The National Energy Board and the Northwest Territories government estimate there's close to 200 billion barrels of oil in the Sahtu region of the territory.

They evaluated the Canol and Bluefish shale fields near Norman Wells and Tulita.

The groups conducted a joint study near Norman Wells and Tulita: "Assessment of Unconventional Petroleum Resources of the Bluefish Shale and the Canol Shale in the Northwest Territories" — the first publicly-released study about how much oil could be in the ground there.

It found more drilling is needed to determine if the deposits are commercially viable. 

Oil and gas analyst Doug Matthews says the results sound promising.

"If they can extract three per cent [of 200 billion barrels], they are roughly the equivalent of the Bakken play in North Dakota, which is a world-class play. So these are potentially very significant resources. Three per cent is quite reasonable." 

Matthews says the biggest challenge is how to get oil to market. He says that poor infrastructure, paired with high operating costs, makes the area unattractive to investors.

The low price of oil is also affecting exploration. None of the companies with exploration licences in the Sahtu has plans to do work there in the next few years.