"The potential is enormous."
Words from Gary Leach, executive director of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC), about the future possibilities of oil and gas exploration in southern Alberta, specifically to the southeast of Lethbridge in what is known as the Alberta Basin Bakken.
Leach says the provincial government and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) teamed up last year for an assessment and ecological survey on a number of possible new sites.
"The resource potential of all of Alberta was recently reconfirmed - and the potential in southern Alberta is huge with the new shale resource opportunities that have been identified geologically," he said.
"The ultimate determining factor is going to be - you really don't know what's there until you start to drill. Up until then it's educated guessing. So we're still waiting."
There has already been limited exploratory drilling in the Alberta Bakken, an area of roughly 160 square kilometres, and oil companies have already purchased land.
But for most wells and the associated findings, results are kept confidential for the first year.
"It's no different than the patent system," Leach explained.
"If they've taken the time and trouble to invest and spend the money for some higher-risk drilling costs, the system recognizes this and encourages the private sector to explore," he continued.
"There is relatively limited publically available information about the results. Companies like to keep those results quiet while they're deciding whether their land position is optimum or if there's other opportunities."
The International Energy Agency has forecast that global energy demand will grow by more than 50 per cent by 2030, and hydrocarbon energy - oil, natural gas and coal - will supply 84 per cent of the increase.
Canada is one of only a few reliable and democratic nations with the ability to export surplus energy to the world.
And with the Alberta Bakken continuing to peak interest, the anticipation continues to build, says Leach.
"There has been quite a bit of interest in acquiring some drilling rights in relation to that. Including some big companies," he said.
"But there's a big difference between resource potential in the ground and whether it's economic to actually develop it. The economics will dictate where and at what pace Alberta's resource potential develops. There's a whole amount of risk there."
The Alberta Bakken is geologically similar with the original, but much larger, North Dakota Bakken - which was once said to contain up to 500 billion barrels of petroleum.
Since the oil was trapped within Devonian Shale, as is the oil in the Alberta Bakken, drilling wasn't viable.
With the development of new drilling techniques, however, it became possible to horizontally drill right into the deposits to collapse the oil-rich rocks by fracking - pumping sand and liquids at high pressure into the well bore.
"I don't think people realize how unique Alberta is geologically in the world, in terms of the type of carbon potential housed in the entire province," Leach said.
"We're well-suited as a province longer term. But we have to be able to continue to refine our techniques to improve our efficiency. I think we're going to have to wait two or three more years to see how some of the reported results are," he continued.
"It's still way too early to try and speculate. But I can tell you there's been some sizeable dollars acquiring land down there a couple of years ago - which is the first indicator that this could be quite exciting."