Nova Scotia

Shell awaiting green light to begin Nova Scotia offshore drilling

Four ships are standing by in Halifax Harbour, waiting for Shell Canada Ltd. to get the green light to hunt for oil in the deep waters of Nova Scotia.

Shell says 90 per cent of the supply vessel staff will come from Nova Scotia

A small boat crosses in front of an oil drilling rig as it arrives in Port Angeles, Wash., on April 17 aboard a transport ship after travelling across the Pacific. (Daniella Beccaria/seattlepi.com/AP)

Four ships are standing by in Halifax Harbour, waiting for Shell Canada Ltd. to get the green light to hunt for oil in the deep waters of Nova Scotia.

The company expects to begin drilling two exploration wells in the Shelburne Basin within the next few months, pending approval from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

"What we are waiting on at this point is the very important regulatory approvals and the availability of the ship conducting the drilling activity," said Shell spokesperson Cameron Yost.

Two ships chartered by Irving Atlantic Towing, the Breau and the Jones Tide, will soon transport food and fuel to the Shell offshore site. A larger boat will supply pipe and drill mud stored in new tanks built on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. 

Nova Scotia jobs

The drilling will be done from a platform aboard a harsh-weather drill ship leased by Stena, a Norwegian company.

"About half of the crew on the Stena IceMAX will be Canadian and half of that number will be from Nova Scotia," Yost said. "Ninety per cent of the folks that will be staffing the supply vessels come from Nova Scotia."

The Stena IceMAX is still working in the Gulf of Mexico and can carry up to 180 crew. Yost says the ship will take about ten days to move to offshore Nova Scotia.

Despite the drop in oil prices, Shell is committed to drilling at least two exploration wells as part of a multi-year billion-dollar program.

First, it needs a decision from the offshore board on its drill plan — and whether the plan must include well-capping equipment able to arrive within 24 hours or 21 days in the event of an accidental blowout.

Critics of the 21-day plan say that amount of time is the equivalent of 40 tide cycles and lacks any mitigation plan other than adding a chemical dispersant, which will be toxic to marine life. A group of local environmentalists plan to hold a rally at Shelburne Harbour on Oct. 3rd to protest the plan.

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