The oil and gas industry in Canada has been involved in offshore exploration and development since 1964. The industry and companies involved in offshore operations take potential risks very seriously.
Drilling an Offshore Well
What does an offshore drilling rig do?
Companies must drill wells to confirm whether crude oil or natural gas is present deep within the earth. First, geoscientists interpret seismic and geological data to determine the best location to search for these resources. Then rig workers drill thousands of metres deep into the sea floor, often in severe weather and sea conditions. To handle these challenges, the industry uses large, stable, self-contained platforms to drill wells. Exploration drilling rigs used off the coast of Atlantic Canada are called Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs).
What types of wells are drilled offshore?
Oil and gas companies drill three types of wells: exploration, delineation and development. Exploration wells are drilled to confirm whether geological formations identified from seismic surveys do contain hydrocarbons. If results are promising, a company may drill delineation wells into different areas of the formation to confirm the formation’s size as well as characteristics of the hydrocarbon resources. This information helps decide whether it will be economically attractive to produce the resource. If test results are favourable, the company will proceed to the third stage, drilling a development well.
Offshore Spill Prevention
in Atlantic Canada
Prevention is the best line of defense against spills. Here are some ways the offshore oil and gas industry works to prevent spills at drilling and production facilities:
- Specialized equipment such as Blow Out Preventors (BOPs), which are heavy-duty valves attached to the wellhead to control well pressure and prevent a blowout
- Heavy-duty piping, subsurface safety valves, fire and gas detection systems and deluge systems for putting out fires
- Spill containment devices and drainage systems
- Rigorous risk assessments to ensure design and equipment integrity
- Extensive quality assurance and quality control programs to ensure equipment is fit for its intended purpose
- Emergency shut-down equipment located throughout facilities
- Third-party review and assessment of facilities to ensure highest standards
- Extensive training and competency assessment of personnel
- Operational techniques that incorporate the industry's best practices
- Comprehensive health, safety and environmental management systems
- Regular tracking of icebergs and accurate prediction of harsh weather
For more information:Spill Prevention and Response
in Atlantic Canada
(PDF | 492.8KB | Jun 2006)
Synergy: Newfoundland and Labrador Operators' Annual Spill Response Exercise
Source: From the Synergy 2009 oil spill response exercise.
Two boat tow – The boom makes the shape of a “J” to collect and
contain the oil.
While the primary focus of the oil and gas industry is on preventing spills from ever happening, the industry is also prepared to respond should an incident occur. Every year companies operating offshore Newfoundland and Labrador hold a joint on-water oil spill response exercise to deploy spill response equipment and put their emergency response systems to the test. The most recent, Synergy 2009, included the deployment of a new oil containment system known as the Norlense boom. Operators offshore Newfoundland and Labrador purchased the system jointly in 2009 as the self inflating boom is the current standard for Norwegian offshore operators' oil spill cooperative and can be deployed and recovered in less than half the time required for other open-ocean systems.
Synergy 2009 also included the deployment of two other types of oil recovery systems and tested a next generation satellite tracker buoy.
Spill Prevention and Response
Companies involved in the development of oil and natural gas offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have many measures in place to prevent spills. As a result, the chances of an oil or gas condensate (gas in liquid form) spill are extremely low.
The oil and gas industry takes seriously its responsibility to minimize the effect of its operations on the environment, and its goal is to meet and exceed government regulations. As prudent operators, companies are also ready to respond to a spill, large or small, should one occur. However, the primary focus is on prevention.
Emergency Planning and Response
Canadians want assurance that the offshore oil and gas industry is prepared for any circumstance that could put workers, the environment or property at risk. The industry and companies involved in offshore operations also take these potential risks very seriously, and not just because they are compelled to do so by government regulations.
Offshore emergencies are approached in two ways. The ideal route is to prevent incidents from happening at all. But if they do occur, industry must be ready to respond quickly and effectively.
What Do You Think?
The oil and gas industry wants to hear Canadians' thoughts and opinions about what we do. Tell us what you think
CAPP in the News
On June 4, 2010, CAPP's VP Operations David Pryce was interviewed by CBC Radio's The Current.
Pt 1: Offshore Drilling Canada - The on-going environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is casting a long shadow. Especially for those looking for off-shore drilling opportunities here in Canada.Listen to the interview
CAPP Publication: Guide
CAPP's Atlantic Canada Offshore Petroleum Industry Escape, Evacuation and Rescue Guide is the culmination of a joint effort among offshore industry operators, drilling contractors and regulatory authorities. The resulting Guide is intended to assist operators with respect to escape, evacuation and rescue (EER) by establishing the broad performance goals of escape, evacuation and rescue emergency response.Atlantic Canada Offshore Petroleum Industry Escape, Evacuation and Rescue Guide
(PDF | 216KB | Jun 2010)
Canadian Offshore Activity
As of May, 2010, there are three active rigs offshore Atlantic Canada. There are no active rigs in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Currently, there is a federal moratorium on oil and gas activities offshore British Columbia.
Natural Resources Canada lists more offshore information including legislation and regulations.NRCan Offshore Oil and Gas
Statistics, information & reports, safety and legislation and guidance for offshore Newfoundland and LabradorC-NLOPB Website
Did you know
The vast majority of wells offshore Newfoundland and Labrador are drilled at water depths less than 150 metres. Offshore
drilling generally includes wells drilled at water depths that are less than 500 metres. Deepwater
drilling is generally considered to be at water depths that are greater than 500 metres. When deepwater drilling exceeds water depths of 2,500 metres, it is sometimes called ultra deep-water
Environment & Community
Canada's oil and gas industry takes very seriously its responsibility of minimizing the effects of its operations on marine environments. Read more
Health & Safety
Remote workplaces and harsh weather conditions are some of the challenges we work to overcome in ensuring the safety of our offshore workers. Read more
Relationships & Partners
The offshore petroleum industry is committed to developing oil and gas resources with minimal impact on the marine environment and by respecting other ocean users. Read more
HUEBA Safety Device
A Helicopter Underwater Emergency Breathing Apparatus (HUEBA) is a safety device designed to provide the user with an additional capacity of breathable air while underwater so that he or she has more time to escape from a partially or totally submerged helicopter.