Operating in Marine Environments

Atlantic Canada's offshore oil and natural gas industry is committed to developing resources responsibly and strives at all times to mitigate potential impacts on the environment.

Most Atlantic Canada operations are located offshore. Offshore operators are responsible for safeguarding marine life and ecosystems at every stage of development from exploration to production, while ensuring they are prepared to respond effectively in the event of an environmental incident.

Canada's oil and natural gas industry uses a variety of measures to protect the offshore environments in which we operate. When operators plan offshore projects, potential risks to people and the environment are identified and analyzed. Procedures are established to reduce or eliminate hazards, train workers to recognize and respond to potential emergencies, and monitor and repair equipment to prevent potential incidents.

Operators are also prepared to respond effectively in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Spill prevention

Offshore operators meet or exceed all Canadian environmental protection regulations and adhere to global best practices related to spill prevention and response. Drilling rigs and production platforms are equipped to reduce the chance of a spill using technology such as blowout preventers, emergency shut-down equipment and specially designed off-loading systems. Comprehensive health, safety and environmental management systems are used and third-party reviews and assessments of facilities are conducted to ensure that facilities are operating to the highest standards.

Spill response

Operators have oil spill response plans in place that outline how they would respond in the event of a spill. These plans include risk identification and assessment of potential spill scenarios, detailed response and contingency plans, operational preparations and procedures and contracts with spill response organizations.

International best practice is tiered spill response structure providing operators with access to local, national and international resources as required by the situation:

  • Tier 1 (offshore): Operator owned equipment and resources on the installation or support vessel
  • Tier 2 (local): Equipment and resources maintained on shore that can be quickly mobilized to support spill response efforts
  • Tier 3 (international): Equipment and resources that can be accessed nationally or internationally through agreements with oil spill response organizations

Operators regularly assess their response capability and assess new research and technologies related to spill prevention and response as it becomes available. Operators also regularly hold emergency response drills and spill response exercises to practice response procedures during both tabletop and on-water spill response exercises.

Environmental effects monitoring

Offshore operators prepare Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) plans to identify and quantify any environmental effects related to their operations. These plans are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of actions to reduce effects, provide an early warning of undesirable changes in the environment, and assist in identifying research and development needs.

EEM programs are generally comprised of the sampling of marine sediments and one or more fishery species, both near the installations and at more distant control sites. The plans are developed according to guidelines outlined in the Environmental Effects Monitoring Coordination Framework developed by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NSOPB), the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada.

EEM is an adaptive process that builds on lessons learned from previous years of monitoring, including monitoring from other offshore projects. Every year, EEM results are submitted to regulators via annual reports which are posted to the C-NLOPB and C-NSOPB websites. The reports include a proposed new EEM plan for the upcoming year.

To date, EEM programs submitted by offshore operators in Atlantic Canada show no adverse impacts.

Seismic surveys

Atlantic Canada's offshore oil and natural gas industry follows rigorous environmental standards set by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. These regulators approve seismic survey work and establish environmental protection conditions for every survey conducted to ensure that offshore seismic surveys are conducted safely, with minimal impact on the marine environment through careful planning and oversight.

As part of the required environmental assessment and protection planning for oil and natural gas activity, companies identify the types of wildlife that may be present in an area where production activity will take place. Companies then identify and implement mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate any potential environmental impacts.

Operators also adhere to the science-based Statement of Canadian Practice with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment which outlines requirements that must be met during the planning and conduct of marine seismic surveys in order to minimize impacts ocean life.