Regulators award over $1.2 billion in offshore licences in Atlantic Canada

HALIFAX – Offshore regulators in Atlantic Canada awarded oil exploration licences to several industry giants Thursday, totalling more than $1.2 billion in Newfoundland and Labrador alone.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said it had awarded seven parcels worth a combined $1,204,953,713.

Norwegian-based Statoil is a partner in five of the seven bids and was also awarded a solo bid worth $423 million.

Other companies to be involved in the potential exploration include BG International, BP Canada Energy Group, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and China’s state energy company Nexen Energy.

Premier Paul Davis, who is in the midst of an election campaign, said the record level of interest was the “direct result” of seismic mapping carried out by the province and Nalcor Energy.

“That work indicated that there are potentially 12 billion barrels of oil in this general area of our offshore, so this new international attention is no surprise,” Davis said in a statement released through the Progressive Conservative Party.

Two deepwater parcels were also awarded by Nova Scotia’s offshore regulator, although they were decidedly more modest by comparison, coming in at a value of $82 million.

The parcels, worth about $76 million and $5.8 million respectively, went to Statoil Canada Ltd.

Nova Scotia Energy Minister Michel Samson said he was pleased by the development.

“When you keep in mind where the price of oil is today . . . to see these types of investments being made and expressions of interest in our offshore, I think it’s a great sign of confidence.”

Samson said more work would have to be done, including environmental assessments before Statoil would get final approval for drilling.

If approval is granted by federal and Nova Scotia officials, the regulatory board said it would issue two exploration licences on Jan. 15.

Last month, Shell Canada Ltd., received approval to begin exploratory drilling in the Shelburne Basin offshore site, about 250 kilometres off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia.