At the time of publication, Saskatchewan has the fifth-largest helium resource in the world with significant underground reserves with some attractive geology, according to Bronwyn Eyre, Minister of Energy and Resources for the Saskatchewan Government. In addition to that, the province currently has ten producing helium wells and Minister Eyre told gasworld the province’s ambitious goal is to eventually surpass 150 wells.
“We know we have economically viable reservoirs and world class concentrations,” Minister Eyre told gasworld. “We’ve done extensive geological surveying over the last few years, so we have confidence in what we put out in terms of estimates can come to fruition.”
The province also holds significant potential in terms of exploration, Minister Eyre explained, “Saskatchewan has undertaken studies of nearly 90,000 oil and gas wells and conducted more than 7,000 gas analyses, with the results showing that Saskatchewan has world class resource potential with deposits of up to 2% helium concentrations. On top of that, reservoir discoveries in the province are continuing as we speak. Exploration, production and processing are all being ramped up and we’re seeing new projects being developed. We are expecting big things from helium in the province, more wells, more jobs, more facilities, more exports – that’s the goal.”
In reference to the concentration of the helium discovered in Saskatchewan, Minister Eyre explained that it is her understanding that 0.5% concentration is usually considered a good benchmark, and therefore Saskatchewan wells should be delivering way over the norm. Work is already underway to meet the ambitious 2030 target with a number of companies already active in the province such as North American Helium, Weil Group, Thor Resources, and Royal Helium.
“Saskatchewan has ten active wells, 24 more in the drilling process, and three purification plants already established,” Minister Eyre said.
Formalizing the ambitions, all the facts and figures, as well as the wide scope of Saskatchewan’s helium market, are set to be detailed in Saskatchewan’s helium strategy which is soon set to be released.
“We’re coming out with a helium strategy in the next month or so and we are confident that based on all the surveying and analysis we have done, that Saskatchewan could secure 10% of the global market share by 2030,” Minister Eyre said.
Bringing the industry together
With great ambition, comes great potential – and this is definitely something which multiple helium exploration and development companies are taking advantage of in Saskatchewan. One of the biggest players currently in the region is North American Helium, which earlier this year started up its second helium purification facility in the province.
A $32m development near Battle Creek, in the southwest of Saskatchewan, is expected to produce more than 50 million cubic feet per year of purified helium for commercial sale. Sharing thoughts on the facility, Minister Eyre said, “Certainly the opening of the North American Helium facility brings new jobs and economic growth to the province as a whole. But more than that, it really signals that Saskatchewan has a world class investment climate for not only helium but also for our natural resources sector as a whole. We are already a leading supplier of critical minerals such as potash and uranium. And now we have these rapidly growing new sectors such as helium, lithium and hydrogen. All of these are so important to build on and grow for a clean energy future – and we are doing that already.”
Although North American Helium’s development is by no means the company’s first, the move to develop such a huge plant was one guided by incentives lead by the Saskatchewan Government. On this, Minister Eyre, said, “We have the research and development-focused Saskatchewan oil and gas processing investment incentive, and we have the infrastructure-focused oil and gas investment incentive – they led to the North American Helium operation. We’re optimistic that we will see a fully integrated helium sector in the province with anywhere up to 15 helium purification and liquefaction facilities, some could be potentially larger than Battle Creek, others might be smaller, and there could even be modular ones for single well processing and so on,” she said.
“So, again, there might be a range, but the goal certainly is liquefaction, which is the next step in the in the process chain after purification. We want to bring stakeholders together, that’s something that we want to signal to market with the strategy. We want to bring players together with an eye to building a helium liquefaction facility in the province. That’s the next big step.”
North American Helium is by no means the only player currently active in the market. Royal Helium is also dynamic in the sector at present, and in July last year, the company said it had resumed its resource and reservoir testing program at the remaining untested helium zones of interest up hole from the Regolith discovery zone in the Climax-3 well.
On Royal Helium and its endeavors, Minister Eyre continued, “Royal Helium just announced the discovery of a reservoir in Saskatchewan that could contain up to six billion cubic feet of helium, and that’s near a town called Climax, Saskatchewan. That recent discovery announcement will certainly help to accelerate their summer drilling program.”
Speaking about companies and the up-and-coming market, Minister Eyre paid tribute to Canadian Helium, Global Helium, Green Helium and the Weil Group. “They continue to explore for opportunities in the province as well. That’s a few just that have come on our radar and we look forward to welcoming others in the near future,” she explained.
Minister Eyre believes we have only seen a glimpse so far of Saskatchewan’s potential to become a major hub for helium in North America.
“In terms of untapped market, absolutely! Saskatchewan is an emerging world class helium-producing province, and we are really just getting started,” she said.
“I think that compared to competing jurisdictions such as Russia, the Middle East, for example, the fact that the Saskatchewan helium sector is poised to have that low emissions profile will be a further investment draw when it comes to Saskatchewan’s ability to be a world leader in the helium space.”
Focusing on how the province will achieve its goal, Minister Eyre, continued, “I think with helium, there are such natural synergies between our existing oil and gas sector and building on that and a lot of the service sector jobs, for example, the drilling, the process is so similar that there can be that crossover within the service sector of people who can then transfer to helium. There’s great opportunity for crossover, which is really good for the sector across the board.”