By Karen Wells
LEWISPORTE, NL — As prospects like that of the Orphan Basin hold potential to produce millions of barrels of oil, the Town of Lewisporte is examining ways it can become involved in the industry.
Councillor Perry Pond is chairperson of the town’s economic development committee and president of the Lewisporte Area Chamber of Commerce. On Monday evening he introduced Nalcor Energy executive vice-president Jim Keating to speak at a public session to provide an overview of oil and gas potential for offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, and what the future holds for the province.
Pond explained that during the previous term of council, the Town of Lewisporte developed and adopted the 2017-2021 strategic plan, which details a number of priorities to be advanced over the next four years.
“Although not identified as an immediate priority, port development in the interest of servicing the offshore was a common theme identified throughout the consultation process,” he said. “Our strategic location, available port infrastructure and potential for expansion places us in an advantageous position to avail of future offshore opportunities.
“It is our opinion, and that of many others, that we must be prepared for, not if an opportunity presents itself, but simply when it is presented.”
Keating made note of key components required for oil and gas companies to operate in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We need to be seen as a very capable industry sector,” he said. “These global suppliers, they need a foothold here, they need a base of operations, you need your local labour force, you need your trade schools and universities all being willing and able to service an industry that is quite technologically accomplished.
“You just look at the types of things we are able to put out 350 kilometres into the Atlantic Ocean and you can appreciate that.”
The offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador is massive. Keating works to impress this fact upon industry representatives throughout the world.
“The first thing I do when I promote our offshore, in Houston for example, is I try to impress on everyone the size and scale of our offshore,” he said. “We take it for granted. We’ve been watching our weather maps for years and we know how big our offshore is.
“Our offshore jurisdiction is about 1.8 million square kilometres.”
Keating explained that only seven or eight per cent of the offshore is currently under licence.
“By no means are we fully explored,” he said.
The reverse is the case for areas like the Gulf of Mexico, where only about 20 per cent of licences are available and the other 80 per cent are already in other hands.
When Keating is in Europe promoting this province’s offshore, he makes it known the jurisdiction along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is twice that of the North Sea, and three times that if you include Nova Scotia.
Having areas available for licenses and exploration is one thing. What companies need is to know is whether there is potential for it to produce oil and gas.
Data collected over the years and provided to companies shows great potential. In Cape Freels there is a 30-kilometre area with potential for eight billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Time is of the essence in developing offshore oil and gas resources, as Keating talked about the next challenge to face the industry – climate change.
“It’s real,” he said. “Newfoundland and Labrador has a window for our oil and gas industry.
“How long do we have before the world turns off oil?”
Keating said the first thing the province’s offshore has going for it is that natural gas is starting to switch out coal.
“Coal is going to go first,” he said. “If you are a coal province or state you are already feeling that pain.”
Keating said oil probably has a 40 to 60-year window.
“Some analysts will say it’s two generations — 80 years away — and some will even say it’s 20 years and we won’t be needing oil anymore,” he said. “I’m pretty much a realist and I think it’s probably the 60 to 80.
“So, there’s still time, but think about it. We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve only got three projects out of it, four as of today (Nov. 28). We don’t have a lot of time on a relative basis to get some of this value out of the ground.”
Keating encourages people to go to the Nalcor Energy Exploration website to learn more. There are maps, graphs and over 700 downloadable reports available. On the website look for NESS (Nalcor Energy Exploration Strategy System).