Arctic oil and gas joint venture formed
Regulatory approval needed before exploration begins
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 | 11:22 AM CST
Three major oil companies are teaming up to someday explore for oil and gas in a large area of the Beaufort Sea, where each company has millions of dollars in exploration leases.
Imperial Oil Ltd., ExxonMobil Corp. and BP have formed the joint venture to explore offshore areas for which they secured leases in 2007 and 2008.
The joint venture, announced late last week, aims to avoid duplication of personnel and equipment in the remote Arctic sea. The leases are located in the sea's deepest areas, where ice often moves, breaks and turns.
But Imperial Oil officials say no exploration work will be planned until after the National Energy Board, a federal regulator, finishes its review of safety regulations and environmental impacts related to offshore drilling in Canada's Arctic.
"Decisions on potential future exploration activities have yet to be made," Imperial spokesman Pius Rolheiser told CBC News.
"Any further exploration activities wouldn't proceed without proper regulatory approval, and also extensive community consultation in the Beaufort communities."
No date has been set for the NEB's review to begin, according to board officials.
The NEB recently collected public comments from individuals and organizations worried about the potential for an oil well blowout and spill in Arctic waters, similar to the disaster BP is dealing with in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rolheiser said the three companies started negotiating the Beaufort Sea joint venture in 2009, long before the Gulf of Mexico spill began in April.
If and when the joint venture begins drilling in the Beaufort Sea, BP will not be the main operator, Rolheiser said.
In 2007, Imperial and ExxonMobil jointly acquired their Beaufort Sea exploration licence from the federal government for $585 million, covering about 205,000 hectares of sea floor north of the Northwest Territories' Beaufort Delta region.
In 2008, BP acquired another offshore parcel as part of a $1.2-billion acquisition of Arctic exploration blocks.
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