The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) has a long history of oil and gas development, but a global shift towards other energy solutions has created a renewed interest in the WCSB for the exploration and development of critical minerals. Two of the minerals garnering interest are lithium, driven by an increasing demand for use in modern technologies such as rechargeable batteries, and helium, driven by an increasing demand for use in medical and technology industries as well as a depletion of the United States helium reserves in storage.

In 2020, the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) began a project to investigate Alberta’s prospectivity for lithium and helium resources. This project included gathering existing information and data about lithium and helium in Alberta; collecting and analyzing additional oil-field brine samples for lithium, and other constituents; reinterpreting publicly available geophysical data; and incorporating the helium information into the context of the AGS’s Geological Framework of Alberta.

The greatest prospectivity areas for lithium based on current data are in Devonian strata in the Peace River Arch area (northwestern Alberta) and in central Alberta near Red Deer. The areas of greatest helium prospectivity are in Devonian strata in the Peace River Arch area, Cretaceous strata in southern Alberta, and to a lesser extent in east-central Alberta and in Cambrian strata in southern Alberta, based on limited samples and correlations to similar units in Saskatchewan.

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Lyster, S., Hauck, T.E., Lopez, G.P., Playter, T.L., Reimert, C., Palombi, D. and Schultz, S.K. (2022): Lithium and helium in Alberta: data compilation and preliminary observations; Alberta Energy Regulator / Alberta Geological Survey, AER/AGS Open File Report 2021-04, 36 p.