Equinor, BP keep their East Coast activity mostly on the down low

I attended last week’s NOIA oil and gas conference in St. John’s. The event gives journalists like myself the rare opportunity to corner top executives in the East Coast offshore oil and gas industry and ask them questions about their respective operations in Atlantic Canada.

(My previous posts on the conference can be found here and here.)

Normally, it’s difficult to get an interview with, for example, the executive responsible for Husky Energy’s operations in Atlantic Canada.

But at the NOIA conference, Husky’s senior vice-president, Atlantic region – Trevor Pritchard – not only spoke at the event, he also made himself available for individual interviews afterwards with the local media.

This is important because it gives reporters a chance to ask questions, and get answers, to topics companies didn’t mention in their prepared remarks.

Two of the major operators in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas sectors are Equinor (formerly Statoil) and BP Canada.

So when Equinor Canada’s vice-president, offshore, Newfoundland (Unni Fjaer) and BP Canada’s regional manager for Atlantic Canada (Anita Perry) were slated to speak to conference attendees on Thursday morning, there was hope among reporters that both companies would have something big to announce.

It didn’t turn out that way.

Perry didn’t say much at all about BP’s comings and goings in Atlantic Canada.

With interests in 14 exploration licences in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia’s offshore, it’s one of the biggest players in the region.

Perry did say during her presentation – one that strangely focused more on BP’s overall efforts to reduce its carbon footprint than what it’s doing on the East Coast – that it is advancing a drilling project in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Orphan Basin. It’s looking to drill an exploration well there in 2020.

However, progress on the exploration well – Aspy D-11 – in the Scotian Basin in Nova Scotia waters was mentioned only in passing during Perry’s presentation, and no new information was provided on the well.

Perry also didn’t make herself available to reporters for an interview after her presentation was done.

But on Friday there was news regarding BP’s Scotian Basin drilling campaign.

The company announced it had spilled 136,000 litres of drilling mud from the West Aquarius drilling rig located 330 kilometres from Halifax.

Equinor’s Fjaer was slightly more forthcoming in her Thursday talk to conference attendees, and she did agree to do interviews with the media.

Fjaer took over as Equinor’s (it officially changed its name on May 16) top executive in Newfoundland and Labrador in March.

She said the Norwegian-based company has filed a project description for the potential development of its Bay du Nord discovery in the Flemish Pass Basin in offshore Newfoundland.

Fjaer also said Equinor is “a few years away from a final decision” on whether it will develop Bay du Nord or not. But if it does decide to develop the discovery, it expects to achieve first oil by the mid-2020s.

Fjaer told me during a quick interview Thursday morning that her main mission since arriving in St. John’s is to produce oil from Bay du Nord.

“I will, together with the rest of the office, work as hard as I can to make that fly. There is a lot of work to be done still for it to be a success.”

What will it take for Bay du Nord to be a success for Equinor and produce first oil by the mid-2020s?

“To be competitive in our global portfolio is one of the most important things,” Fjaer said.

Fjaer added that Equinor will use a floating structure to produce from Bay du Nord.

FPSOs are also used for Husky’s White Rose oil field, and Suncor Energy Inc.’s Terra Nova field.

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