The Viking Oil Play in Saskatchewan

The Viking is an established oil play that has produced oil and gas from conventional reservoirs since the 1950’s. From a geological point of view, the play has been delineated by more than 8,000 vertical wells. This is a low risk light oil resource style play with a large amount of original oil in place that is second only to the Cardium and has one of the lowest recoveries estimated at ~4%. The formation covers a large part of western Canada and extends over most of Saskatchewan. It is mostly gas bearing with oil production restricted to west-central Saskatchewan in the Kindersley-Dodsland area. This light sweet oil play deserves to be highlighted along with notable Viking oil companies.

Viking oil map

The Viking Oil Trend

The Viking formation consists mainly of fine to coarse grained sandstone sandwiched between 2 marine shales. It is divided into 2 zones: an upper zone that ranges from 2-3 meters in thickness where oil has been produced from vertical wells and a lower zone that is 3-9 meters thick which has been uneconomic to produce from until the advent of new technology. Government estimates for the upper zone suggest 2 billion barrels of OOIP exploitable with vertical drilling. However, the Viking oil pools have been ‘widened’ with the advent of horizontal drilling and multistage fracking completion, the industry now estimates up to 6 billion barrels of OOIP as a result of tapping into the previously uneconomic lower compartmentalized zone. Horizontal development has unlocked massive oil reserves and is expected to increase recovery factors up to 12% potentially exceeding 20% through secondary recovery techniques such as putting Viking oil pools under waterflood.

Viking oil resource potential

Only 4% recovered to date

Compared to other unconventional plays, the Viking is shallower at only 700-750m in depth. A shallower depth results in lower costs for drilling and completing a well and lower pressure which translates into less prolific production rates relative to other light oil plays such as the Cardium formation or the Slave Point. Most of the players have been optimizing their completion techniques and have brought their costs below $1 million per well improving returns on the play and well results. It now takes a Viking well less than 28 days from spud date to on-stream date. Several players in the industry have even started to successfully employ 16 well/section spacing in the Dodsland area which materially augments the scope of their opportunity base.

Viking oil from West Central Saskatchewan is 35?? 39?? API light sweet oil. Each barrel fetches Edmonton Par pricing less ~$4.00/bbl . Saskatchewan offers an extremely attractive royalty system whereby Viking horizontal wells qualify for a 2.5% royalty rate on crown lands and 0% production tax on freehold lands for the first 37,700 barrels of cumulative oil production. This would equate to about half of the expected ultimate recovery (EUR) of some producers.

Attractive royalty rates coupled with low production costs result in extremely attractive netbacks. At $95 Edmonton Par, Viking oil producers can net between $64 and $68 in profit per barrel which means an excellent recycle ratio for each dollar. Viking oil wells IP30 (initial production rates for the first 30 days) range from 35-65 bbls/day with more than 85% weighting to light sweet oil. A Viking oil well’s production may contain anywhere from 0-25% of natural gas. Estimated ultimate recoveries range from 45,000 up to 75,000 bbls per well depending on the area and the completion method. The figure below by Renegade Petroleum provides a good example of the Viking type curve following 51 wells drilled in 2011 in West Central Saskatchewan. Westfire Energy recently achieved IP30 rates of 77 bbls/day by modifying its ‘hot frac’ completion technique. (‘Hot frac’ means the frac fluid is heated to a temperature of ~55??C prior to completions (versus the reservoir temperature of ~23-25??C); the frac fluid is pumped down hole and mitigates waxy buildup in the lateral portion of the well during initial flow back.)

viking oil well type curve

Viking oil type curve

Production declines on these wells range from 50%-60% in the first year. This is normal for tight oil plays and in the case of the Viking at least the cost per well makes it less capital intensive to replace declines and increase production. These wells payout in ~1 year or less which also helps in recovering money faster and recycling it into new wells. There is a large number of oil companies operating in W.C. Saskatchewan both private and public. Lets focus on the public companies which include junior, intermediate and senior producers:

Active Companies


Net Acreage

3MV ENERGY CORP TSXV:TMV 37 net sections
ARC Resources TSX:ARX 30 net sections
Baytex Energy TSX:BTE 48 net sections
Bonavista Energy TSX:BNP 240 net sections
Canadian Natrual Res. TSX:CNQ NYSE:CNQ 80+ net sections
Crescent Point Energy TSX:CPG 137 net sections
Enerplus Corp. TSX:ERF NYSE:ERF 98 net sections
Devon Energy NYSE:DVN 1400 net sections
Husky Energy TSX:HSE 500 net sections
Imperial Oil TSX:IMO NYSE:IMO 60 net sections
Invicta Energy TSXV:VCA 5 net sections
Novus Energy TSXV:NVS 121 net sections
Pengrowth Energy TSX:PGF NYSE:PGF 350+ net sections
Penn West Petroleum TSX:PWT NYSE:PWT 1170 net sections
Petro Viking Energy TSXV:VIK 10 net sections
Raging River Exploration TSXV:RRX 131 net sections
Renegade Petroleum TSXV:RPL 27 net sections
Twin Butte Energy TSX:TBE 121 net sections
WhiteCap Resources TSX:WCP 111 net sections
WestFire Energy TSX:WFE 232 net sections

The Viking formation is also present in Alberta where it is deeper and thicker resulting in higher IP rates but this is a story on its own to be written later. Some of the acreage above includes land prospective for Viking oil in Alberta. Companies with no exposures to the Viking in WC Saskatchewan have not been included in the list.

The Viking oil play in Saskatchewan is repeatable and scalable with low operating costs and high netbacks. Only a handful of companies provide investors with a pure play exposure to the Viking from the list above, you can read about them at the following link.

Who would be your top pick from the list for Viking oil exposure?

This list was compiled by?? the latest presentations and company news releases. I do not guarantee the accuracy of the data so if you spot an error in the data or know of a company that I missed from the list, please do not hesitate to contact me.