It’s clear the provincial government is very proud of Advance 2030, its plan for growth in the province’s oil and gas industry.
It’s also clear that in the absence of a regulatory environment that suits both the province and industry, the ambitious plan for 100 new exploration wells, daily production of over 650,000 barrels of oil, and shortened time from prospectivity to production, among other goals, may never be realized.
Speaking at the Noia conference on Wednesday morning, Minister of Natural Resources Siobhan Coady said some of the near-term initiatives are already underway, including the first phase of a comprehensive review of the province’s global competitiveness.
“Consideration was given to prospectivity, fiscal regime, international standards, project life cycle cost and regulatory environment,” Coady told delegates. “While we fare well in comparison with our competition, we are going further to ensure we are the preferred location for offshore oil development.”
That involves working with the federal government’s Atlantic Canada Offshore Competitiveness Roundtable, with considerable attention dedicated to Ottawa’s Bill C-69. Ottawa, she said, has made commitments that the bill, once introduced to the House of Commons, will contain less ambiguity on timelines, clarify the role of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), and make good on a regional environmental assessment process.
“Let me be clear,” Coady said, “We expect amendments to the bill to reflect these commitments and ensure the industry has the certainty it requires. We must be globally competitive and environmental processes, as well as the timelines, must reflect that reality.
“Further, we have been crystal clear on the expectation that exploratory wells, geophysical and geological surveys must be exempt from the project list requiring impact assessment.”
During her presentation and in speaking to reporters afterward, Coady pointed to comments made by Newfoundland and Labrador MP Seamus O’Regan on VOCM’s Open Line suggesting that exploration wells would be on the exemption list and covered instead by a regional impact assessment.
“The intent of the regional assessment is to gather evidence-based knowledge on the potential effects of existing or future physical activities in the defined offshore area,” Coady said. “The objective would be to identify mitigation measures to allow for the exclusion of exploration drilling projects from the project list. Once completed, applications for exploratory wells should be subject to approval and authorization by the CNLOPB.”
Asked if the talks and that plan included exploratory wells in the undeveloped basins, Coady says they’ve suggested to O’Regan that the province can leverage CNLOPB information to ensure assessment and exploration moves quickly.
“We've been involved in offshore N.L. for 30 years. The CNLOPB has a wealth of experience and knowledge and we have to leverage that,” she said.
Coady also briefly touched on the innovation and business development fund created as part of a 10-year, $60-million investment from Husky Energy as part of the West White Rose sanctioning. The funds will be used to foster business development, support emerging technologies to strengthen industry capabilities, and encourage industry diversification.
“Companies, as well as communities, who want to grow their infrastructure will make an application to the provincial government for review,” Coady said of the process. “We'll be looking at it through the lens of Advance 2030 and the growth of the industry to make those investments.”