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April 29, 2004
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Memorial faculty analyze
B.C.’s oil and gas industry

By Michelle Osmond
Dr. Jeremy Hall and Dr. Ian Jordaan, both university research professors, recently had the unique opportunity to be part of an independent science review panel for the Royal Society of Canada. The panel looked at the feasibility of lifting a federal moratorium on oil and gas activities offshore British Columbia; a moratorium that has been in place for more than 30 years.

In 2003, the Government of Canada announced the establishment of a review process to examine the moratorium on oil and gas activities in the Queen Charlotte area offshore British Columbia. The findings from the review process will form the basis of a decision on how the government will move forward. In phase one of the review the Royal Society of Canada set out to identify science gaps which may need to be filled before exploration goes forward. The expert panel of scientists, chaired by Dr. Hall, made several recommendations and concluded that if an adequate regulatory regime is in place, no science gaps would need to be filled before lifting the moratoria on oil and gas development in the area. The report describes the basin as potentially rich in oil and gas and recommends lifting the moratorium on British Columbia offshore energy exploration, opening the door to an estimated $110 billion in wealth.

Dr. Hall remarked that it was a great example of how science and technology can be brought down to the “nitty gritty” of where people live. “It was a fascinating experience in terms of the importance of science and technology to public policy issues. Scientists and engineers are often happy to do their own thing with their peers but I think all of the panellists were glad we collaborated and brought the two knowledge bases together… I learned a tremendous amount about the technological challenges of oil opportunities. I was amazed at how much we need to know before we’re fully aware of what the consequences of human actions will be.”

Dr. Ian Jordaan, with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, says it was an experience he wouldn’t have missed. “It was very challenging but it was also a great learning experience for me. I was particularly grateful to learn so much about a different area where oil and gas development is happening. It was a very talented team and Jeremy was an excellent chair.”

The report is the first of three commissioned by the federal government in response to the B.C. government's push to create a booming offshore energy sector similar to what exists in the Canadian north and here on the Atlantic coast. There are two other panels planned before further action is taken. One will conduct public hearings and another will consider the views and interests of First Nations. Both reports are expected by June.


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Annika Haywood and Dr. Brian Stavely
Iceberg near the Ocean Science Centre
(L-R) Cynthia Caddigan and Deirdre Cooper

Next issue: May 20, 2004

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