Oil giants BP and Shell Canada have been granted deepwater exploration rights off Nova Scotia.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board announced Friday that it has awarded exploration rights for four deepwater parcels to BP, which has committed to spend more than $1 billion exploring those areas over the next six years.

BP's bid is the highest for exploration rights ever awarded in Atlantic Canada.

Shell Canada was also given exploration rights to four parcels — two in the Sable Island area and two in deepwater — for its $32 million bid.

In January, Shell Canada won the rights to explore four deepwater areas after it bid $970 million in the hopes of finding oil.