Quebec formalizes St. Lawrence moratorium

Alan Petzet
OGJ Chief Editor-Exploration

HOUSTON, Oct. 1 -- Quebec has formalized a moratorium on oil or gas exploration in the St. Lawrence River estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The 2-year ban covers a vast area, from the Saguenay-St. Lawrence River confluence north of Quebec City to the Strait of Belle Isle at the Quebec-Labrador boundary and south beyond the Madeleine Islands.

Quebec’s ministry of natural resources and wildlife said no offshore permits would be issued until at least the end of 2012, when environmental studies of the estuary and gulf are to be completed. It said the ban is needed to protect fish and wildlife.

Little offshore drilling has occurred in the area subject to the moratorium. One oil and gas operator said the province hasn’t issued permits for seismic or drilling in recent years and may have formalized that stance for political reasons.

Several wells have been drilled on Anticosti Island, including in 2010. And a Montreal newspaper reported that permits have been issued for Ile d’Orleans, Ile Verte, and Ile aux Coudres.

Corridor Resources Inc., Halifax, NS, had proposed to run a 60-hr seabed geohazard survey this fall over the Old Harry prospect in a 5-sq-km area in the Laurentian Channel in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador waters. It awaits permits from Newfoundland.

About 55% of the prospect is off Quebec, but Corridor proposes to drill a well on the Newfoundland side. Its leases total 123,555 acres in both jurisdictions. Corridor has shot several seismic surveys over and near the structure.

Old Harry, on the northern margin of the Carboniferous Magdalen basin, is on trend with porous, permeable, oil-stained Westphalian “B” sands tested (water bearing) by the Texaco Brion Island well drilled in 1970. Located in 1,400 ft of water, the prospective sands lie at a relatively shallow drilling depth of 4,000-6,000 ft (OGJ, Sept. 28, 1998, p. 107).

Old Harry, one of the largest undrilled structures in eastern Canada, could hold at least 1.5 billion bbl of oil or 4-5 tcf of gas recoverable, Corridor indicated.

Quebec has no substantial commercial oil or gas production. The moratorium doesn’t cover onshore drilling, such as an emerging play for gas in Ordovician Utica shale in the St. Lawrence Lowlands roughly between Montreal and Quebec City. Several million acres of land licenses are in force in the province.

Contact Alan Petzet at alanp@ogjonline.com.

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