High hopes for west coast projects

Gary Kean
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Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner addresses delegates at the sixth annual Symposium on Oil and Gas Resources in western Newfoundland, which opened at Marble Mountain in Steady Brook Wednesday. — Photo by Gary Kean/The Western Star

As the major oil-producing projects continue to pump up black gold from offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, the minister responsible for the province’s industry hopes the west coast will play a vital role in sustaining the sector’s viability in the future.

Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner opened up the sixth annual Symposium on Oil and Gas Resources in western Newfoundland with that message during his address to delegates at Marble Mountain Wednesday morning.

The offshore projects off the east coast, such as Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose, have been lining the provincial government coffers for the past several years, but those resources will eventually run out. It is the virtually untapped potential of western Newfoundland and other parts of the province that Skinner said he hopes will sustain the revenue stream down the road.

“Our provincial real GDP has grown by nearly 52 per cent in the last two decades, with over half of that growth attributed to the oil industry,” said Skinner. “With an estimated six billion barrels of oil and 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas yet to be discovered, the province’s highly prospective offshore and onshore basins boast a wealth of exploration opportunities, especially here in western Newfoundland.”

There has been plenty of work done on and off the shores of western Newfoundland, including seismic surveys of the sea floors beneath the Gulf of St. Lawrence, exploratory wells on the Northern Peninsula and limited production in the Port au Port Peninsula area.

There has yet to be a major development of sustained production of either oil or natural gas and the sector is currently in a bit of a lull as collected data is analyzed. Those gathered at the symposium firmly believe it will happen at some point.

“These activities have resulted in total expenditures of $100 million being spent in this region,” said Skinner.

“Exploration on the west coast continues to gain momentum. We believe this will only help further enhance our understanding of the region and provide us with much-needed geoscientific information that will encourage future exploration activity and success.”

In May, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) issued a call for bids for exploration rights to nearly 1.6 million hectares of area, including more than 350,000 hectares spread over two parcels off the west coast. The deadline for submitting bids is Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, the Petroleum Exploration Enhancement Program — an initiative of the provincial government’s Energy Plan to improve geoscientific knowledge of western Newfoundland — has allocated about $2 million to 18 projects that have been completed or are underway throughout the region.

Skinner added that his department is working with the federal government and the CNLOPB to have digital seismic data gathered by exploration companies released to the public domain once the need for that information to remain confidential has expired.

“The potential development of oil and gas sector on the west coast will play a major part in ensuring our province’s long-term success in this industry and our sustained economic growth,” said Skinner. “With the west coast’s undiscovered potential, there is no doubt western Newfoundland has a key role as a contributor to the continued growth of our provincial economy.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Hibernia, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Marble Mountain, Terra Nova White Rose Northern Peninsula Port au Port Peninsula Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Edward
    August 25, 2011 - 10:47

    W Maclean is correct as it was Nalcor that spent $25 million of taxpayers money to find a bunch of empty holes out there. Dunderdale it was "a worthwhile experiment". Twenty-five million could have bought more MRI and catscan machines than the Stephenville hospital could ever use. It's all about priorities and oil exploration gives a false sense of hope.

  • W McLean
    August 25, 2011 - 10:15

    "You do not know what you are talking about. If there was a chance of real oil or gas deposits the big companies would be out there, not the local fly-by-nighters." — Including, astoundingly, Nalcor, which has decided that highly speculative drilling for makework is within its mandate.

  • Brett
    August 25, 2011 - 09:33

    52% growth over 2 decades is approx. 2% a year. Not so stellar when looked in that manner.

  • Electioneering - No Negativity
    August 25, 2011 - 08:02

    Nothing commercially viable found in the past 23 years. Keep the hope alive in this election year, Shawn. You do not know what you are talking about. If there was a chance of real oil or gas deposits the big companies would be out there, not the local fly-by-nighters.