BP Canada’s exploration plans in Nova Scotia go under the regulatory microscope


 

BP CANADA’S plan to explore off the coast of Nova Scotia is grinding its way through the regulatory process.The company’s Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project proposes to drill up to seven exploration wells within four exploration licences it has in Nova Scotia over a three year period. Anita Perry, BP Canada’s regional manager, Nova Scotia, said in an email that the project is “moving forward with planned exploratory drilling operations beginning during 2018, pending regulatory approvals.” The drilling program would occur approximately 230 to 370 kilometres southeast of Halifax. BP holds a 50 per cent interest in the blocks and is the operator on the exploration program. Hess Canada holds the other 50 per cent interest in the acreage.

To get regulatory approval, BP Canada submitted an environmental impact statement to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in October of 2016. The document describes the proposed activities and potential environmental and social impacts of the program and how BP Canada will mitigate them. The company needs the CEAA’s approval to carry out the drilling, but in December of 2016 the Agency requested additional information from BP Canada related to the statement.

In a 55-page letter addressed to Perry, CEAA made 85 information requests. The requests are for a variety of issues. For example, CEAA has asked BP Canada to update the frequency of its pressure testing plan for the blow out preventer it would use for exploration drilling. A blowout preventer is used to seal, control and monitor oil and gas wells to prevent a blowout – the uncontrolled release of oil and/or natural gas from a well.

In its environmental impact statement, BP Canada stated the blowout preventer would be pressure tested every 21 days when the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board’s standard policy is to pressure test them every 14 days. The Board advised CEAA “it likely would not accept a general schedule of 21 days, but would consider extending a specific test on a case-by-case basis.” CEAA requires acceptable responses to its information requests before it can prepare an environmental assessment report that will determine whether BP Canada can drill in Nova Scotia waters.

If the company does get regulatory approval, it hopes to have better results than Shell Canada has had drilling in Nova Scotia waters. Shell’s first exploration well in its Shelburne Exploration project, dubbed Cheshire, was a dry hole and abandoned in September of 2016. A second well, Monterey Jack, plus a sidetrack well have also been abandoned, although Shell hadn’t said whether it had found commercial quantities of hydrocarbons at Monterey Jack as this magazine went to press.

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