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There's a mystery of sorts in the oil patch this week, after Alberta staged a successful $384-million land auction, but the buyers remained anonymous.

The Alberta government sold off 184,138 hectares of properties, most of which are located in the Kaybob region - that's the west-central part of the province. The auction marked the largest sale seen in Alberta in four years - that's back to December 2005, when natural gas peaked at $9.60.

Most of the sites sold in this auction will be exploited with horizontal drilling technology, if they contain natural gas. In a report published on Thursday, RBC Dominion's energy analysts called the Kaybob region "top-decile when compared to all other Canadian natural gas plays."

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And who will actually be doing the drilling? That's where we're into guesswork.

"The majority of lands in the Kaybob area were purchased anonymously," said the report from RBC Dominion Securities. "Given the sheer dollar value of the land purchased, the acquirer of these lands is most likely a large well-capitalized producer or a combination of several smaller mid-cap producers."

Among junior and mid-tier oil and gas companies, RBC Dominon's analysts pointed out that Celtic Exploration and Orleans Energy are active in the Kaybob area.

Other operators in the region include BP, Trilogy Energy Trust, Taqa, ConocoPhillips, Canadian Natural Resources and Tourmaline Oil.

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About the Author
Business Columnist

Andrew Willis is a business columnist for the Report on Business at The Globe and Mail, based in Toronto.He has been in business communications and journalism for three decades. More

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