Nova Scotia’s oil and gas community is continuing to celebrate a Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board land sale resulting in a billion-dollar commitment for exploration work.
The bid total for the exploration licences offered was 10 times what was recently offered for licences off Newfoundland and Labrador.
A total 11 areas were up for bids in the Nova Scotia sale. Of those, three were left without bids, four received more than $30 million in work commitments from Shell Canada and another four areas led BP to commit more than $1 billion to exploration.
The total in committed spending on exploration work was the most profitable in the history of such bidding for Atlantic Canada’s offshore.
In perspective, the last call for bids on licences for offshore Newfoundland and Labrador received $117 million in work commitments.
“I think, if you look at the dollar value of the bids, I think the dollar value of the bids in the Newfoundland offshore and the dollar value of the bids in the Nova Scotia offshore directly relate, in my view, to that (bid) process and the data available,” said Robert Cadigan, president and CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (Noia), in an interview Monday.
Cadigan said the data — like geochemistry and seismic testing results — is more difficult for curious companies to access in this province. For example, much of the seismic data here is only available on paper and not digitally, he said.
In other cases, individual oil companies completed the testing and keep the results to themselves for as long as they are allowed.
Difficulty in obtaining information about an area can limit interest in making a bid and committing to exploration work in the area, Cadigan suggested.
In Nova Scotia, a special initiative known as the Play Fairway Analysis has seen information obtained and packaged digitally.
“So if you happen to be in the U.K. somewhere, or down in Houston, you can get in and you can look at some of that publicly available data,” he said.
The analysis — what amounts to an atlas for offshore Nova Scotia — cost the government in the area of $15 million and opened it to criticism of subsidizing big oil.
On the other hand, since the package of information was offered up for sale, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Nova Scotia offshore.
The land sale prior to the most recent resulted in more than $900 million in work commitments for Nova Scotia.
Nalcor Energy is now developing its own information package for this province. The Telegram will have more on that initiative later this week.
Yet having information readily available is not the only difference when it comes to considering the licensing for Nova Scotia and this province, Cadigan said.
“(Nova Scotia is) announcing their land sales about three years in advance,” Cadigan said, adding the process here takes less then a year.
International companies have prospects all over the world, he added.
Lead time allows companies to look at research, decide if they want to take on work and develop a work plan into their schedules.
Areas like Norway and Greenland are offering multi-year outlooks for areas to be offered up in land sales.
Meanwhile, “we will see, I think, that interest (in Nova Scotia) kind of migrate into our territory over time,” Cadigan said.
And current commitments to exploration off Nova Scotia have the potential to produce contract opportunities to Noia members.
“I think what we do need to do though is we do need to see changes in the way the land sale process works (here), in order to have that kind of attention.”