Canada releases rules for offshore oil, gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean

Source: National Energy Board

The National Energy Board (NEB or the Board) has released filing requirements for future applications to drill in the Canadian Arctic Offshore

The Filing Requirements, a companion document to The Past is Always Present, Review of Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic, Preparing for the Future, follows several months of extensive consultation carried out across the North during the NEB’s Arctic Review. During the Arctic Review, many Northern residents stated that if drilling is to be authorized in the unique Arctic environment, it must be done right. 

The report’s key findings include: 

• The root cause of most offshore accidents is the lack of a broadly shared safety culture. In other words, people don’t do what they are supposed to do. 

• The NEB has the necessary tools to protect the safety of workers, the public and the unique Arctic environment. 

• Northern residents want their voices to be heard in future decisions about offshore drilling, and they want to be involved in preparing for future drilling projects, in particular in training for emergencies. 

• The NEB has re-affirmed its Same Season Relief Well Policy. Any company wishing to depart from it in a future application for a well would have to demonstrate to us how they would meet or exceed the intended outcome of the policy, which is to kill an out-of-control well in the same season in order to minimise harmful impacts on the environment. 

• During the Arctic Review, industry representatives acknowledged Northern residents’ concerns and committed to engaging communities in more meaningful ways, as early as possible in their planning processes. They also spoke of developing and offering appropriate training opportunities to Northerners to help prepare them for employment and business opportunities. 

“Filing requirements set out the technical information we will need to see in future applications for offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic,” said NEB Chair and CEO Gaétan Caron. 

“These new requirements provide clarity to future applicants and to those who will provide input into the Board’s decision to approve or deny an application for a well in the Arctic.” 

The NEB, the federal body responsible for regulating offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic, announced on May 11, 2010 that it would review Arctic safety and environmental offshore drilling requirements following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Through the Arctic Review, the Board examined the best available information on the hazards, risks and safety measures associated with offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic. 

To gather information, the Board held more than 40 meetings in 11 communities across all three Northern territories. The Board also released two sets of questions for participants asking for information about the 11 topics in the scope of the Arctic Review. The review wrapped up with a week-long roundtable meeting in Inuvik, Northwest Territories so participants could engage in face-to-face dialogue, ask questions and share their views. Nearly 200 people attended the Arctic Review Roundtable Meeting in September 2011. 

The Board also considered the recommendations of the U.S. Government’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and other reports like it to incorporate lessons learned.
Currently, there is no offshore drilling in Canada’s Arctic and there are no applications for drilling before the Board. While a number of companies hold Explorations Licenses in the Beaufort Sea, they would need to respond to the newly released filing requirements in their applications. 

The NEB is an independent federal regulator of several parts of Canada's energy industry. Its purpose is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest.



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