Lots of “ifs” on oil exploration benefits for Shelburne

Published on February 1, 2014
Shell Canada is exploring the Shelburne Basin for potential oil reserves.

By Greg Bennett

The Town of Shelburne got some expert advice last week about the future economic potential of offshore oil exploration being conducted off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia.

Jerry Bower, who retired back to his hometown after 30 years in the business of oil exploration, spent several hours with town councillors, port committee members and other people interested in the possibilities future offshore projects may offer.

Bower’s experiences have taken him from the bitter cold of the Arctic to the dry hot sands of Saudi Arabia in the quest for oil. He also supervised the construction of a marine supply base in Brunei, which is of much interest to those who believe Shelburne could someday fill that role.

Bower noted that for the exploration phases, that Shell Canada intends on using Mulgrave or sites in Halifax for its offshore supply base.

That doesn’t mean Shelburne couldn’t fit in to the company’s plans if exploration leads to oil production.

First, he says, Shell or possibly BP, will have to find a commercially viable source of oil offshore.

“There’s a lot of ‘ifs’,” said Bower.

The first phase of Shell Canada’s major oil and gas exploration program in the Shelburne basin wrapped up in September. Analyzing the vast amount of data accumulated from the seismic 3-D wide-azimuth exploration of the Shelburne basin is expected to take more than a year.

Bower, who is a member of the town’s economic and development committee, says Shelburne has the advantage of being the closest large harbour to the aptly named Shelburne Basin.

He says the area is lacking facilities though, a problem that would eventually have to be addressed if the area was to host an offshore supply base.

Shelburne CAO Dylan Heide said a message he heard from Bower’s talk was that it was important to act as a unified voice when dealing with issues surrounding potential oil development benefits.

“…that we speak with a single voice,” said Heide.

 The provincial government has estimated that more than 120 trillion cubic feet of gas and eight billion barrels of oil could be recovered, although Shell Canada doesn't yet have estimates of its own.

Bower says oil companies won’t be interested in natural gas finds, only oil, due to the low prices for gas on the world market.

“Gas finds would be a non-starter,” he said.