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BP shoots seismic off Nova Scotia; aims for exploration well in 2017: president

HALIFAX - BP Canada is aiming to have an exploration well in deep waters off the coast of Nova Scotia by 2017 if offshore seismic work goes well, the company's president said Tuesday.

Stephen Willis spoke after touring a seismic vessel in Halifax that is preparing to steam to the company's holdings about 300 kilometres southeast of the city on the Scotian shelf.

The effort is part of a $1-billion exploration commitment BP has made in the province as the firm searches for hydrocarbons in its deepwater leases, which include waters that reach depths of 3,000 metres.

Willis toured the seismic vessel Western Neptune with Premier Stephen McNeil. Company spokeswoman Anita Perry says up to nine vessels expect to begin work within a week.

Willis said after seismic information is gathered, years of work lie ahead before Nova Scotia would see an exploration well.

"We have exploration activities worldwide. ... We hope to add a Nova Scotia well into that portfolio should we see positive results from the seismic survey this year, in 2017 or thereabouts," he said.

The provincial government also announced Tuesday that it will fund analysis of seismic and other geological data provided to oil and gas firms interested in the province's offshore.

McNeil said the Liberal government will spend $12 million over the next four years on the data.

Energy Minister Andrew Younger said the data analysis will be funded prior to each round of bids for offshore exploration leases.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board recently invited calls for exploration bids on the Laurentian sub-basin properties, a region in the Cabot Strait that is about 340 kilometres southwest of St. John's, N.L.

Younger said bidding will close on Oct. 30 and he expects existing research will help attract interest.

"We're hearing interest from companies all over the world who are very closely looking at that opportunity," said Younger.

He said the data was collected years ago, but consultants are taking a look at it again.

"There's much better ways to reprocess data that was collected years ago and better understand it. They're looking for the age of rock, the type of rock formations, and the presence of certain salts that can give you an indication of whether it's gas or oil," he said.

"It's about probabilities and this is about reducing the risk."

Willis said the earlier data — called the Project Fairway Analysis — helped his company decide to invest in exploration in Nova Scotia's offshore in 2012.

He also said it is considering bidding for exploration leases in the Laurentian sub-basin, though no firm decisions have been taken.

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