West coast hoping for its own oil boom

John Crosbie
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The announcement of offshore oil and gas in the Flemish Pass Basin means there are bright prospects and great opportunities at last in sight for oil and gas development on the west coast of Newfoundland.

John Crosbie

Statoil and Husky Oil has said the well drilled at Bay du Nord has between 300 million and 600 million barrels of recoverable light oil. In the Flemish Pass area there have been three discoveries now, including the Mizzen discovery, estimated to have between 100 million to 200 million barrels of oil, and Harpoon, where they have not yet done the work necessary to give an accurate estimate.

The west coast has seen a great deal of activity by smaller oil and gas entrepreneurs, especially of Newfoundland origin, and this is where the future looks promising, as reported by Black Spruce Exploration Corp. in their Western Newfoundland Update Project Magazine. (This informative and interesting publication can be viewed online at Black Spruce Exploration’s website, www.blspexp.com. Just go to the media section of the website and click on fact sheets.)

Black Spruce strongly believes western Newfoundland has the potential for an energy industry to rival Hibernia and is focused on developing an oil-based industry which, if successful, will bring economic prosperity to the region.

In their first year they are targeting $60 million in capital expenditures to create a stabilized production base.  

The company opened its head office in Corner Brook on Sept. 11 and has acquired a drilling rig which will be the first available for western Newfoundland, arriving this year. Black Spruce also has warehouse space for pipe facilities and everything needed for an offshore 2-D/3-D seismic program.

Drilling — which is critical to discovery — will start at the Garden Hill Battery well at Cape St. George, which has a producing oil well from a deep carbonate formation known as the Aguathuna.

Hydraulic fracturing, the technology that will be used to open the flow path for oil from the reservoir to the wellbore, has only been around since the late 1940s. It is vital for western Newfoundland if that region is ever going to fully achieve economic prosperity from the oil industry.

Black Spruce says it is committed to protecting the environment through best-practice regulations imposed by governments as well as through industry-established practices as they are developed and enforced.

The company has 2,359,381 acres under its control — an area reaching from Daniel’s Harbour south down to Cape St. George in the Bay St. George area.

Black Spruce has set its sights on Green Point shale — the resource rock for oil, which could contain more than a billion barrels.

Information on the project is available to anyone who wishes to be informed. The online magazine tackles critical claims about hydraulic fracturing that have been made about the project, and the magazine addresses each one in detail.

It also explains how hydraulic fracturing works and lists any additives the company will use in such activity.

As the project moves forward, the public will be given opportunities to have questions answered.

Black Spruce says there are over 200,000 hydraulically fractured wells in Western Canada and there has not been one case of drinking water contamination reported from stimulation fluid to date. There are more than 1 million such wells in the United States.

The company has no leases within Gros Morne National Park and won’t be drilling within those boundaries.

The responsibility for regulating the oil and gas industry, including the chemicals used in that sector, falls to the provinces.

What is fracking? It’s a safe and proven process. It is used by the water well industry, as well as the oil and gas sector, to help increase water production. The fissures in the rock, millimetres in diameter, require sand to help prop them open. Otherwise they will close.

The project magazine points out that hydraulic fracturing fluids are 99.5 per cent water and sand. Chemicals generally make up less than one-half of one per cent of fracturing fluids. Usually, fewer than 10 chemicals are used in fracking; Black Spruce anticipates using 11.

Flowback water will be contained and treated in accordance with government regulations. Any hydraulic fracturing fluids remaining underground are trapped in the rock, with 800–3,000 metres of impermeable rock acting as a barrier.

Black Spruce uses modern best practices to ensure the well casings are properly cemented, including pressure-testing the cement before fracking occurs.

The company notes that getting permission to explore in our province is a rigorous, extensive and scientifically demanding process, with many checks and balances. Projects only move forward when all requirements are met.

In the last 20 years or so, local entrepreneurs and risk investment types have been trying to develop numerous potential oil and gas sites in western Newfoundland without any real success. Larger international oil and gas companies that are prepared to invest huge amounts of money in likely possibilities have not taken any great interest in developing the potential which has been recognized in western Newfoundland for at least a hundred years.

It’s time for a major effort to be made to see whether or not there are substantial oil and gas resources onshore and in the near offshore in this whole western area, and I hope the interest and investment of a company like Black Spruce will be encouraged.

The company appears to have the resources, personnel and experience to realize the full potential on the west coast, while we continue to have great success in the offshore off our east coast.

This is entrepreneurial risk-taking at its best.

Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce plan to drill as many as four exploration wells on the Port au Port Peninsula which will run the wells out under the inshore area of the adjacent bay.

If they find success it will be of great value to west coast Newfoundland, and to us all.

John Crosbie welcomes your feedback by email at telegram@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Statoil, Black Spruce Exploration, Hibernia

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Green Point Western Canada United States.The Gros Morne National Park Port au Port Peninsula

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Recent comments

  • William Roy Whiteway Smallwood
    May 13, 2016 - 12:22

    The West Coast must have read my writings promoting getting thier oil from Port au Ports' Limestone rather than getting their feet wet! 3 Oxygen / 1 Carbon by electrolysing 1 molecule of limestone! That adds up to 24 atoms of Oxygen / 1 molecule of Octane gasoline! That fuel only temporarily holds 16 Oxygen leaving 8 Oxygen free to wait until they are joined by the 16 other Oxygen after being photosynthesyzed by the green Pacific waters! Green Peace take note that Octane gasoline electrolyzers will supply Oxygen to Earth! Octane gasoline is the optimal fuel for us to make from Port au Ports’ limestone because any fewer Carbons you're just creating vapour, gas, and any heavier through more carbons being incorporated in the fuel you're adding less than its’ value of Carbon! Better to limit our production to Octane gasoline! A Supreme brand of gasoline is better than Octane gasoline but you can purchase twice as much synthetic Octane gasoline as you could purchase a superiour gasoline! I was shown how to chemically convert Port au Ports' limestone into synthetic Octane gasoline by my dead brother Robert M. Smallwood and my dead Grandfather Joseph R. Smallwood! They wanted me to to develop 1) the Port au Ports' peninsulas' Limestone, 2) Labradours' elctricity, 3) our offshore salt reserves, 4) NfLb labour and 5) my leadership abilities to convert 8 molecules of Limestone into 1 molecule of synthetic Octane gasoline & 24 atoms of Oxygen & 16 atoms of Hydrogen! The gases come from the electrolysing of the limestone! They also showed me how to convert our DC energy from waves into AC electricity! I'll try to get Suncors' CEO & President Stephen Williams to swap this idea for shares in Suncor! Of course that swap will be contigent on the being able to comercially make synthetic Octane gasoline!

  • roger maley
    December 10, 2013 - 14:39

    Stoughton, saskatchewan has over 300 Fracked wells for a small 450 people Community millions came in with No problems, fracking is safe. A oil co donated over 100 k to a new Curling rink

  • roger maley
    December 10, 2013 - 14:39

    Stoughton, saskatchewan has over 300 Fracked wells for a small 450 people Community millions came in with No problems, fracking is safe. A oil co donated over 100 k to a new Curling rink

  • AR
    October 10, 2013 - 10:35

    Wow, seems to be a negative crowd. Do any of you work in the oil industry? Or Greenpeace? Seems to be a bunch of NIMBY's!!

  • saelcove
    October 10, 2013 - 10:08

    Crosbie has been brain washed by big oil who helpe him write the article, take the rose colored glasses of john boy

  • S.O.
    October 07, 2013 - 17:09

    "This is entrepreneurial risk-taking at it best"? You mean at its most dangerous. You want to risk the health of western Newfoundland's people and environment to introduce a technology that Black Spruce "says" is safe. Of course Black Spruce "says" hydraulic fracturing is safe. Of course Black Spruce "says" it's committed to best practices. That's how Black Spruce silences and disregards the concerns of many people on the west coast. Your repeated references to what "Black Spruce says" isn't only naive, it's terrible scientific practice, and it's doing a horrible injustice to the people of the west coast. At the very least, do your own research and consult independent studies. If you did so, I think you'd soon find that allowing Black Spruce to frack in western NL would not finally "realize the full potential on the west coast"; it would destroy every last ounce of potential that this beautiful, thriving area and its healthy communities already has to offer.

  • woodrow pelley
    October 07, 2013 - 11:48

    Who wrote the article for Mr. Crosbie? Looks very much like the literature directly from the oil industry songbook. He is neither a scientist nor an environmental expert, so what value is there in his opinion? He should read the environmental and risk assessments before he wades into water that is 0.5% carcinogenic. By the way, Mr. Crosbie., try drinking a glass of water that contains 0.5% arsenic then tell us it's safe. Unfortunately for local residents, they now have to content with oil companies who poison their water and politicians who poison the public's conscience.

