Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project

Overview of the Project

Application Status (last updated August 07, 2018)



Date Submitted

Approval Status

Geotechnical/Geological/Engineering/Environmental Program Authorization - Wave rider buoy deployment/recovery BP Canada Energy Group ULC 14-Mar-18

Authorization Granted
(11- Apr -18)


Operations Authorization- Drilling

BP Canada Energy Group ULC


Authorization Granted
(21 - Apr -18)

Approval to Drill a Well - Aspy D-11 BP Canada Energy Group ULC 30-Mar-18 Approval Granted
(21 - Apr -18)
Approval to Drill a Well - Aspy D-11A (sidetrack) BP Canada Energy Group ULC 02-Aug-18 Approval Granted
(3 -Aug -18)


Authorization/Approval Requirements

BP Canada required two specific authorizations to begin drilling operations: an Operations Authorization – Drilling (OA-D) and an Approval to Drill a Well (ADW).

An Operations Authorization – Drilling (OA-D) is required prior to the commencement of any exploratory drilling work or activity in the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area. A drilling program covered by an OA-D may include one or more wells.

The process to obtain an OA-D requires a significant amount of information to be submitted to the CNSOPB for review. These items must satisfy the CNSOPB that all reasonable precautions have been and will be taken by the applicant to ensure safety and environmental protection. A list of documents needed can be found here and detailed descriptions of these documents can be found in Section 6 of the CNSOPB’s Drilling and Production Guidelines.

For the purposes of BP Canada’s drilling program, the CNSOPB required a Certificate of Fitness to be issued for the Seadrill West Aquarius to certify that the drill rig was fit for its intended purpose, that it was in compliance with the regulations and that it could be operated safely without polluting the environment. The CNSOPB’s Chief Safety Officer approved a scope of work needed to receive this. This certificate was granted by DNV GL.

An Approval to Drill a Well (ADW) is required for each well that is to be drilled as part of a drilling program included within an OA-D. The application for an ADW for the drilling of the first well of a drilling program is reviewed in conjunction with the operator’s application for an OA-D. In cases where the drilling program comprises more than one well, an operator is required to submit separate ADW applications for each additional well. 

BP Canada’s proposed drilling project triggered the need for an environmental assessment (EA) pursuant to federal legislation (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012). The EA was conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The EA process, which necessarily needed to be completed before an authorization could be granted by the CNSOPB for the drilling of a well, concluded with the issuance of a Decision Statement by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada on February 1, 2018. The EA considers the drilling of up to seven exploration wells in total. Information pertaining to the EA may be found here.

BP Canada is proposing to drill one well (Aspy D-11). Each proposed well requires its own ADW. While an operator may have obtained an OA-D, they may not begin to drill until the ADW has been obtained as well. ADWs require submission of a substantial amount of information which is reviewed in-depth by the CNSOPB’s Operations/Health, Safety and Environment team as well as our Resources team (geologist and geoscientists). A detailed list of the necessary considerations for the ADW can be found in section 11 of the Drilling and Production Guidelines.

Geotechnical/Geological/Engineering/Environmental Program Authorization - Wave rider buoy deployment/recovery – this authorization allows BP Canada to install monitoring devices in the vicinity of the drilling location. The wave rider buoy monitoring device measures various oceanographic parameters, including, but not limited to, waves and currents. The hydrophone monitoring devices (3) will monitor noise levels adjacent to the drilling location as well as adjacent to the critical habitat for Northern Bottlenose Whales, located in the Gully Marine Protected Area. The purpose of this monitoring is to validate noise modelling and environmental effects predictions from the Environmental Impact Statement

The Drilling Project

BP Canada Energy Group ULC (BP Canada) has been granted an Operations Authorization – Drilling (OA-D) for a deep-water drilling program approximately 330km from Halifax. The program involves drilling one exploratory well, Aspy D-11, which is located within the consolidated BP Canada exploration licence area shown on this map . BP Canada has also been granted an Approval to Drill a Well (ADW). The Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project is estimated to take approximately 105 days to complete.

BP Canada has contracted the Seadrill West Aquarius, a semi-submersible offshore drilling unit that is suited to the North Atlantic environment and deep-water depths. BP Canada will also have one dedicated Stand-by Vessel, two Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs), with one of the PSVs acting as a back-up Stand-by Vessel, as well as dedicated Sikorsky S-92 helicopters based at the Project’s Heliport at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. An onshore supply base, including a supply yard, laydown area, and a quay-side mud plant, are located in Halifax Harbour.

CNSOPB Review Process and Staff Expertise

Information submitted to the CNSOPB is reviewed by highly-qualified technical experts. There is no set timeline for this process, as reviews take as long as required to ensure regulatory compliance. After we’ve reviewed all policies, plans and procedures submitted as part of the authorization application, then Ready-For-Operations Audits of the operator and their key contractors (drilling, vessel and aviation services) are conducted.

The CNSOPB has on staff a multi-disciplinary team consisting of engineers, technicians, geologists, geophysicists, and environmental scientists. Our in-house experts lead on-the-ground inspections and audits of facilities, equipment and arrangements to verify readiness for operations and regulatory compliance. The ultimate goal of these audits is to confirm that the equipment is fit for purpose, the procedures are appropriate and personnel have the necessary training and competency. This an important final step to be completed by our team before an authorization may be granted.

More information on activity authorizations the expertise of our team can be found here or in our Featured Article section of our website.