Shell Canada seals second deepwater well off N.S.

Shell is moving to seal off the second of its two deepwater exploration wells off Nova Scotia

HALIFAX — Shell is moving to seal off the second of its two deepwater exploration wells off Nova Scotia.

The company began work on the Monterey Jack well on the Scotian Shelf on Sept. 25, shortly after abandoning its Cheshire well in the Nova Scotia offshore, about 250 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Shell spokesman Cameron Yost said in an email Monday that sealing the well involves “the installation and testing of multiple barriers in the wellbore.”

He also said it is too early to speculate on what the results of the well are, saying it will take some time to analyze the information gathered from Monterey Jack by a contracted exploration vessel.

Petroleum geologist Grant Wach, a professor at Dalhousie University, cautions deep waters off the Scotian Shelf may require a number of exploration wells before firm conclusions are reached, adding that it required more than 30 wells to make the Grand Banks discovery off Newfoundland.

Wach said in an email that he’ll continue to watch what decision BP takes in terms of drilling their potential exploration sites on the Scotian shelf.

He also said that Shell’s original news release left the option of drilling five other exploration wells, and these may be the key future sign of whether their deepwater play continue to be possibilities.

“If they drill more wells, they are interested,” he said.

In addition, there are bid rounds for exploration licensing coming up this year and in 2018 and Wach said interest in these blocks will also be a sign of whether Nova Scotia’s offshore is continuing to attract investment.

However, the deepwater drilling off Nova Scotia has attracted opposition from municipal leaders, environmentalists and fishermen’s groups concerned about the possibility of a blowout.

During the drilling of the Cheshire well — which did show commercial quantities of hydrocarbons — 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.

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