  • Dr. Diana Messervy
    October 07, 2013 - 11:03

    I guess when you are old and wear rose colored glasses, you can see what you want to see. Is the taking of a few barrels of oil for a few years equal to the ultimate destruction of the marine life in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and especially in the Port au Port Bay. John Crosbie will not live to see it, but I hope his soul will be haunted for supporting this.

  • Graham Oliver
    October 07, 2013 - 10:10

    Mr. Crosbie is certainly entitled to his opinion, but his comments seem to be purely based on a Black Spruce Exploration's glossy promo publication called the Fall Update. For those of us who have been diligent student's of the Black Spruce Game the publication is the same old, same old ..."We're wonderful corporate citizens ... We'll follow stringent regulations ... There are only 10 chemicals used. Etc. Etc. " In the glossy piece of propaganda, I was entertained as to how David Murray danced around each and every question posed by the Port au Port Bay St George Fracking Awareness Group. Basically, Mr. Murray says NO PROBLEM with Fracking! Absolutely amazing! If all is so rosy in the fracking world, then why did the residents of the Lower St. Lawrence River Valley in Que. became so upset when fracking started in their area? The residents got so tired of getting the run around from Gov. and industry, they formed a fact finding committee and went down to Penn. to research the industry. The com. did not like what they saw and came home and demanded that the industry be shutdown. The Gov. was slow to react, however pressure mounted and the provincial gov. was forced to invoke a moratorium on fracking. The citizens were not satisfied with just a moratorium. They asked that all the wells be checked. Surprise, surprise ... 19 out of the 31 wells were leaking. The citizens demanded that the leaking wells be fixed. The oil companies tried to seal the wells but they were unsucessful. I will not go on with all the other concerns that many of us have with fracking, but suffice to say that Mr. Murray is trying to get in the door to frack wells in a very risky shale on the west coast. Many geologists feel that Green Point Shale is too risky to drill. The west coast should not be used as a doormat for a junior oil company that has never drilled a well before.

  • Reed Weir
    October 07, 2013 - 10:09

    This article is sad on so many levels. Obviously Mr. Crosbie has been sorely taken advantage of. That would be the kindest explanation. I live on the west coast of the island. My home and water well is 2.5 km. from an already installed “suspended” fracking well. This realization sent me on what has become a 6 month study researching and reading a multitude of articles, studies, legislation and reports on the process from all sides of the debate – neutral, pro and against and yes I read the company sales pitch Mr. Crosbie references. Sorry Mr. Crosbie rehashing company platitudes just isn’t due-diligence. One should at least kick the tires and open the hood before signing on the bottom line. There are many concerns that need to be analyzed and debated well beyond the benefiting company’s perspective. My research has lead to a myriad of questions as to whether this methodology is in fact a safe option for our region. Of course the company will say it is as it will be perfectly fine for their purposes. But we must look beyond this. This is no small footprint industry. Unconventional oil equals high risk. As for the four wells Mr. Crosbie speaks of, that may be for this year however on Shoal Point Energy’s schematic development scenario map of Port au Port where they call the peninsula “A Natural Drilling Platform” there are 57 horizontal wells illustrated along with 6 collection sites, 17 pads and a regional pipeline. That is for one bay only. At this time we do not need sales pitches. We do need due-diligence, arms-length study and transparency.

  • Mike Alexander
    October 07, 2013 - 09:12

    Nice article...except he does not live here...and he does not have to live with any consequences to the environment or water supply if things go bad. Black Spruce paints a rosy picture of potential prosperity and current (and former) politicians eat it up. I'm not against oil production (but look forward to the day we are no longer dependant on it). Fracking works to attain the goal...but should not be done in all places or in all circumstances. If/when it is used, regulations need to be tight, closely monitored, and enforced. Fracking under a shallow bay in Port au Port which has historically had some naturally occuring fissures does not seem wise. If there is a problem (or many) - mankind has not created any technology to reverse or fix the problems which could be created. It is easy to endorse something you know little about from the safety of an armchair 700-800 kms away. No one knows for sure what could happen in Port au Port Bay until you actually do it (russian roulette of sorts). Remember....potential environment devastation could occur under water, out of site out of mind? Fracking may work in some places with no apparent harm, but to endorse it blindly is irresponsible. Any technology can be helpful or harmful, depends how it is used...greed and hunger for cash seldom generally prove as terrible allies to responsible decision making. Remember, we currently have a Government in the Province out of touch with its people and seems to act as though it is a parent to "children" (its citizens) who don't know better. I do not trust they have done their homework on fracking, nor are they prepared to deal with this technology responsibly - they just claim they are.

