One of Nalcor's first projects, in association with EADS Astrium, was a regional oil seep mapping and interpretation study in 2010 over the entire area offshore Newfoundland & Labrador south to Nova Scotia. This involved taking satellite images of natural seepage in various basins – not an easy task, with wind and waves constantly acting to disperse the various slicks, Wright pointed out.
Based on the results of this program and legacy gravity and magnetics data, Nalcor invested the following year in a three-year, multi-client 2D seismic survey with partners TGS and PGS which targeted the slope and deepwater plays off the Labrador Sea. The seismic lines were positioned to cover the areas of possible seepage highlighted in the Astrium survey, with data acquired from the shelf out to beyond the 200-nautical mile limit.
In 2012, the partners extended this survey to the southeast to cover the Orphan basin through the Flemish Pass to the outboard regions of the Flemish Cap. In addition, they acquired a 10 x 10-km (6.2 x 6.2-mi) detailed grid over the Flemish Pass in response to interest from the industry following the Statoil/Husky deepwater Mizzen oil discovery (the first oil find outside the Jeanne d'Arc basin, and subsequently followed by the same partnership's Bay du Nord and Harpoon discoveries). By the end of 2013 the seismic acquisition team had compiled 47,000 line km (29,204 mi) of new data in three seasons, one of the largest seismic surveys ever attempted, Wright claimed, and over an area 15% larger than the US Gulf of Mexico.
There has been further activity since, he added, with seismic boats operating offshore Labrador, eastern Newfoundland, and the region south to Nova Scotia. Last year, Nalcor started work with Norwegian contractor EMGS on a 13,500-sq km (5,212-sq mi) multi-client 3D electromagnetic campaign offshore eastern Newfoundland, designed in part to improve understanding of the geology in the vicinity of the recent discoveries.
According to Wright, Petro-Canada was the first to drill an exploration well in the Mizzen area in 2003, but did not have the benefit of long-offset seismic. Data from the recent surveys over Mizzen have revealed a strong anomaly down-dip.
"That caused consternation, because the resistivity was higher than the reading for the discovery location. The seismic amplitude appears to be stronger down-dip – there are lots of analogies in the North Sea," he said.
Analysis of the regional long-offset southern Labrador 2D data has identified a large tertiary dome feature at the mouth of a river system, and a tertiary fan in the same area of interest, Wright said. "There appear to be similar characteristics to the Forties field in the UK North Sea." The various campaigns have also brought to light analogies with the same play types that opened up deepwater Ghana, he added.
Late last year, Nalcor and Ikon Science Canada completed the first-ever regional pore pressure study for offshore Newfoundland & Labrador. This was designed to evaluate the eastern frontier slope and deepwater basins from northern Labrador to the Flemish Pass, including the newly discovered Chidley, Henley, and Holten basins in the Labrador Sea. Additionally, Nalcor and ION Geophysical are collaborating on a rock physics study, designed to help the industry identify potential hydrocarbon features and to distinguish sand from shale. Other planned studies include a seabed survey to understand heat flow imaging and to establish whether the known source rocks are related to oil seeps; a metocean study to examine wind, waves, currents, and iceberg movements; and analysis by Paris-based Beicip-Franlab of the various identified leads and prospects and the associated risks.
"The new data we've acquired represents the first large-scale program off eastern Canada for 25 years," Wright said, "but how do you assess the reservoirs over such a big area? We chose the deterministic route, focusing on smaller areas and their associated resource potential one at a time."
Last December, a consortium of ExxonMobil, Suncor Energy, and ConocoPhillips was awarded Parcel 1, a 266,139-ha (2,662-sq km) concession in Area C of the Flemish Pass basin, south of the discoveries, under the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) NL-13-01 bid round. Over the next few years, C-NLOPB plans a rolling cycle of parcel nomination and subsequent bid rounds over selected areas, with a longer schedule in the run-up to the awards in order to give the industry more time to assess the exploration potential.
In February, C-NLOPB invited nominations for a second sector in the Eastern Newfoundland Region (details of the first were announced last May). Also in February, the board said it had concluded its assessment of nominations for Sector NL01-LS in the Labrador South and Labrador Offshore areas, and anticipates issuing a call for bids in spring 2017.