Labrador’s substantial natural gas fields — estimated to hold about one-third of all gas resources on Canada’s East Coast — are beginning to draw renewed interest from oil and gas companies, as technological innovations defeat cold water climates around the world.

Kevin Roche, executive director of the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), said that Labrador’s offshore Bjarni and North Bjarni fields together are estimated to hold 3.1 Tcf of recoverable gas and 113 million bbl of natural gas liquids. Other significant discoveries also may be in the Labrador region, most likely in the Gudrid, Hopedale and Snorri fields, he said.

Walter Noel, Mines and Energy minister of Newfoundland and Labrador, said Wednesday that additional reserves of oil and gas discovered at the southern end of the White Rose oil field bode well for the White Rose oil project and for the province’s offshore in general.

On Tuesday, Husky Energy announced the results of two delineation wells known as White Rose F-04 and F-04Z. Reserves are estimated at 200-250 Bcf and 60-90 million bbl, which could increase the amount of recoverable light oil for the White Rose project by 20-30 MMboe.

“This is exciting news for our offshore industry,” said Noel. “It could lengthen the life of the White Rose project, and add to the province’s economic return. Royalty revenues are calculated both on the value of oil produced, and on project profitability. Both factors would be expected to increase due to the production of additional reserves.

“In addition, the new reserves of natural gas will enhance the potential for long-term gas development on the Grand Banks.” Noel said the find “confirms our belief that there are significant reserves of oil and gas still to be discovered off our shores.”

Newfoundland and Labrador “boasts more than 700,000 square kilometers of geological formations with hydrocarbon potential,” said Noel. “We hope these positive drilling results will serve as a catalyst for petroleum companies to engage in additional exploration, and continue to make these important discoveries.”

The five fields offshore Labrador are licensed to oil and gas companies, according to the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNOPB). But Neil DeSilva, CNOPB’s exploration manager, said exploration work along the Labrador shelf slowed in 1984, mostly because companies began to focus on recovering oil reserves on the Grand Banks.

Renewed interest in gas exploration offshore Labrador followed a promising seismic survey last year, he said. More sea bed mapping was done in September as part of ongoing work that suggests icebergs do not scour the Labrador shelf as previous studies had shown. Still, bringing the gas to market will take some doing, industry experts noted.

What intrigues Labrador enthusiasts now is the technology utilized on the Snohvit gas field offshore the cold waters of Norway, which is being developed using subsea tiebacks. The flowlines and umbilical lines in the Snohvit field pipe the gas directly to an onshore processing unit without the use of platforms.

Besides the technology issue, stakeholders also have to obtain agreements with the Inuit living in the Labrador region. The Inuit land and marine area extends from the northern tip of Labrador to Groswater Bay.

The marine area extends 19 kilometers from the headlands into the Labrador Sea, and while it does not include the five offshore gas fields, in any case, a pipeline that would bring gas onshore would run through Inuit land. Agreements to allow for gas pipelines are expected to be reached once the Inuit vote on a land claims agreement, which is tentatively scheduled for next spring.

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