    • Marion Sampson
      October 08, 2013 - 14:50

      I agree with Mike's observations. In addition, onshore to offshore slickwater, hydraulic fracturing is an experiment and has not been done anywhere else and is being proposed by junior companies who claim they have the resources, personnel and experience, etc. Local entrepreneurs and risk investment types just don't want to admit that this will potentially contaminate our bays, air, water wells and land, a risk too high for us who live on the west coast to accept. Once those toxic undisclosed chemicals are forced down into those pipes, neither, BSE, SPE, C-NLOPB or John Crosbie will be able to control where it goes, what it mixes with and what returns back up. Nonchalantly endorsing this method of extraction without doing some investigative research is irresponsible. The BSE media site Mr. Crosbie refers to contains many seeds of misinformation.

  • Pikto'l Sa'ke'j Muise
    October 07, 2013 - 01:35

    This is a night mare: why would you lie about poison to drinking water across Canada:Don't you lesion to the people that has been effected with Slickwater Fracking across Canada. NB for example there is rallies each day trying to protect this kind of drilling.Us has many problems> and other parts of the world wide,Newfoundlander's is not num to this kind of unconventional drilling.It's a new science and only has be introduced the last few years,and damage to the health of the people and environment is uncontrollable and the new process is imperfect .Pikto'l Sa'ke'j Muise...VJM..488996662

  • Cashin Delaney
    October 06, 2013 - 23:43

    Yes By', we got a former general selling smartphones last month, now this is taking it to a whole other level of lobbyism, by Jingo. Seniors eat spaghetti os and youngsters huffin spirits. This man of ours can't tell bitumen from naphtha, the rum from the dunder,so to speak, shale oil. This is how whaling ended. Deeper drilling and this shale abuse is the last gasping grasp of a dying energy sector. Energy sectors don't die like beings in old homes or young solvent abusers. They have MIGHTY Champions to change their soiled bottoms into organic compost to grow ButyPhul flowers; new logos for decrepit concepts. Abiotic oil is not something we can sneeze at. Read Wangersky's piece on calcium in the ocean. Calcium carbonate. L. Fletcher Prouty. The tar sands was bad enough, this is verging on eschatological entrepreneurialism. Must go have a feed of scaryohs now, fresh bread, tea, what odds, it's all perfect, Perf McGerts.

  • Peckford
    October 06, 2013 - 21:34

    Mr. Crosbie, You are Wrong about Fracking 1998 the methods of Fracking change Hydraulic fracturing involves propagating the fractures in a rock layer using pressurized fluids in order to release oil and gas that isn’t economically viable to extract using traditional drilling techniques. While fracking was technically first used in 1947, modern fracking techniques like horizontal slickwater fracking weren’t commercially used until 1998 in the Barnett Shale. Also Mr. Crosbie when it all goes wrong with the environment, Drinking water and all living creatures that will be affected in Western Newfoundland. We will add and tag your name along with the rest on the list of names to pay dearly and sit up a relocation program. Everyone 100 km's away near any drill site will be affected.

  • eric Kerfont
    October 06, 2013 - 09:34

    I don't think this is all roses. I still think that fracturing, should not be allowed in the Bay St. George area. The water supply is very fragile.

  • Mary
    October 06, 2013 - 09:27

    What a crock of bull. We DO NOT WANT FRACKING in Western Newfoundland! Stop the propaganda and listen to the people. GO AWAY OIL INDUSTRY - WE DON"T WANT YOU OR YOU USELESS PROMISES. We will not let you destroy our home to make your shareholders richer!

  • Claude House
    October 05, 2013 - 18:51

    I don't know why this is listed under "News, Local" in The Telegram. It is, so obviously, a paid commercial exploiting a respected elder stateman. As well as Black Spruce's "online magazine", in the interest of a complete education, Mr. Crosbie should also check out these sites: http://www.ceh.org/legacy/storage/documents/Fracking/fracking_final-low-1.pdf http://ecowatch.com/2013/report-calculates-damage-by-fracking/ Maybe, then, he could write a "Local News" item expounding their information instead of oil industry propaganda.

  • Nat
    October 05, 2013 - 18:36

    And the added bonus of being able to light your cigarettes from your own kitchen tap. Yes fracking truly means a bright future for Western Newfoundland.

  • SkepticalCynic
    October 05, 2013 - 09:54

    Mr. Crosbie only represents the petroleum industry's side of the fracking debate with regards to its environmental effects. I would encourage readers to inform themselves as to both sides of the debate. The truck traffic alone will degrade much of the habitat around which such activity will take place.