Canada approves controversial Bay du Nord offshore oil and gas project

Canada’s Minister of the Environment Steven Guilbeault has approved Equinor’s Bay du Nord oil project offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, despite significant pushback from environmental and citizens’ groups across Canada and around the world. The project calls for drilling to be done at the Flemish Pass, about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s, in waters about a kilometer deep.

Guilbeault said in a statement that his evaluation indicates the project will not cause “significant adverse environmental effects” – in line with the general conclusions of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada – given the 137 conditions outlined in the decision statement with which Equinor must comply.

Equinor expects the project to produce about 300m barrels of oil. It plans to deploy an FPSO, capable of producing up to 200,000 barrels daily. Drilling could begin in 2028.

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Furey, lobbied hard for the approval. He sees the Bay du Nord project as part of his province’s transition to renewable energy. “We know that this is a time of transition,” he said. “We know we have a valuable non-renewable resource, but we equally need to transition to a renewable one.” (In fact, the provincial government announced this week an increased focus on renewable energy development.)

World Wildlife Fund Canada is among the environmental organisations to express dismay at the decision. It said that the project drilling site is “positioned in an ecologically sensitive and biologically significant area” and drilling “will have devastating impacts on both nature and climate.

WWF-Canada said a “major spill could release millions of litres of oil into the North Atlantic, likely decimating marine ecosystems and wildlife and ruining existing and future fishery potential.” Further, “an effective cleanup would be virtually impossible in this remote region known for extreme weather conditions.”

Guilbeault’s decision was announced just days after a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that indicates, said WWF-Canada, “we are almost out of time to limit global warming to 1.5oC and that new investments in fossil fuel development and infrastructure are undermining emission reduction efforts.”

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.
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