Four things you should know about oil and gas authorizations in Canada-Nova Scotia’s offshore

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board ensures that all oil and gas activity carried out in our offshore area is done safely and responsibly. It’s not a task we take lightly. And when it comes to the authorization of any proposed offshore activity, we go to great lengths to ensure operators meet strict requirements before any work may begin.

Here are the four key things you need to know about how we authorize the work that an offshore operator may propose to carry out.

  1. Oil and gas operators need authorization to work offshore

Every oil and gas operator that wants to carry out any work offshore must submit an application to us, and an authorization must be granted before this work can begin. If they don’t have an authorization but still proceed, it’s illegal and it would be a prosecutable offence.

  1. There is a lot of information we need before we grant an authorization

As part of the application for authorization process, we need detailed information and it must be acceptable to us. Here are some of the highlights of what’s required:

- For the drilling of an exploratory well or for a production project, a Canadian Environmental Assessment (CEA) Agency led Environmental Assessment (EA) demonstrating that the proposed activity is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The CEA Agency EA is reviewed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, who issues a Decision Statement indicating whether the project can proceed, and under what conditions. This process must be completed before an application for authorization for offshore drilling or production may be approved by our team.

- Plans and procedures developed by the operator demonstrating that they’re able to perform all activity in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, such as:

  • A detailed Environmental Protection Plan outlining the procedures, practices, resources and monitoring necessary to manage the hazards identified in an EA, and to comply with the conditions outlined in the Minister’s Decision Statement, as applicable.
  • A comprehensive safety plan demonstrating that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure the safety of personnel and offshore installations, vessels, and support craft.
  • Detailed emergency response, spill response, and other contingency plans and procedures.
  • Documentation outlining that the operator has the necessary financial resources in place to undertake the proposed activity and to respond to any incidents that may occur, including responding to and cleaning up a spill.
  • Bridging documents that demonstrate how the operator’s safety and environmental protection management systems will integrate with those of their major contractors.
  • We have an extensive process for reviewing information before granting these authorizations

Our staff conducts a thorough review of the information submitted for compliance with legislation and regulations. In doing so, we ensure that global industry standards used in similar operating environments, along with lessons learned from past incidents, have been appropriately considered. In implementing the regulatory framework, our team of experts relies on best available science, and calls upon other government departments with relevant and extensive expertise to assist in the review of operator submissions, when appropriate.

Ready-for-Operations Audits and pre-authorization inspections are part of this comprehensive review process. Our in-house experts have extensive experience in health and safety, environmental protection, drilling operations, emergency response, geoscience, engineering, industrial benefits, and financial assurance. They lead on-the-ground inspections and audits of facilities, equipment and arrangements of both the operator and their key contractors to verify regulatory compliance and to evaluate readiness for operations.

Along with our reviews of the operator documentation that is submitted, the ultimate goal of these audits and inspections is to confirm that the equipment is fit for purpose, the appropriate operating plans and procedures are in place and functioning, and that personnel have the necessary training and competencies. Before an authorization of any kind may be granted, our team must be satisfied with the information provided and findings gathered.

  1. After an authorization is granted, our monitoring program begins

Once we grant an authorization, our job certainly isn’t done. Throughout the duration of an authorized activity, our team monitors and evaluates operator compliance with regulatory requirements, including the operator’s commitments as outlined in their application.

Operators are required to submit reports (daily, monthly, quarterly, and annually) detailing the status of their offshore activities, along with other documentation demonstrating ongoing compliance with regulatory requirements. These reports are reviewed in detail by our team.

Our in-house experts also proactively and frequently meet with operators, including on a weekly basis to discuss the technical aspects of drilling programs, as well as on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to discuss the status of operations. Issue-specific meetings are initiated by our team, when the need arises. Our Occupational Health and Safety Officers, Operational Safety Officers, and Conservation Officers also regularly visit offshore worksites to perform audits and inspections.

Operators that do not comply with regulatory requirements may face compliance and enforcement action. This can include facilitated compliance, orders or directives being issued, cancellation or suspension of authorizations, monetary penalties, and/or even legal prosecution.

Our always-ready, highly knowledgeable and experienced team of experts place the well-being of personnel and protection of the environment above all else, helping to keep Canada-Nova Scotia’s offshore area safe, secure and accountable.