Montreal

Hydro-Québec pressured to disclose Anticosti drilling deal

Quebec is pressing its public utility to reveal financial details of a controversial deal that saw Hydro-Québec sell potentially lucrative hydrocarbon drilling permits on Anticosti Island to a private company.
Anticosti Island is about one and a half times the size of PEI, but is home to fewer than 250 people. ((Google Maps))
The Quebec government is pressing the province's public utility to reveal financial details of a controversial deal that saw Hydro-Québec sell potentially lucrative hydrocarbon drilling permits on Anticosti Island to a private company.

The Saint Lawrence River island is rich in hydrocarbon (oil and gas) deposits buried deep in the Macasty shale rock that runs its length.

The Mascaty shale rock that runs underneath Anticosti is rich in hydrocarbon deposits. (R. Rancourt)
In 2008 the utility sold its 35 drilling permits to Pétrolia, an oil and gas company based in Rimouski, Que., and to another business, Corridor Resources.

While the payment included future royalties, specific figures have never been made public.

Quebec Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau says she has asked the public utility to release details of the 2008 sale.

All information that can be made public will be released in the coming weeks, Normandeau said Wednesday.

Pétrolia ran tests on three Anticosti wells in summer 2010, and found vast reservoirs of hydrocarbon deposits that could yield up to 70 billion barrels of oil.

The company released a detailed drilling report on Feb. 9, causing its stock price to jump. Pétrolia shares have surged more than 45 per cent this past week.

Local leader prefers Pétrolia

Denis Duteau, the mayor of Anticosti, has welcomed any future exploration, saying it's "the best or the least worst of all solutions."

In an interview this week with the Canadian Press, Duteau said he's pleased Pétrolia is now in charge of exploratory drilling.

Duteau said he's met with Pétrolia officials on several occasions, and said he believes they are more receptive to local concerns than the public utility.

"We're under the impression that we will have our turn to talk, so that any future development doesn't affect our way of life, and that we can reap some of the profits, and not just suffer negative side-effects," he said.

Anticosti is about one and a half times the size of Prince Edward Island, but is home to fewer than 250 people, most of whom reside in the west coast village of Port-Menier.

The biggest hydrocarbon deposits are located in the northeastern region of the island.

With files from the Canadian Press

now