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Shell Canada gets green light to drill for oil off Nova Scotia coast

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Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 21.50.22Shell’s timeline to cap a blowout is still between 12 and 13 days

20 October 2015

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has authorized a Shell Canada Ltd. drilling plan in the Shelburne Basin that allows the company between 12 and 13 days to contain subsea blowouts, but one environmental group is concerned the capping stack won’t be housed here.

The timeframe is an improvement over the original 21-day plan, but still falls short of the U.S. requirement of 24 hours for drilling in the waters off Alaska. Shell Canada would also have to deploy a second capping stack as a contingency plan.

In the environmental assessment for the project, Shell Canada said the capping stack equipment would be brought in from Stavanger, Norway. Shell said it would also deploy a backup stack from Brazil.

Environmental concerns

The Ecology Action Centre is calling the shorter timeline an improvement, but it would like to see the technology housed in Atlantic Canada.

“If we want an offshore oil and gas industry, then we should be willing, or the company should be willing, to pay for the technology in place for any kind of emergency,” said policy director Mark Butler.

He says there is no guarantee Shell would be able to get the capping stack to Nova Scotia within the approved timelines.

“The best way to minimize the time is to have that technology here in Atlantic Canada, so it’s one to two days, or 24 hours to get that technology out to the site,” said Butler.

The board says in a news release it is confident Shell Canada will take “all reasonable precautions” to protect the environment and work safely while drilling.

Shell Canada’s original plan came under fire from critics who felt the 21-day window to contain subsea blowouts was too long.

An online petition by an international environmental group opposing Shell’s application to drill off Nova Scotia has collected more than 232,000 signatures.

The offshore board says regulations around the world say capping stack gear should be available on site within 10 to 30 days.

Earlier this year, Shell Canada submitted applications for a deep-water drilling program 250 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The drilling will run for about 10 months in water more than 2,000 metres deep. In a statement, Shell called the Shelburne Basin an “unexplored geological region.”

When could drilling start?

The first phase of the program involves drilling two exploratory wells: Cheshire and Monterey Jack.

To drill the Cheshire well, Shell Canada will require the go-ahead from the board, which anticipates granting approval within the next few days. Approval for drilling at Monterey Jack will be required at a later date.

The drill ship required for the exploratory drilling — the Stena IceMAX — arrived in Nova Scotia on Monday and is capable of drilling in water depths of up to 3,000 metres.

Shell says about half of the IceMAX’s crew is Canadian, and half of the Canadians are Nova Scotians.

Beginning this year, Shell has a four-year window to drill exploratory wells off the coast.

In 2013, Shell pegged the project’s total price tag at $970 million.

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1 Comment on “Shell Canada gets green light to drill for oil off Nova Scotia coast”

  1. #1 Christopher Ives
    on Oct 21st, 2015 at 06:24

    G’day, John.

    Today’s announcement from CNSOPB really surprised me.
    Tuesday, 10/20/2015 – Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board Issues Shell Canada Operations Authorization – Drilling

    SOURCE –

    The 2nd sentence of their 5th paragraph states “The granting of an Operations Authorization does not authorize the use of dispersants in case of a spill.”

    Wow. Does this mean toxic Corexit is banned (finally)? What other spill response measures are offered? Will these remove the oil?

    From the reports, there is no indication of what changes Shell has made to reduce the time to have the capping stack on site by 8-9 days. If dispersants are no longer authorised then what measures will Shell employ in the event of a spill to protect the coastlines?

    Remember the Full City oil spill of July 2009 in Norway? 700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil was spread along 100 miles of the Langesund coast, south of Oslo. For a Macondo-scale spill of 10,000 tons/day oil could be spread along 1,000 miles of Nova Scotia and Maine, the border of some of the world’s richest commercial fisheries.

    Shell Canada’s revised schedule indicates that a capping stack could arrive at the wellsite within 12-13 days, which falls short of the U.S. requirement of 24 hours for drilling in waters off Alaska.

    A much more rapid capping response is needed, not to mention a way to remove the oil already released into offshore waters.

    Our world depends on oil, but couldn’t Industry do a better job of RAPID response & genuine restoration when accidents happen? Do people believe that existing cleanup technology is adequate to meet today’s needs? It would be interesting to poll your readers.

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