This paper examines the discovery process in terms of changing exploration paradigms and describes a field discovered because of this change in mindset. Prior to the Umiak discovery all wells in the Mackenzie Delta had been drilled on structural highs. Reevaluation of two 30-yr-old dry holes along with existing two-dimensional (2-D) seismic data resulted in discovery of the Umiak gas field. This reappraisal led to recognition that a stratigraphic trap might exist between these two wells drilled in the early 1970s. The Kilagmiotak M-16 well contained 290 m (951 ft) of porous sandstone in the Eocene Taglu Formation, whereas the Umiak J-37 well, up dip and 11 km (6.8 mi) to the west, had no sandstone in the same interval. Examination of 2-D seismic lines found evidence of an updip sandstone pinchout beneath an angular unconformity on a tilted fault block. Strata in the tilted fault block below the unconformity contain strong amplitudes and flat spots. Interpretation of a subsequent three-dimensional (3-D) survey supported the play.
A partnership of Alberta Energy Company (operator, now Encana), Anadarko, and Gulf Canada (now ConocoPhillips Canada) drilled the Umiak N-16 discovery well during 2004. Gas and some oil was found in gently dipping Eocene Taglu shoreface and delta front sandstones, and within gently folded foreset beds of the Eocene Richards Formation above a mid-Eocene unconformity. The Umiak N-05 appraisal well drilled a year later confirmed the discovery. Together these two wells delineate the fourth largest onshore gas accumulation on the Mackenzie Delta.