In the first remarks since winning a $1-billion Nova Scotia offshore oil and gas bid in January, a representative for Shell expressed both optimism and caution about exploring for oil.

Erik Goodwin, a Shell geophysicist and leader of the Deepwater Nova Scotia Venture project, downplayed expectations before a packed audience composed of people in the offshore petroleum industry.  

"These kind of ventures have a lot of uncertainties, they are difficult to bring off. These ventures fail more often than they succeed," he said, adding, "I think Nova Scotians are aware of that."

Regardless of the risks, Shell is proceeding with exploration and Goodwin also made it clear the company is hunting for oil.

"Gas is not what we are looking for," he said. "We are looking for oil."  

Some members of supporting industries within the energy sector reacted positively to the remarks.

"Offshore Nova Scotia needed this boost, there's a lot of optimism in this room today," said Barry Clouter, general manager of CHC Helicopters.

Chris Pitts, with Secunda Canada, an operator of offshore supply boats, said his company is considering expanding its fleet as it competes for work in the Shell program.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the industry in general," said Pitts, "We are 100 per cent crewed by local seafarers and local managment."

Goodwin outlined the timeline for the company's return to the offshore energy exploration off Nova Scotia on Thursday in Halifax.

On Jan. 20, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board announced Shell would be awarded drilling rights over the four offshore parcels totalling 14,000 square kilometres.

The company intends to open a Halifax office in January with a plan to begin 3D seismic testing next summer.  

Goodwin said exploratory drilling is expected in 2015, pending the results from the seismic survey.

"We'll be bringing the best technology to this project," Goodwin said.  

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board announced Shell won the $970-million bid last January.  

The deal gives Shell the rights to drill off the Scotia Shelf in water ranging in depth from 1,400 to 3,700 metres, according to Stuart Pinks, CEO of the petroleum board.