Quebec is working on a plan that would allow it to develop its portion of the Old Harry formation in the Laurentian Channel, which may be one of the largest untapped natural gas and oil reservoirs in Eastern Canada's offshore.
The formation, which straddles the province's offshore border with Newfoundland, may hold 5 Tcf of gas and 2 billion bbl of oil, Quebec Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau said. If Quebec is allowed to develop its portion of the formation, the province could become the "Norway of North America," she said. Norway now ranks sixth in global natural gas production and 14th in oil.
Old Harry, named for a waterfall on Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine, is about 18 miles long (29 kilometers) in water about a quarter-mile deep (460 meters). Under an agreement in 1964 between Newfoundland and Quebec's premiers, about 70% of Old Harry lies in Quebec waters.
However, the province, unlike Newfoundland, has no federal agreement in place to develop offshore gas and oil reservoirs.
"In politics there are windows of opportunity," Normandeau said. "I have never felt that the planets have been so well aligned."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Newfoundland that the government was "very interested in negotiating with Quebec."
A development proposal could be submitted to federal officials within a few weeks, said Normandeau.
Meanwhile, Corridor Resources Inc. is continuing its plans to develop Newfoundland's portion of Old Harry. The Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board approved Corridor's permit to develop 127,948 acres with a minimum work commitment of C$1.52 million to be conducted over a five-year initial term.
Quebec is trying to stop any development by Newfoundland until Quebec has an approved offshore development plan. The province's National Assembly last week unanimously adopted a motion calling on Canadian and Newfoundland governments to halt exploration pending environmental assessments. Quebec has an environmental assessment under way, which is expected to be completed by 2012.
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