Limited government aid for Canada’s offshore oil industry has left the 75,000 b/d West White Rose oil project on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in mothballs, under review and liable to be canceled.
Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan only took a first step by committing C$320 million ($240 million) earned by the federal government’s 8.5% ownership of the Hibernia oil platform, said West White Rose sponsor Husky Energy.
O’Regan’s pledge, made Friday in St. John’s, did not declare West White Rose to be the prime target for the offshore oil industry aid fund and left uses for the funds open to negotiation with the Newfoundland government.
“This agreement will allow the province to support workers through activities such as safety improvements, maintenance and upgrades of existing facilities, and research and development,” said a Canadian federal finance department.
The federal cabinet ministers described O’Regan’s commitment as an east coast version of a C$2.47 billion ($1.8 billion) western oil and gas industry aid package, which is dedicated to cleaning up discarded wells and cutting methane emissions.
The offshore aid pledge responded to a call for help earlier in September for the C$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) West White Rose by Husky and Newfoundland political, business and labor leaders.
The call accompanied a company statement that the project was under review and in jeopardy. Work has been suspended on West White Rose since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Canada in March, when construction was 60% complete by Newfoundland contractors and Omaha-based Kiewit Corp.
Along with Husky, project supporters seeking federal help include Unifor, Canada’s biggest union, and the Canadian Labor Congress, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, St. John’s Board of Trade, Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, and the Trades NL coalition of 16 Newfoundland construction unions.
The C$320 million ($240 million) offshore oil aid pledge equals one year of average pre-pandemic earnings by the federal government’s Hibernia ownership share, the finance department reported.
Supporters of West White Rose described the commitment as vague and said its results remain to be seen in further explanations by the cabinet ministers and negotiations between the federal and Newfoundland governments.
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