A giant shale gas find in northern B.C. has the potential to exponentially increase the province's natural gas output for decades.

Apache, the second-largest gas producer in the United States, says it believes the site could contain as much as 48 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.

"Apache has validated an outstanding new shale play in the Liard Basin," the company said in a release. The site is spread over 430,000 acres in northeastern B.C., west of the Horn River basin.

One of three test wells on the find produced 21.3 million cubic feet of gas per day in its first month. Apache says that would make the well one of the most productive ones in the world.

"The D-34-K well is one of the best shale wells we've seen in any play," Apache chairman G. Steven Farris said."Our analysis indicates that the formation characteristics are remarkably consistent across this large basin."

Apache is partnering with two other firms to build a $4.5 billion liquefied natural gas terminal near Kitimat, B.C. to service the booming Asian market for natural gas. The new field is so large that it would be able to double that site's capacity, something the companies say they plan on doing once the site is up and running.

While excited by the new find's potential over the long term, Apache says there is no rush to develop the site because of record low prices for natural gas. A slew of shale gas discoveries have pushed the price of natural gas to near record lows.

The most heavily traded July gas contract lost three cents to trade at $2.47 per thousand cubic feet on Friday.