News

S.L. Ross to provide the Environmental Impact Review Board with oil spill response information session

Summary:

The Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) plans to engage an independent expert service provider, S.L. Ross (http://www.slross.com/), a company recognized as a world expert in oil spill response that provides advice to industry, government departments, and regulatory agencies, to deliver an oil spill response information session for the EIRB. The EIRB is of the view that the use of S.L Ross, as a service provider to deliver this session, does not raise any apprehension of bias, but wishes to give interested parties an opportunity to comment if they have any concerns. The comment period will close at 12 noon MDT on Thursday, 6 August 2015.

Background:

Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited (the Developer), on behalf of itself and its joint venture partners[1], is proposing to drill one or more wells within Exploration Licence (EL) 476 or 477 located in the Beaufort Sea in the offshore of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR). These ELs are in water depths that range from 60 m to 1500 m, and lie about 175 km north-northwest of Tuktoyaktuk. The Developer planned to drill these proposed well(s) in water depths of 80 to 850 m during the open water season starting in 2020 but has recently informed the EIRB that there will be a delay in the regulatory filing pending a decision on the tenure of its ELs. (see registry reference [09/13 01] 0135)

The Developer submitted a Project Description for the Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture Drilling Program to the Environmental Impact Screening Committee (EISC) in September 2013. The EISC determined that the proposed development could have significant negative environmental impacts and referred the development to the EIRB for a public review under subsection 11(20) of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA). The IFA requires the EIRB to expeditiously review this proposed development and, on the basis of the evidence and information submitted to it, recommend whether or not the development should proceed and, if it should, on what terms and conditions, including mitigation and remedial measures. The EIRB may also recommend that the development should be subject to further assessment and review. The EIRB commenced the review in December 2013.

As a result of the technical complexity of the proposed Development, the EIRB has implemented a program for Board development pertaining to topics that are critical to the evaluation of the proposed Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture Drilling Program. This program is to strengthen the EIRB’s understanding of the lessons learned from the BP Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico of 2010 and the issues, challenges, associated with exploration drilling in the Canadian Arctic offshore.

One element of this program is to become familiar with issues associated with oil spill response in the Canadian Arctic offshore. To this end, the EIRB plans to engage an independent expert service provider, S.L. Ross (http://www.slross.com/ ), a company recognized as a world expert in this matter that provides advice to industry – including the Developer, government departments, and regulatory agencies. S.L. Ross has investigated every aspect of oil spill countermeasures in the laboratory and in the field. The company’s three particular areas of expertise are in situ burning, dispersant use, and countermeasures for Arctic applications. The company also has considerable experience in equipment for shoreline cleanup and disposal, sorbent testing and evaluation, and has conducted numerous studies on the behavior of oil spills.

The information session, taking place in the fall of 2015, will include oil spill behavior, oil spill counter measures, and Net Environmental Benefits Analysis (a methodology used in evaluating and comparing various counter measures for effectiveness and effect on the environment). The session will be generic, and would not be specific to the Developer’s proposed Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture Drilling Program.

The EIRB is of the view that the S.L Ross (http://www.slross.com/ ) commission to deliver this development session does not raise any apprehension of bias, but wishes to give interested parties an opportunity to comment if they have any concerns. The comment period will close at 12 noon MDT, Thursday, 6 August 2015. Those wishing to provide comments regarding the use of this service provider may do so by corresponding in writing with Richard Binder, EIRB Coordinator at eirb@jointsec.nt.ca prior to the close of the comment period.

If there are no concerns expressed the Board will proceed. If the EIRB receives expressions of concern it will correspond with parties to set out a process for ruling on these concerns

[1] Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture consists of Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited (25%), ExxonMobil Canada Limited (25%), and BP Exploration Operating Company Limited (50%).

