Nfld. & Labrador

Alberta man fears N.L. will wreck oil firm

A businessman says he has cancelled oil exploration work off Newfoundland and Labrador for fear the province will give away the information he has gathered.

An Alberta businessman says he has cancelled $10 million worth of oil exploration work in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore areas because he fears the government will give away the information he has gathered.

Paul Einarsson's company, Geophysical Service Inc., maps the ocean floor and then licenses the information to oil companies.

"The release of that to the public would completely decimate our commercial business," said Einarsson.

But he believes that's what Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale suggested the province will do when she spoke at a conference in Texas last month.

Einarsson said the government plans to make digital copies available directly to the industry in the belief that will encourage its offshore oil industry to grow.

He predicts the opposite will happen because no one will do any mapping in Newfoundland and Labrador if they can't make money doing it.

"If you completely destroy the commercial model of how this seismic information is acquired, I'm just not so sure how you plan to get more seismic and how you plan to get wells drilled," he said.

Dunderdale has dismissed Einarsson's complaint as unfounded and said the government will proceed with releasing digital copies of seabed maps in the future. She said that maps currently released in paper form are useless in the digital age.

"I would say that it's a little bit over the top in terms of the rhetoric that he's using," she said Wednesday while attending the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil & Gas Industries Association convention in St. John's.

"I understand that he's trying to protect his company and the interest of his company, but there comes a point when the greater good needs to be served and that's what this policy is all about."

Dunderdale said mapmakers will still get exclusive use of their information for up to 10 years.

Einarsson said he has tried to reason with government officials about the issue, without success.

For now, he's cancelled plans to map parts of the seabed off the coast of Labrador this summer.