Shell Canada has completed 3D seismic imaging off Nova Scotia's southwestern shore, but the energy giant says it will be at least two years before exploratory oil drilling begins as part of its $970 million deepwater venture.

Randy Hiscock, manager of business development and new ventures, said the earliest drilling could take place in the Shelburne Basin is in late 2015, and that depends on the results of the seismic research, rig scheduling and getting the proper equipment in place.

Hiscock made the comments Wednesday while speaking to the Maritimes Energy Association's annual conference in Halifax.

In January, Shell announced a six-year agreement to explore four deepwater areas about 200 kilometres from the province's southwest coast. Hiscock said seismic work began in June and was completed last month, but there's no guarantee of oil until drilling takes place.

The Calgary-based company also won the rights in November to four parcels — two in the Sable Island area and two in deepwater — after submitting a $32 million bid.