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EIRB to meet with US Regulators

The Environmental Impact Review Board will meet with United States Regulatory Agencies in Anchorage, Alaska on June 3 and 4, 2015. The principal objective of this meeting is to initiate, establish, and sustain an effective approach and process with United States offshore oil and gas regulatory agencies with the intent of exchanging information on each party’s thinking, experiences, and approaches for safe drilling operations while protecting the environment and responding effectively when things go wrong. This would include the lessons learned for offshore activities in the recent past, regulatory processes and tools as well as proposed changes, and other associated issues as they relate to offshore exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

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Revised Rules of Procedure released

The Environmental Impact Review Board has revised its Rules of Procedure. The Rules of Procedures are intended to meet the objectives of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement by establishing a procedural framework that ensures that Environmental Impact Reviews meet the requirements of procedural fairness.

The document can be found on the ‘Guidance Documents’ page on the Review Board’s website.

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The EIRB Website has a new look and feel!

On April 1st, the EIRB launched the re-designed version of its website at www.eirb.ca.  Along with a more contemporary design, changes have been made site-wide to provide visitors with a more user-friendly experience that will help them find the information they need faster.

In addition to its cleaner and more attractive design, the site offers a more engaging user experience with enhanced navigation and multi-platform compatibility.

Furthermore, the site showcases a quick and easy access to essential information and documents and a robust and improved e-registry cataloging files pertaining to environmental reviews done by the Board.

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Career Fair in Inuvik

On March 12, 2015, staff of the Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) participated in a career fair in Inuvik. The event was hosted by the East Three Secondary School and welcomed students from across the Northwest Territories.

The event also featured the regional Skills Canada Competition, where youth competed in Small Engine Repair, Cosmetology and Sewing.

Dozens of exhibitors were at the fair to present information to the students about various careers and jobs. Government, commercial retailers, trades industry representatives and others were on hand to speak with youth about continuing education.

During the daylong event, staff members explained the type of work they do on a daily basis. They also spoke about the roles and responsibilities of the EIRB. Staff highlighted the required qualities, skills and education needed to fulfill board and staff members roles in a co-management setting that focuses on environmental impact reviews.

By the end of the day, there had been over twenty students who had interacted with the EIRB staff at the booth. Students were given a handout sheet with background information on the board members and the current review of the Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture Drilling Program.

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EIRB Education Program

Preparing for exploration drilling for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea

 

The Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) is gaining a solid understanding of various facets of drilling operations in the Arctic offshore that will enable Members to meet the requirements of the EIRB’s responsibilities as defined in section 13 of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.

In December 2013, the Inuvialuit Environmental Impact Screening Committee (EISC) referred a project description to the Inuvialuit Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) for drilling of exploration well(s) in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. In the project description Imperial Oil Recourses Ventures Limited (Imperial), on behalf of itself and its joint venture partners, proposes to drill one or more oil and gas exploration well in exploration licences 476 and 477 located about 175 km North – Northwest of Tuktoyaktuk in water depths ranging from 60 to 1500 m starting in the open water season of 2020. This referral for an offshore well is the first one since 1989 when Imperial, and its partners, drilled the Isserk I-15 well in the shallow waters (about 11 m) of the southern Beaufort Sea. It is also the first application for drilling an offshore well in the Canadian Arctic offshore since the catastrophic disaster at BP Macondo in April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, sank with the loss of 11 lives, and resulted in about 5 million barrels (or about 780,00 m3of oil) being released by an out of control well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Soon after the EISC referral of the proposed project to the EIRB, and in preparation for the review of Imperial’s Environmental Impact Statement, expected in late 2015, the EIRB initiated an education program with focus on Arctic offshore drilling operations. The education program’s goal is to assist Members to meet the requirements of the EIRB’s responsibilities as defined in section 13 of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. The education program is designed to be general in nature – not focused on a particular application, and broadly scoped so that Members and staff were aware of important aspects of exploratory drilling in deep waters (estimated to be in the 80 to 850 m water depths) in conditions unique to the Canadian Arctic offshore.

