Conventional & Unconventional 

Natural gas comes from both ‘conventional’ and ‘unconventional’ geological formations.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas develops naturally over millions of years from the carbon and hydrogen molecules of ancient organic matter trapped within Canada’s geological formations. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, but also ethane, propane, butane, pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons.

Raw natural gas is located in most regions of the country, with the majority of commercial production currently taking place in western Canada. As an abundant energy resource, an affordable energy choice, a safe and reliable fuel and the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, natural gas is a foundational element in the future energy supply mix. CAPP advocates for a diverse energy supply mix and the use of the right fuel in the right place at the right time and natural gas has a very important role to play in this equation.

Natural Gas Formations

Natural Gas Formations:
conventional sandstone, coal, shale, and uncoventional tight sandstone


What is the difference between “conventional” and “unconventional” natural gas?

Natural gas comes from both ‘conventional’ (easier to produce) and ‘unconventional’ (more difficult to produce) geological formations. The key difference between “conventional” and “unconventional” natural gas is the manner, ease and cost associated with extracting the resource.


Exploration for conventional gas has been almost the sole focus of the oil and gas industry since it began nearly 100 years ago. Conventional gas is typically “free gas” trapped in multiple, relatively small, porous zones in various naturally occurring rock formations such as carbonates, sandstones, and siltstones.


However, most of the growth in supply from today’s recoverable gas resources is found in unconventional formations. Unconventional gas reservoirs include tight gas, coal bed methane, gas hydrates, and shale gas. The technological breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and fracturing hat have made shale and other unconventional gas supplies commercially viable have revolutionized Canada’s natural gas supply picture.

Natural Gas Resource Triangle


Where does Canada’s natural gas supply come from?

Canada has access to a broad and expanding supply of natural gas. Producing regions are concentrated primarily in the western provinces (B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan), and offshore fields in Canada’s Maritimes, with minor production in Ontario and Northern Canada.

How much natural gas does Canada produce?

Canada is the world’s third largest producer of natural gas with production of 13.7 million cubic feet per day. North America has over a century of natural gas supply at today’s consumption levels. This abundant supply will ensure that natural gas continues to be a capable, reliable, secure, safe, and environmentally acceptable fuel.


CAPP Natural Gas Forecast

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Hydraulic Fracturing Operating Practices

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Fact Book

The Facts on Natural Gas To order a printed copy of this publication, please contact


National Energy Board (NEB)

The NEB is a key Canadian regulator in the energy sector. The NEB also provides information about natural gas, oil and electricity.

Canada's Natural Gas

Canada needs a smart energy mix to meet the demands of its growing population and economy. At the same time, Canadians want energy solutions that will help us ensure a lower carbon future.

Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR)

The Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR) provides information about unconventional gas sources.

The Centre for Energy Information

The Centre for Energy Information was created to address concerns about the environment and economy, and the need for balanced and credible information about energy in Canada.

Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)

The IOGCC represents the oil and gas governments and regulators in the U.S. Five Canadian provinces and one territory are affiliate members.

Energy in Depth

Energy in Depth is a U.S. industry-sponsored website which provides information on hydraulic fracturing, as well as links to government reports and websites that discuss the process and environmental considerations.

Groundwater Protection Council

The GWPC is an organization of U.S. state groundwater regulatory agencies. The site’s library provides links to a number of reports, papers, and submissions which address environmental and groundwater risks associated with oil and gas development.

United States Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy

Includes the paper, Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer (April 2009). This report was prepared for the Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory by the Groundwater Protection Council and ALL Consulting.