Irving cancels N.B. tidal research project

New Brunswick has lost its only tidal power research project after Irving Oil Ltd. abandoned its rights to explore a possible power plant in the Bay of Fundy, CBC News has learned.

New Brunswick has lost its only tidal power research project after Irving Oil Ltd. abandoned its rights to explore a possible power plant in the Bay of Fundy, CBC News has learned.

In May 2008, Irving was given exclusive rights to 11 sites on submerged Crown land in the Bay of Fundy, including parts of Passamaquoddy Bay, Cape Enrage and the Cape Spencer area near Saint John.

The company wanted to see if it could use tidal energy to power a proposed second oil refinery in Saint John, a project which Irving Oil has also abandoned.

Irving Oil partnered with the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews and started research, but the company has quietly walked away from the tidal power project.

Lesley MacLeod, an Irving Oil spokeswoman, declined an interview, but confirmed in an email that the work has concluded "due to policy concerns and uncertainty around the true viability of tidal technologies."

Steven Benteau, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said the government only found out last week that Irving Oil had stopped its research.

Benteau said a company official called to say they wouldn't be renewing their lease, but didn't explain why.

"Well, it's their decision," Benteau said.

"Government itself was not involved in the research project and we have no intention of carrying on by ourselves in any fashion."

Although there's no tidal project in the province, Benteau said the government did make some money on the leases but he could not say how much.

Irving Oil had committed to spending up to $600,000 to study the potential for tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, a company spokesman said when the project was launched.

Nova Scotia project in trouble

The Maritimes' other tidal power project is also facing a tough time.

Nova Scotia Power announced earlier this month that two blades on a large experimental turbine had broken off, forcing the company to pull the device out of the Bay of Fundy a year ahead of schedule.

The utility and its partner, OpenHydro, said it will retrieve the turbine between August and October — depending on the weather — to find out what went wrong.

The turbine in the Minas Passage, about 10 kilometres west of Parrsboro, N.S., began spinning last November in a test of tidal power's potential for the province.

The estimated cost of the project was $8.5 million.

Nova Scotia Power's turbine is one of three commercial projects that were also designed to examine how marine life, including fish and whales, would be affected by tidal power. The other two groups chosen to test turbines in the Bay of Fundy haven't deployed their devices yet.