Nfld. & Labrador

Flemish Pass drilling project to undergo environmental assessment

The federal government has commenced an environmental assessment of the Flemish Pass exploration drilling project.

Federal assessment agency accepting written comments until Nov. 2

The West Hercules semi-submersible drill rig is shown here partially obscured in fog and rain just off Bay Bulls in June. The rig had just completed a 19-month exploration drilling program for Statoil in the Flemish Pass. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The federal government has initiated an environmental assessment for the proposed Flemish Pass exploration drilling project, which is said to be the next best hope for a producing oil field in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

The project is being led by Statoil Canada, which has invested heavily into exploration efforts in the Flemish Pass, located some 480 kilometres east of St. John's.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is inviting the public to comment on the potential environmental affects of the project, and to offer suggestions on what should be examined during the assessment.

Written comments must be submitted by Nov. 2.

Statoil is proposing to conduct a 10-year exploration drilling project within its licenced areas, beginning in 2018.

The project is necessary in order to determine the presence, nature and quantities of potential hydrocarbon resources, according to the assessment agency.

The environmental assessment may also include any exploration licences that Statoil may acquire in the upcoming 2016 call for bids process, which is administered by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, or C-NLOPB.

There are two calls for bids, with 13 parcels available in what's known as the Eastern Newfoundland region, and three parcels in the Jeanne d'Arc region.

In June, Statoil concluded a 19-month drilling program in the Bay du Nord area of the Flemish Pass. Company officials offered mixed reviews of the program, but said it planned to "continue our activity in this area" and "we still think that the Flemish Pass has a very interesting potential."

Statoil and its partners have been engaged in limited talks with the Newfoundland and Labrador government for several years on a development agreement for Bay du Nord, but efforts to establish another producing oil field in the offshore have been hampered by slumping oil prices, and the frontier nature of the Flemish Pass.