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NEWS: More Arctic exploration licenses to be issued

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Ottawa is set to issue new exploration licences for the Beaufort Sea in an auction that closes next week.”

“Oil companies are eager to begin drilling existing prospects in the deep water of the Beaufort Sea as early as 2014. As well, the Department of Indian and Northern Development, which manages Arctic development, has called for bids on new exploration acreage that includes deep-water locations hundreds of kilometres offshore. Results of that auction should be announced later this month.”

In 2008, BP acquired three licenses for exploration rights in a 6,000 square kilometre area about 180 kilometres off the coast of the Northwest Territories in the Beaufort Sea, as have Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Canada.


“Some environmentalists and politicians in both Canada and the United States argue that oil companies that are drilling in deep water should be required to start a backup well so that it doesn’t take three months to finish a relief well in the event of a blowout. …Companies will have to persuade the National Energy Board that they could complete a relief well in the same season as they begin their initial drilling, a policy that aims to ensure a blowout doesn’t result in crude gushing for months under the sea ice.”

“Prior to the BP blowout (in the Gulf of Mexico), the (National Energy Board) was preparing to review (the policy of the same-season relief well) as companies argued it was virtually impossible to achieve, given the shortness of the drilling season in the North. Imperial Oil Ltd., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and BP itself all argued for a relaxation of the same-season relief-well rule. Now, the board is reviewing its entire approach to offshore drilling. But chairman Gaetan Caron has indicated the relief well remains a fundamental part of ensuring companies can respond to blowouts which – while unlikely to occur – could be even more catastrophic in the Arctic than in the Gulf of Mexico.”


On March 25, the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the REDOIL Network issued an open letter to the foreign ministers of Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and Russia just prior to their Arctic Summit in Chelsea, Quebec.That letter urged them to pursue a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region.

We will continue to campaign vigorously on this and intend to be at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting when these issues are discussed in Nuuk, Greenland on May 12, 2011.


For our five reasons to support a moratorium in the Arctic, plus additional information and how to take action, please go to http://canadians.org/arctic.

For campaign blogs related to Arctic drilling, please go to http://www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22arctic%22.

The Globe and Mail report is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/relief-well-rules-under-review-at-neb/article1628064/.