Regulatory fears, cost fuel Laurentian pullout

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, Aug. 4 -- ConocoPhillips Canada Resources, in partnership with BHP Billiton Petroleum, withdrew as of June 9 a request to renew the St. Pierre & Miquelon (SPM) permit in French waters in the Atlantic south of Newfoundland and a June 29, 2009, request to license the 545-sq-km, 5-year Langlade exploration permit, south of the SPM acreage.

Spokesman Rob Evans told OGJ that ConocoPhillips Canada is still “analyzing the results of our recent exploration well in the Laurentian subbasin and no final decisions have been made regarding future activities in the area.”

Evans was referring to the East Wolverine hole drilled early this year on adjoining Laurentian acreage in Canadian waters on a license that recently expired. Since January, ConocoPhillips Canada has acquired two further exploratory licenses, EL 1118 and EL 1119, where, as on the French side, water depths can reach 2,000-3,000 m.

The licenses lie 380 km southwest of St. John’s. ConocoPhillips Canada obtained the SPM acreage from ExxonMobil Canada in 2005.

Thierry Basle, SPM development director, said ConocoPhillips withdrew from the French Laurentian permits because of the high cost involved in holding licenses in both jurisdictions and also out of caution over deepwater drilling regulations that might loom after the Gulf of Mexico Macondo oil spill.

The former Gulf Canada Resources Ltd. drilled the only well in French Laurentian waters in 2001. No further drilling or seismic work have occurred even though the basin is an eastern extension of the Scotian and Sable subbasins where important gas and oil volumes have been proved in fields such as Sable Island, Venture, Cohasset, and Panuke.

The Langlade permit is open to competing offers until Aug. 30, confirmed Charles Lamiraux, chief geologist in charge of exploration permits in France’s hydrocarbon administration. Bardoil Energy SAS, a small, little known SPM company, in June 2009 requested the overlapping but larger Permis d’Hermine, a 5-year, 1,312-sq-km research permit.

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