Nfld. & Labrador

Offshore assessment shows N.L. 'destined to be a global energy giant'

Results of a seismic study of 11 parcels of land up for bids show the potential for up 12 billions barrels of oil, with a market value of up to $600 billion, Premier Paul Davis said Thursday.

Seismic data shows potential for 12 billion barrels of oil in area targeted for land sale

Premier Paul Davis is bullish about Newfoundland and Labrador's future in offshore oil exploration. (CBC)

Results of a seismic study of 11 parcels of land up for bids in November show the potential for up to 12 billions barrels of oil, with a market value of up to $600 billion, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis said Thursday.

Davis revealed the findings during a lively event at the Johnson Geo Centre in St. John's.

The data also revealed the potential for 113 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Davis described the potential as "enormous" and said the results show that Newfoundland and Labrador is on its way to becoming a global energy giant.

"We will have a viable and sustainable oil and gas industry like never imagined and it will be an industry for generations to come," said Davis.

Bids will close on Nov. 12

The data was released ahead of a land sale of some 24,000 square kilometres in the Flemish Pass area. The 11 parcels are situated in an upside-down U-shape near previous discoveries, including Bay du Nord, Mizzen and Harpoon.

Bids on the land will close Nov. 12, and government leaders believe the data will catch the attention of oil companies and accelerate exploration efforts.

The association that represents companies servicing the oil and gas industry agrees.

NOIA president and CEO Bob Cadigan described the geoscience data as "groundbreaking."

He said it puts Newfoundland and Labrador on the same level as Norway.

"This makes us a big player and we believe it is real," said Cadigan.

He cautioned that the actual numbers won't be revealed until wells are drilled, but he expressed confidence in the work of Beicip-Franlab, the independent company called carried out the surveys.

"This company is a world authority," he said.

Cadigan added that offshore Newfoundland is becoming "one of the more prospective areas in the world," and he expects oil companies will begin redirecting exploration dollars to this province.

Paul Barnes, the manager for Atlantic Canada with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said it may even entice companies that are not active in the offshore to get involved.

"It's very positive news," he said.

Potential for seven Hibernia-sized developments

Davis said the area has to potential for "seven Hibernia-sized" developments, a reference to Newfoundland and Labrador's first producing oil field.

He emphasized that the data represents just two per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore, and described Thursday's announcement as historic.

"Imagine the potential of the other 98 per cent," he said.

The data was compiled by an independent, Paris-based company called Beicip-Franlab.

The company's chief technical officer, Pierre-Yves Chenet, described the oil and gas potential in the area as "significant."

Poised for greatness

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin said the offshore is "poised for greatness," despite a prolonged slump in oil prices.

The demand for oil is expected to increased greatly over the next quarter-century, he explained, and when prices stabilize, Newfoundland and Labrador will be in a position to capitalize "big time."

Less than 160 wells have been drilled in Newfoundland's offshore, and Nalcor officials say they have just scratched the surface on the potential. 

Since production began in 1997, the three producing offshore fields have pumped more than 1.5 billion barrels of oil, radically transforming Newfoundland and Labrador's economy.

The Hebron field is scheduled to begin producing in 2017, with estimated reserves of 700 million barrels, and the 2013 Bay du Nord deepwater discovery is thought to contain between 300 and 600 million barrels.

Thursday's event marked the first time that oil and gas numbers were released prior to the deadline for bids on exploration rights.

A similar strategy will take place for future rounds in 2016 and beyond, say officials, with detailed resource assessments being conducted and results released prior to bid closing.

No longer a passive participant

Davis said the decision to undertake publicly funded seismic surveys is further proof that Newfoundland and Labrador is no longer a "passive participant" in the oil and gas industry.

He said it's in keeping with a commitment to leverage every possible benefit from the industry for the province.

"There will be no more giveaways. On that there will be no debate," said Davis.

He added that the province is also finalizing work on a new royalty regime that will be internationally competitive and maximize benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador. 


Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at:


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