Shell’s $1 billion exploration program in the Shelburne Basin, about 250 kilometers off southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada, is being criticized by the environmentalists.
The Canadian branch of international conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has raised concerns about Shell Canada Ltd receiving the approval to drill in the Shelburne Basin, and being allowed 12 to 13 days to cap well blowouts, should there be need.
The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) on Tuesday gave approval for Shell Canada to begin work in southwestern Nova Scotia. Stena IceMAX Drillship, owned by the UK company Stena Drilling, will be used for the exploration program.
Shell Canada’s original submission had proposed that, in the event of a blowout, the deployment of a capping stack would take up to 21 days. CNSOPB then asked Shell to review the deployment time to determine if it could be reduced.
CNSOPB CEO Stuart Pinks said: “Shell Canada has responded with a more optimized schedule that indicates that a capping stack could arrive at the wellsite, should it be required, within 12 to 13 days. At the same time, Shell Canada would also deploy a second capping stack as further contingency.”
Growth opportunity, or danger to the marine environment?
The Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil has welcomed Shell Canada’s offshore exploration program, saying that offshore development is one of Nova Scotia’s most exciting opportunities for growth.
However, the environmentalists were not delighted with the CNSOPB’s decision to allow Shell 12-13 days for the capping stack deployment.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, WWF pointed out that the decision came in – as WWF says – “stark contrast” to the recent U.S. ruling in Alaska. To remind, in order to get Arctic drilling permits, Shell was required to maintain the capping stack in a ready-to-deploy state on the vessel MV Fennica, which would be available to respond to a loss of well control within 24 hours.
Shell subsequently backed away from the Arctic drilling, citing the high costs associated with the project, disappointing drilling results, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in the U.S.
Commenting further on the Canadian authorities’ moves with regards to Shell’s Nova Scotia drilling plans, WWF-Canada said:“The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the body responsible for federal environmental impact assessments, claims that forcing Shell to apply capping technology within 24 hours in the Shelburne Basin, off the coast of Nova Scotia, would make the company’s exploratory work ‘prohibitively expensive.’
“WWF-Canada works to ensure offshore oil and gas activities in Canadian waters are carried out in a safe and responsible manner, and supports the U.S. decision to require a capping stack be onsite within 24 hours of a blowout.”
License to pollute for twelve days without consequence – David Miller
WWF-Canada President and CEO David Miller said:“The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has essentially given Shell Canada Ltd a license to pollute for twelve days without consequence.”
Miller added: “The Shelburne Basin is next to some of Canada’s richest fishing grounds and supports endangered marine wildlife including Atlantic right whales, blue whales, and leatherback turtles. Allowing an oil well blowout to continue for 12 days off the coast of Nova Scotia could have a devastating impact on the province’s marine environment, its fisheries, and the people and communities who depend on them.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff