Frequently Asked Questions: NEB approval of a 2D offshore seismic survey program in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait

Frequently Asked Questions: NEB approval of a 2D offshore seismic survey program in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait [Inuktitut: PDF 119 KB]

NOTE: Interested persons should also refer to the full text of the Geophysical Operations Authorization Letter, with Terms and Conditions, and the Environmental Assessment on the Public Registry.

  1. What is the project being proposed in Baffin Bay/ Davis Strait?
  2. What is the status of the Project?
  3. How were the views of the Inuit taken into consideration?
  4. How will local Inuit benefit from the Project?
  5. Has there been seismic activity in this region before?
  6. Have any of the seismic programs in the region resulted in oil and gas drilling?
  7. Will this seismic program lead to drilling?
  8. Why did the NEB not wait for the Strategic Environmental Assessment to be completed?
  9. How did the NEB assess potential harm to marine mammals from the Project?
  10. How is Traditional Knowledge being incorporated into the project?
  11. Does the company need to do anything prior to commencement of the Project in 2015?
  12. How does the NEB keep track of what the company is or isn’t doing?
  13. What happens if the company does not follow through on any of the conditions?

1. What is the project being proposed in Baffin Bay/ Davis Strait?

The NEB has approved a Geophysical Operations Authorization (GOA) application from TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company ASA (TGS), Petroleum GeoServices (PGS) and Multi Klient Invest AS (MKI) to conduct a 2D offshore seismic survey program in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait over five years during the open water season. MKI will be the Project operator.

2. What is the status of the Project?

On June 26, 2014, the NEB issued the GOA for the Project. The GOA is valid for five years.

On July 17, 2014, the NEB received a letter from TGS, PGS & MKI indicating that they are now preparing to commence seismic operations in the 2015 season. The company indicated there is insufficient time to implement all of the approved Benefit commitments and all terms and conditions of the GOA to begin seismic operations during the limited ice free season in 2014.

On July 28, 2014 the Hamlet of Clyde River, Nammautaq Hunters & Trappers Organization - Clyde River, and Jerry Natanine (Mayor of Clyde River) filed an application with the Federal Court of Appeal for judicial review regarding the Board’s decision to grant a GOA to TGS, PGS and MKI to conduct the Project. 

3. How were the views of the Inuit taken into consideration?

In the course of assessing this Project, the Board heard from Inuit communities and considered all of the submissions from Inuit organizations. The Board also assessed MKI’s efforts to consult with potentially-impacted Aboriginal groups and address concerns raised. Section 6.0 of the Environmental Assessment (EA) report provides an overview of Aboriginal consultation for this Project.

Aboriginal groups actively participated during the EA process. The NEB received letters of comment from Inuit communities and organizations including the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Arctic Fisheries Alliance LP, Baffin Fisheries Coalition, Shari Gearheard on behalf of Clyde River, Pond Inlet community members, Municipality of Clyde River, Mittimatalik Hunters & Trappers Organization of Pond Inlet, and Jennifer Brisksky of Pond Inlet.

The Board conducted public meetings in Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit from April 29 to May 2, 2013. Transcripts from the meetings and all environmental assessment materials are available on the NEB website on the Project’s public registry page.

The Board considered all of the information received on the record, whether written or oral, to determine whether to issue the GOA for the Project.

4. How will local Inuit benefit from the Project?

The benefits plan for the Project was approved by the Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The NEB has no role in the approval of a benefits plan nor the content of such a plan.

MKI made a number of commitments as a result of its consultation with Aboriginal groups. For example, MKI has committed to:

  • employing two Inuit Observers, one on the seismic vessel and the other on the support vessel;
  • conducting an Inuit Traditional Knowledge Study (IQ) study, and to work with Inuit communities on the design of the study;
  • hiring Community Liaison Officers in four of the communities (Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit) to facilitate communication between MKI and the communities; and
  • sharing the final observation report with Inuit communities.

One of the conditions of the GOA requires MKI to implement all of the commitments it made in its Project application and subsequent filings.

5. Has there been seismic activity in this region before?

This is the first GOA in the region in six years. The NEB approved nine seismic programs in the last 13 years in the Davis Strait/Baffin Bay/North Labrador Sea region.

6. Have any of the seismic programs in the region resulted in oil and gas drilling?

The NEB has never authorized drilling activity in the Baffin Bay or Davis Strait region. A company wishing to explore and drill in areas within NEB jurisdiction must apply separately to the NEB for authorization under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (COGOA).

7. Will this seismic program lead to drilling?

There are no active authorizations for offshore drilling in Canada’s Arctic.

While any company wishing to drill in the Canadian Arctic offshore must apply to the National Energy Board for a drilling authorization, the first step is to obtain an Exploration Licence (EL).

An EL gives a company the right to explore for, and the exclusive right to drill and test for, oil and gas. AANDC administers ELs, significant discovery licenses, and production licenses. This keeps the financial aspects separate from safety and protection of the environment considerations. Currently, there are no active EL’s in the Davis Strait/Baffin Bay region.

AANDC is undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to inform their decision-making around possible future oil and gas exploration activities in Canada’s Eastern Arctic offshore waters of Baffin Bay / Davis Strait. Questions regarding the SEA should be directed to AANDC.

8. Why did the NEB not wait for the Strategic Environmental Assessment to be completed?

The Board’s determination of a Project’s potential for significant environmental impacts under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (COGOA) is independent of possible or pending strategic or regional assessments and planning or management processes, although such information would be considered if it were available and appropriate at the time of the review.

9. How did the NEB assess potential harm to marine mammals from the Project?

The NEB’s EA methodology is outlined in Section 2.3 of the EA report. Section 7.2 of the EA report outlines proposed mitigation measures committed to by MKI to reduce potential adverse environmental effects.

For example, to mitigate impacts from sound produced by airgun array on marine mammals, MKI made a number of commitments, including:

  • Adhering to mitigation measures set out in the Statement of Canadian Practice with Respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment.
  • Four Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) will be contracted for the duration of the Project, for each rotation, two of whom will be Inuit Observers and two of whom will be experienced MMOs. MKI provided Marine Mammal Observation training to the students in the Arctic College Environmental program.
  • A safety radius or shut down zone of 500 meters from the airgun array will be maintained. Airguns will be shut down if any marine mammal enters or is anticipated to enter the 500 meter safety zone through observations by the MMOs.
  • Airgun start-up procedures will not commence unless a 500 meter safety zone is clear of any marine mammal by visual inspection by a trained MMO for a continuous period of at least 30 minutes.
  • Airgun start-up procedures will include a "ramping up" period where a single low volume airgun will fire singly, followed gradually by other airgun units in the array. If a marine mammal is sighted within 500 meters of the array during ramp-up the array will be shut down.

The EA report concluded that with the implementation of MKI’s commitments, environmental protection procedures and mitigation measures, and compliance with the Board’s regulatory requirements and conditions, the Project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects.

10. How is Traditional Knowledge being incorporated into the project?

MKI filed a reply with the Board on 8 November 2013 outlining how it will use Inuit Qaujimatuqangit (IQ)[1] in the Project design and how it had accessed all publicly available IQ information about marine mammal movements. MKI indicated that it had applied to the Nunavut Research Institute for a Social Sciences and Traditional Knowledge research permit for an IQ study. MKI committed to working with the communities closest to the Project, namely Pond Inlet, Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq, on the IQ study’s design.

A GOA condition requires MKI to file with the Chief Conservation Officer (CCO) a report that describes how available Inuit IQ has been considered and incorporated in the Project design 30 days prior to commencement of the Project for each operational season.

11. Does the company need to do anything prior to commencement of the Project in 2015?

Several of the GOA conditions require MKI to file information with the NEB 30 days prior to commencement of the Project. For example:

  • Condition 5 requires MKI to file with the CCO, for approval, an environmental commitments tracking table that includes all of MKI’s environmental commitments and mitigation measures.
  • Condition 6 requires MKI to file with the CCO a fishing gear compensation plan, and provide copies to the Arctic Fisheries Alliance and the Baffin Fisheries Coalition.
  • Condition 7 requires MKI to file with the CCO a report that describes how available Inuit IQ has been considered and incorporated in the Project design.

Condition 4 also requires MKI to provide the CCO with 48 hours notice of Project start-up.

12. How does the NEB keep track of what the company is or isn’t doing?

There are a number of conditions attached to the GOA which require MKI to regularly report to the NEB and the local communities. More information on verifying compliance can be found on our website in the Review of offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic.

13. What happens if the company does not follow through on any of the conditions?

If the NEB is not satisfied with condition compliance, it can take enforcement actions. In cases of non-compliance, the NEB has a range of tools it can use to enforce its decisions, safeguard safety and protect the environment. These enforcement tools range from an oral request for immediate compliance to criminal prosecution to revoking the GOA.

More information on enforcement can be found on our website in the Review of offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic.

Endnote

[1] IQ has been translated to mean Inuit traditional knowledge and has been defined as a body of knowledge and unique cultural insights of Inuit into the workings of nature, humans and animals.

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