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Exploration ramps up in Flemish Pass Basin

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 1/10/2020 1:10:00 PM

CNOOC Petroleum North America ULC, a division of the Chinese state-owned CNOOC oil and gas giant, has been given federal environmental approval to conduct an exploration drilling project within two offshore exploration licences located in the Flemish Pass Basin, over 400 km east of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The drilling will take place over eight years, commencing in 2020, and will allow CNOOC to determine the presence, nature and quantities of potential oil and natural gas.

The environmental assessment of the project was conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson determined that it was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The approval comes with more than a hundred conditions to protect marine life, birds and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

CNOOC’s plans include drilling as many as five wells on each of the two exploration licences it holds. Work may also include vertical seismic profiling, well testing, eventual well decommissioning and abandonment or suspension activities, and associated supply and service activities delivered by already-approved third-party contractors.

CNOOC’s explorations are one of several projects in the Flemish Pass Basin that are either before the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or that have recently been approved by it or its predecessor. Other projects include:

  • Equinor Canada’s Flemish Pass Exploration Drilling Project, which involves drilling as many as 24 exploration wells (approved with conditions on April 17, 2019)
  • ExxonMobil Canada Ltd.’s Eastern Newfoundland Offshore Exploration Drilling Project, which involves drilling as many as 18 offshore wells in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin and the Flemish Pass Basin (approved with conditions April 17, 2019)
  • Chevron Canada Limited’s West Flemish Pass Exploration Drilling Project, which involves the drilling of as many as eight exploration and delineation/appraisal wells (in progress)
  • Equinor’s and Husky Oil Operations Limited’s Bay du Nord Development Project, which involves the installation and operation of a floating offshore oil and gas production facility in the Flemish Pass (in progress).


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