Atlantic Ocean oil development in Canada, U.S.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Canadian oil company Husky Energy has announced a decision to develop its West White Rose Project offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.  Meanwhile the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed authorizing the take of marine mammals incidental to geophysical surveys in the Atlantic Ocean relating to hydrocarbon development.

Husky Energy is a Canada-based publicly traded energy company.  It is the operator of the White Rose field, discovered in 1984 about 350 kilometres east of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, in water depths of about 120 meters.  Commercial oil production from the main White Rose field began in 2005; since then, over 275 million barrels of oil has been produced.  Husky holds working interests in the main field as well as satellite fields.

The oil and gas industry is the largest contributor to Newfoundland and Labrador's gross domestic production.  Husky's May 28, 2017 announcement relates to its West White Rose development.  Husky says it and project partners Suncor Energy and Nalcor Energy – Oil and Gas will use a fixed wellhead platform, tied back to the SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel. According to Husky, the tie-back to the SeaRose FPSO vessel "will enable the Company to maximize resource recovery," with "incremental operating costs are expected to be less than $3 per barrel over the first 10 years."  Husky expects a net project cost of $2.2 billion to first oil in 2022, and a gross peak production rate of approximately 75,000 barrels per day (bbls/day) in 2025. 

Meanwhile, U.S. regulators have proposed removing one obstacle to oil and gas prospecting in the Atlantic Ocean.  The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has published notice of five proposed authorizations for harassment or take of marine mammals incidental to geophysical surveys in the Atlantic Ocean.  The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act allows the Secretary of Commerce to permit the incidental, but not intentional, harassment or taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity.  In 2014-2015, NMFS "received five separate requests for authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to geophysical surveys in support of hydrocarbon exploration in the Atlantic Ocean."  The applicants proposed "to conduct two-dimensional (2D) marine seismic surveys using airgun arrays" within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone "(i.e., to 200 nautical miles (nmi)) from Delaware to approximately Cape Canaveral, Florida and corresponding with BOEM’s Mid- and South Atlantic OCS planning areas, as well as additional waters out to 350 nmi from shore."

NMFS's proposal to issue the incidental take or harassment permits now faces public comment, before a final agency decision.

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