Frequently Asked Questions: SSRW Technical Proceedings

The NEB received letters from both Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited (IORVL) and Chevron Canada Limited (Chevron) requesting the Board to consider and provide a ruling on their respective proposals to meet the intended outcome of the NEB’s Same Season Relief Well (SSRW) Policy.

After carefully considering the information submitted, the Board has decided to grant the two requests for review. The Board determined it would be beneficial, early in the regulatory review process, to establish whether the proposals would meet the intended outcome of the SSRW Policy, as it is a major element of both projects. There will be an opportunity for public participation in the review processes.

  1. What is the status of IORVL/ Chevron’s Offshore Drilling Application?
  2. What is the Same Season Relief Well Policy?
  3. How do the SSRW technical proceedings fit into the overall applications to drill?
  4. What are the timelines for the SSRW technical proceedings?
  5. What Issues will the Board examine during the SSRW technical proceedings?
  6. Will an environmental assessment (EA) be required?
  7. How will the Board evaluate alternative approaches as meeting the intent of the SSRW Policy? What criteria will it use to reach a ruling?
  8. What will the process look like for a SSRW technical proceeding? Will there be a public hearing?
  9. How can the public participate?
  10. How will the views of Northerners and Aboriginal groups be taken into consideration during the SSRW technical proceedings?
  11. Will there be Participant Funding?
  12. Why did the NEB decide to consider the request to depart from the SSRW Policy now, and not when IORVL made the request in 2009?
  13. Didn’t the NEB clarify that it required an SSRW during the Arctic Review? Why is the NEB agreeing to hear a proposal that doesn’t include a SSRW?
  14. How will this process be different than the Arctic Review?
  15. What was the purpose of the Arctic Review?
  16. Will IORVL’s project face a tougher regulatory review as a result of the Arctic Review?
  17. Is the NEB looking at what other jurisdictions (particularly Arctic offshore) require a SSRW?
  18. Is the NEB aware of equivalent technology that could be used to replace a SSRW?
  19. What expertise does the NEB use to assess these proposals?
  20. What potential impacts on the North will the NEB consider when deciding whether to approve offshore drilling in the Arctic?

1. What is the status of IORVL/ Chevron’s Offshore Drilling Application?

  • The NEB received letters from both Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited (IORVL) and Chevron Canada Limited (Chevron) requesting the Board to consider and provide a ruling on their respective proposals to meet the intended outcome of the NEB’s Same Season Relief Well (SSRW) Policy.
  • After carefully considering the information submitted, the Board decided to grant the two requests for review. The Board will examine each proposal on its own merits.
  • In a letter dated December 17 2014, Chevron indicated that it has put its drilling plans for EL-481 on hold indefinitely.
  • We have not yet received an application for an Operations Authorization from IORVL.

2. What is the Same Season Relief Well Policy?

  • Through the Review of Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic (Arctic Review), the Board re-affirmed its SSRW Policy: the applicant must demonstrate, in its Contingency Plan, the capability to drill a relief well to kill an out-of-control well during the same drilling season. This is referred to as same season relief well capability.
  • The NEB also requires that the Contingency Plan take into account anticipated hazards and risks, and identify the appropriate equipment, procedures, and personnel for mitigating these hazards and risks.
  • A relief well is one contingency measure used to respond to an out-of-control well. In addition, we will continue to require an operator to use all intervention techniques available, in addition to a relief well, so that the flow from an out-of-control well can be stopped as quickly as possible.
  • The Board stated that it will continue to require that any company applying for an offshore drilling authorization provides us with specific details as to how they will either meet this policy, or meet or exceed the intent of the policy. The intent of the Policy is to minimize harmful impacts on the environment.
  • Detailed contingency planning and commitments for relief wells remain a regulatory requirement for all offshore drilling in Canadian waters.

3. How do the SSRW technical proceedings fit into the overall applications to drill?

  • The Board determined it would be beneficial, early in the regulatory review process, to establish whether the proposals would meet the intended outcome of the SSRW Policy, as it is a major element of both projects.
  • Any ruling at the conclusion of the SSRW technical proceeding will only address whether the intent of the SSRW Policy has been met or exceeded, not whether the Project would be authorized to proceed. An Operations Authorization can only be issued by the Board under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act after considering a full Project application, and after:
    • Reaching a decision about the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012); and
    • Considering the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Review Board established under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.

4. What are the timelines for the SSRW technical proceedings?

  • Timelines for the SSRW technical proceedings have not yet been determined. Additional information about process will also be released by the Board in due course.

5. What Issues will the Board examine during the SSRW technical proceedings?

  • The decision explaining how comments were considered can also be found in Filing A62631. This is in no way a predetermination of the merits of IORVL's project application. The List of Issues is as follows:
    • What criteria and risks should be considered in determining whether the intent of the SSRW Policy has been satisfied by the tools and techniques proposed to respond to an out-of-control well.
    • How the tools and techniques proposed would meet the criteria and address risks in the circumstances of a worst case scenario.
    • How the tools and techniques proposed would address the challenges of the unique Arctic environment.
    • The terms and conditions, if any, that should be considered at the project application stage if the departure from the SSRW Policy is granted.
    • Implications of the Board accepting a departure from the SSRW Policy.

6. Will an environmental assessment (EA) be required?

  • The Board does not intend to conduct an EA as part of the SSRW technical proceedings. An EA would be undertaken at the project application stage. An Operations Authorization requires an assessment under the CEAA 2012.

7. How will the Board evaluate alternative approaches as meeting the intent of the SSRW Policy? What criteria will it use to reach a ruling?

  • The Board will only make those determinations based on the specifics of the evidence before it. The criteria to be considered is one of the issues included in the List of Issues.

8. What will the process look like for a SSRW technical proceeding? Will there be a public hearing?

  • The Board has not yet made any decisions on what the SSRW technical proceeding will look like. When the NEB releases additional information about the processes, it will also include information on how persons and groups can participate.

9. How can the public participate?

  • The Board is committed to processes that facilitate public participation; however the Board has not made any decisions on what the SSRW technical proceedings will look like at this stage.
  • Updates will be posted on the Major Applications project pages. Individuals can also subscribe to our email distribution list for future project updates.

10. How will the views of Northerners and Aboriginal groups be taken into consideration during the SSRW technical proceedings?

  • The NEB expects that companies seeking to explore and develop northern oil and gas will work collaboratively with Northerners and Northern institutions. By listening to one another, respecting one another and by sharing knowledge and expertise, improved safety and environmental protection outcomes can be achieved.
  • The NEB is committed to hearing from Northerners and Northern institutions that could be affected by potential activities regulated by the NEB.

11. Will there be Participant Funding?

  • No decisions have been made about participant funding at this time for the SSRW technical proceedings.
  • However, an Operations Authorization application for a drilling program will require a review under the CEAA 2012. CEAA 2012 requires the Board to provide Participant Funding for the EA of designated projects that are assessed under the legislation.

12. Why did the NEB decide to consider the request to depart from the SSRW Policy now, and not when IORVL made the request in 2009?

  • The Board reviewed IORVL’s request in 2009 and decided to conduct a generic review of its policy for SSRW capability. However, the proceeding was cancelled in favor of a broader review of safety and environmental requirements for offshore drilling in Canada's Arctic following the BP Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Through the Arctic Review, the NEB examined the best information available on the hazards, risks and safety measures associated with offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic.
  • At the end of the Arctic Review, the Board prepared a report detailing the information on safety and environmental protection that it would require for offshore drilling applications in the Canadian Arctic. Through the Arctic Review the Board re-affirmed its SSRW Policy, but also indicated that an applicant wishing to depart from the policy would have to demonstrate how they would meet or exceed the intended outcome of the policy. (The intended outcome of this policy is to minimize harmful impacts on the environment.)
  • The Board will determine, on a case-by-case basis, which tools are appropriate for meeting or exceeding the intended outcome of the SSRW Policy.

13. Didn’t the NEB clarify that it required an SSRW during the Arctic Review? Why is the NEB agreeing to hear a proposal that doesn’t include a SSRW?

  • The Board stated at the conclusion of the Arctic Review that it was open to evolving technology and that it would consider departures from the SSRW Policy on a case-by-case basis. Any applicant wishing to depart from the SSRW Policy must demonstrate how it would meet or exceed the intended outcome of the policy.
  • The intended outcome of this policy is to minimize harmful impacts on the environment. We continue to require that any company applying for an offshore drilling authorization provides us with specific details as to how they will meet this policy.

14. How will this process be different than the Arctic Review?

  • Policy questions related to SSRW were addressed in the Arctic Review. The review was a generic high level review of the policy question, not an assessment of a specific application or proposal. The Board is now examining the case-specific facts related to IORVL’s and Chevron’s proposal.
  • If a company wishes to depart from the SSRW Policy, the Board stated that it will determine, on a case-by-case basis, which tools are appropriate for meeting or exceeding the intended outcome of the SSRW Policy.

15. What was the purpose of the Arctic Review?

  • On 11 May 2010, the NEB initiated a review of the safety and environmental requirements for offshore drilling in Canada’s unique Arctic environment to examine the best information available on the hazards, risks and safety measures associated with offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic.

16. Will IORVL’s project face a tougher regulatory review as a result of the Arctic Review?

  • Through the Arctic Review, the Board developed Filing Requirements for Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic which outlines what we expect to see from a company in their application. One of the key issues addressed during the review was the NEB’s SSRW Policy.

17. Is the NEB looking at what other jurisdictions (particularly Arctic offshore) require for a SSRW?

  • The Board undertook an analysis of worldwide drilling practices and lessons learned as part of the Arctic Review. One of the issues to be considered in the proceeding is “Implications of the Board accepting a departure from the SSRW Policy.”

18. Is the NEB aware of equivalent technology that could be used to replace a SSRW?

  • The Board stated that it is open to considering evolving and changing technologies. However, it has made no determinations about what tools or technologies would meet the intended outcome of the SSRW Policy. One of the issues to be considered in the proceeding is “How the tools and techniques proposed would meet the criteria and address the risks in the circumstances of a worst case scenario.”

19. What expertise does the use NEB to assess these proposals?

  • We have staff with the offshore expertise and experience necessary to assess, inspect, and conduct audits of offshore drilling projects.
  • Our expert staff includes geophysicists, geologists, drilling engineers, safety engineers, offshore structures engineers, safety inspectors, environmental specialists, and marine emergency response experts.

20. What potential impacts on the North will the NEB consider when deciding whether to approve offshore drilling in the Arctic?

  • Drilling cannot occur in the Arctic unless the NEB is satisfied that drilling plans are safe for workers and the public and that they will protect the environment.
  • Any ruling at the conclusion of the SSRW technical proceeding will only address whether the intent of the SSRW Policy has been met or exceeded, not whether the Project would be authorized to proceed.
  • Proponents wishing to drill in the Arctic will still need to apply for an Operations Authorization, and demonstrate that they can respond effectively if an incident were to occur. As well, they must provide proof of financial responsibility to control, clean-up, and compensate the people of the North in the event of a spill.
Date modified: