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N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod.

Northwest Territories Premier Bob Mcleod says the approval of the Northern Gateway Pipeline is good news for the North.

He says that pipeline won’t just open up new markets for Alberta crude — it will also benefit markets for new oil discoveries that might be tapped in NWT.

“We need to find markets for our oil and gas potential. The United States they have significant amounts of shale gas. Obviously we have to look at other markets. One of the ways is to look at Asia, China and those places.”

But Mcleod is cautious about the project, pointing out that the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline was approved in 2011, but never built.

New petroleum office in Inuvik

McLeod made the comments during the opening of a new Petroleum Resources Division office in Inuvik, N.W.T.

The new office will award oil and gas rights in the territory. Before April 1 of this year, when devolution took effect, the federal government decided where companies could explore and awarded drilling rights.

Mcleod says with this power in the hands of the territory, there are many opportunities.

“We’re still very bullish on the Canol Shale," he says, referring to the oil rich rock in the Sahtu region.

Last month, Husky Energy withdrew an application to drill and frack up to four wells in the area this winter, opting instead to postpone drilling for two years. Earlier this year, ConocoPhillips — the other big energy player in the region — announced it will not be drilling in the region next winter.

"We’re putting out another call for bids," McLeod says. "We’re optimistic there will be good interest in that. There is potential activity in the Liard area for shale gas. And also in the Cameron Hill, so lots of potential.”

Mcleod says the Inuvik office will only manage onshore exploration.

The federal government still decides which companies can drill for oil in the Beaufort Sea.

In August the territory is scheduled to begin meeting with Ottawa to discuss transferring this responsibility to the territory.