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Updated June 2023

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Resource Classes

The AER classifies Alberta’s hydrocarbon resources into six categories (see Figure R1.1):

  • conventional
  • low permeability
  • shale
  • coalbed methane (CBM)
  • bitumen
  • coal

Categorization allows the AER to customize its reserves and resources evaluations and reports based on unique properties.

Figure R1.1 Resource Classification


The term “resource” refers to a volume of petroleum estimated to exist in a naturally occurring accumulation within rocks and includes all known volumes and estimated volumes yet to be discovered. 

For most resource classes, the AER uses the Canadian Oil and Gas Evaluation Handbook (COGEH) for evaluation, which recognizes reserves, quantities of discovered and commercially viable petroleum, and two resource subcategories: prospective and contingent. Contingent resources are those that are discovered but not commercially viable, and prospective resources are those that are yet discovered.

Bitumen resources and reserves are evaluated using a methodology developed by the Inter-Provincial Advisory Committee on Energy (IPACE), which was established in 1978. It defines resources as the initial volume in place, with two categories: initial established reserves and ultimate potential. 


According to the COGEH, the term “reserves” refers to the remaining volume of petroleum that could be recovered from a known resource that is either already being produced or could begin production within about five years. To be classified as reserves, the volume must be recoverable under proven technology, and production must be economically viable.

Estimates of reserves are used for many purposes:

  • energy regulation and policy
  • inventory supply forecasting
  • corporate and capital planning
  • securities-related reporting