The government of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) announced in February a plan to kick-start the province’s offshore oil and gas sector with a goal of doubling the region’s production by 2030. The plan, Advance 2030, was created by NL’s Oil and Gas Industry Development Council (OGIDC) and targets more than 100 new exploration wells to produce more than 650,000 bbl/d.

NL’s oil and gas economy effectively began in 1979, when oil was discovered at Hibernia. Since that time NL’s offshore economy has grown to include four producing projects: Hibernia, Terra Nova, White Rose and Hebron. But the opportunities for additional and fullscale development in the North Atlantic are substantial.

In its report the council cited a study conducted by BeicipFranlap in 2015 and 2016 that stated there are estimated undiscovered resources of 37.5 Bbbl of oil and 3.7 Tcm (133.6 Tcf) of natural gas in parcels located in the West Orphan and Flemish Pass regions.

A pair of recent offshore projects will likely aide in those efforts. Exxon Mobil’s Hebron project started first oil production in November 2017, and peak production is expected to reach 150,000 bbl/d, according to Exxon Mobil. Meanwhile, in May 2017 Husky Energy announced it had approved its West White Rose project with first oil expected in 2022. According to Husky Energy, West White Rose is expected to achieve a peak production rate of about 75,000 bbl/d.

“Over the years the Atlantic business has provided some of the strongest returns in the company’s portfolio, and West White Rose is the next chapter,” said Husky CEO Rob Peabody in a press release. “This project is of a scale approaching the original White Rose development and is able to use the existing SeaRose FPSO to process and export production.”

In its report the OGIDC acknowledged the challenges its proposal faces—not the least of which are the emergence of disruptive technologies, climate change and the transition in some sectors and geographies to a lower carbon economy.

The council reported that those challenges could be overcome by utilizing cost reductions through improved project designs and implementing standardization practices to simplify the scope of projects.

One of the goals of NL’s new focus on enhanced productivity is reducing the time from prospectivity to production. Exxon Mobil’s Hebron project is perhaps notable for its time from discovery to first production. Hebron was first discovered in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin in 1980, but it took 37 years to produce first oil, eight years of which were spent in the engineering, construction and startup phase, according to Exxon Mobil.

To reduce the time from prospectivity to production, the OGIDC suggested accelerating the approval process in advance of project development and advancing regulatory changes required to push forward development.

The OGIDC stated in its report that NL “is at a critical point in the long-term development of its oil and gas industry” due to several potential risk factors that include stakeholder concerns over longer development time lines and higher project costs, factors the council said could negatively impact the region’s industry competitiveness.

With the potential reserves such as they are, and a government apparently willing to fasttrack development, operators may indeed soon turn their attention to the North Atlantic.

Brian Walzel’s Completions and Production column originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of E&P.