News / Canada

Shell abandons deepwater well off Nova Scotia, moves on to new site

Exploration of the Cheshire well on the Scotian Shelf didn't find enough oil for commercial production.

Shell has moved on from exploration at the Cheshire well off Nova Scotia, but other potential sites for oil are being investigated.

Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Shell has moved on from exploration at the Cheshire well off Nova Scotia, but other potential sites for oil are being investigated.

HALIFAX — Shell has abandoned the first of its deepwater exploration wells off Nova Scotia, saying it didn't find enough oil for commercial production.

Work on the Cheshire well, about 250 kilometres off Halifax on the Scotian Shelf, was completed last week, the company says.

Shell says it is now turning to a second exploration well about 120 kilometres away.

"It is important to keep in mind that the Shelburne Basin is an unexplored deepwater basin so the resource potential is uncertain," said Cameron Yost, a spokesman for the firm, in an email.

"That's why we're conducting an exploration program: to evaluate the potential of hydrocarbons within the exploration licences and, if hydrocarbons are found, determine whether the volumes are substantial enough to warrant a commercial development."

He said the results are based on the firm's analysis of the subsurface geology at the location of the well, but he wouldn't comment on whether there had been any signs of oil or gas.

Yost said those results remain "confidential for a period of time."

Grant Wach, a petroleum geologist at Dalhousie University, said it's too early to be discouraged by the abandoning of one well in the early stages of exploring the deep waters off the Scotian shelf.

"It probably took 30 wells to find the (Newfoundland) Grand Banks discovery. One well in a completely unexplored basin, that's why you're drilling. You don't know what's there," said the expert in reservoir characterization.

However, he said if the second well isn't commercially viable that will cause some petroleum geologists to "scratch their heads" and possibly reassess exploration plans.

"People really believe there's something here," he said, adding that Norwegian company Statoil acquired exploration licences about 200 kilometres off Nova Scotia late last year.

The company says the second exploration well, Monterey Jack, is southwest of the Cheshire location. A contracted vessel will open the exploration well by the end of September. 

The Cheshire well was the location where the ship contracted to drill the well dropped two kilometres of pipe and other drilling gear onto the ocean floor on March 5.

The incident occurred after the ship unlatched the drilling gear from the wellhead due to heaving seas, and was moving away from the site.

There were no injuries or spills, but a report has noted the accident was costly and caused delays in the drilling effort.

Shell said it hasn't yet decided what action to take about the pipe lying on the ocean floor at the site.