NS offshore hurdles cleared1/8/2013
he federal and provincial governments have signed off on exploration licences awarded to a pair of global oil giants interested in Nova Scotia’s offshore.
BP and Shell were granted exploration rights, worth $1.3 billion, by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board in November.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and his provincial counterpart, Energy Minister Charlie Parker, also had to approve the permits.
Board spokeswoman Tanya Taylor White confirmed Monday the ministerial approvals were received before a mid-December deadline.
That allows the industry regulator to issue the licences, effective next Tuesday.
The permits are valid for nine years, provided the companies drill a well within six years.
The leases are in an area roughly 250 kilometres south of Halifax.
BP Exploration Operating Co. Ltd. has committed to spend a record $1.08 billion to explore four deepwater blocks.
The parcels are in an unexplored salt basin on the central and southwestern Scotian Slope.
Meanwhile, Shell Canada Ltd. plans to spend $31.8 million hunting for oil and gas on four leases.
The blocks include two deepwater blocks on the southwestern part of the Scotian Slope. Shell also secured two shallow-water parcels in the Sable sub-basin close to the Sable Offshore Energy Project and Encana Corp.’s Deep Panuke project, which has yet to begin production.
BP and Shell have yet to reveal their exploration plans.
The energy giants must file exploration plans, which are confidential, with the board by mid-April.
The executive director of the Maritimes Energy Association said representatives of the industry group have had preliminary meetings with both companies.
“It’s very early stages, but things are proceeding as expected,” Barbara Pike said in an interview.
Shell, which is expected to soon open an office in Halifax, could have more to say this winter about its plans, Pike said.
BP will likely provide an update in the spring, she said.
In total, the two supermajors have been awarded $2 billion in exploration rights off the province’s coast over the past year.
Shell was also awarded four deepwater blocks in March as part of a $970-million exploration program.
The company plans to begin a 3-D seismic survey on those leases in mid-April. The program, expected to run until mid-September, will continue in 2014.
If the results are positive, Shell could begin drilling for hydrocarbons as early as 2015.
WesternGeco Canada, a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd. of London, England, was awarded a contract last month to conduct the seismic work.
Shell issued a tender last week looking for helicopter support for the survey program.
(The Chronicle Herald)