come.

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