The education program’s objectives are to provide Members and staff with a solid understanding of various facets of drilling operation in the Arctic Offshore. The program elements include, but are not limited to, increasing knowledge and awareness of: drilling terminology, practices, and equipment; regulatory context and framework; oil spill preparedness and countermeasures; and information sources.

In the area of drilling terminology, practices, and equipment, EIRB Members and staff have taken an overview course on oil and gas operations (e.g., components of an offshore drilling system, how a well is designed, how a well is constructed, how integrity of a well is monitored, and what can be done in uncontrolled situations) with a focus on how such activities were conducted in the past in the Canadian Beaufort Sea; overview of the BP Macondo disaster and some key lessons learned from that event from internationally recognized expert who was the Chair of a commission looking at the root-cause of this disaster; observe components of a Blowout Preventer and how they work; and to see oil and gas companies’ real-time Operations centres where offshore wells are monitored by experts from shore based locations.

In the area of regulatory context and framework, Members and staff have had opportunities to understand and explore the role of the oil and gas regulator’s (the National Energy Board – NEB) legislation (Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act – COGOA) and regulations (Canada Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations); NEB’s Arctic Offshore Drilling Review and its findings; and financial liability and responsibility requirements both under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement as well as under the COGOA and the recently passed Energy Safety and Security Act. Further EIRB Members and staff have had presentations and discussions with experts on administrative law, responsibilities of regulatory tribunals, and overview of public hearing.

On the subject of oil spill preparedness and countermeasures, Members and staff have participated in international conferences (Arctic oil Spill Conference 2014, International Oil Spill Conference 2014, Canada – United States Northern Oil and Gas Research Forum 2014, Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science conference 2015, and Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment (BREA) Results Forum 2015) to learn from world leading experts. Members and staff engaged with source control and spill containment service providers and participated in discussions and received presentation by companies that do oil spill trajectory modelling as well as assess fate and behavior of oil in Arctic offshore conditions.

On the subject of information sources and baseline information on the physical, biological, and near-surface geology, EIRB Members and staff have had meetings and discussions from National Resources Council on the Beaufort Environmental Data Base – which includes important information of ice loads, ice conditions, and physical environmental conditions; the University of Calgary on the ASTIS – Arctic Science and Technology Information System – which houses nearly all the historical records, reports, and study results from oil activities n the Canadian Beaufort Sea from the 1970s and 1980s; and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on BREA – a 4 year 22 M$ umbrella initiative that collected important regional baseline and historic information, and makes available via the Canadian Polar Catalog and the BREA data hosted by the Inuvialuit Game Council website.

The Members and staff education and development programs continues with sessions planned with the U.S. regulators on lessons learned from Shell’s Beaufort and Chukchi Sea drilling operations of 2012, the proposed revisions to the regulations announced in February 2015, and what the regulators would be doing in advance of, during, and post operations should Shell undertake a drilling program in the Chukchi Sea in the summer of 2015. Exploratory discussions have taken place with Norwegian regulatory agencies to leverage understanding on how safe operations can be conducted in the Barents Sea.

Sessions are also planned with world leading experts on the state of technology and capabilities for oil spill countermeasures in Arctic offshore conditions as well as in undertaking a Net Environmental Benefits Analysis to assess the benefits and consequences of the various oil spill countermeasure tools including spill treatment agents (dispersants) allowed under the Energy Safety and Security Act.

Staff continues to explore opportunities to board a modern dynamically positioned drillship (likely in the Gulf of Mexico as opportunities to witness Arctic offshore operations are not available) and see systems and practices in place for safe drilling while protecting the environment and to respond effectively when things go wrong. Finally, staff is pursuing opportunities to see how source control and containment equipment, that is positioned internationally, could work and be deployed in the event of an emergency in the Canadian Beaufort Sea as well as factors to be considered in developing costs for a worst-case scenario.

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