Quebec’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Pierre Arcand, has established a prescriptive regime for petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoir exploration activities on lands on Anticosti Island that are reserved to the state.
The prescriptive regime, set out in a Ministerial Order adopted on June 30, 2014, under the Mining Act, provides a clear framework for the oil and gas exploration work to be carried out this summer on Anticosti Island and is undoubtedly a precursor of the framework that will apply to any oil and gas exploration activities that may be carried out elsewhere in Quebec in the years ahead. The regime, based on industry best practices, sends a signal of support to the oil and gas sector, which the government has committed to help as part of its overall economic development strategy for Quebec.
The prescriptive regime consists of the following elements:
- A holder of a licence to explore for petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs may only carry out stratigraphic surveys.
- Not later than 15 days before work is to begin, the holder of an exploration licence must send a detailed program of the planned work, certified by an engineer of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (Quebec’s professional association of engineers), to the minister for approval. Among other things, the program must include a cost estimate and a site rehabilitation and restoration plan, a mitigation plan to harmonize the various uses of the territory and minimize any disturbances for local communities and the environment, an emergency measures plan, a forest fire protection plan and a timetable for anticipated road traffic, including the planned routes for trucks and equipment.
- The licence holder must demonstrate that the work takes into account the regional and local geology in order to assess the risk inherent to the presence of faults.
- The licence holder must provide a performance guarantee equal to 10% of the estimated cost of the work.
- The licence holder must provide a civil liability insurance policy in the amount of $10,000,000 per occurrence, which must be maintained until the site rehabilitation and restoration work is finished.
- The collar of any stratigraphic survey must be placed at a certain distance from the limits of the land, the high water mark, route Transanticostienne, any public building and any airport.
- For each stratigraphic survey, the licence holder must make sure that the work is carried out in such a way as to optimize quality and safety by, among other things, using a system enabling the influx of fluids to be safely controlled, allowing the cement used for cementation of the surface casing to set for at least 24 hours before resuming any work related to the survey, using a blowout prevention system with three different blocking mechanisms, using leak-proof tanks and, for gas, a flare, a flare pit or any other equipment designed to reduce the emission of contaminants into the atmosphere, checking the blowout prevention system every 24 hours, using equipment that can resist the various pressures present, etc.
- The licence holder must maintain a daily report of operations and keep it on site and must provide a copy of the report to the minister each week.
- The licence holder must perform the necessary logging to ensure the quality of the work and the acquisition of knowledge.
- If gas or petroleum comes to the surface, the licence holder must notify the minister without delay.
- The licence holder must, upon the completion of each survey, seal the survey by cementation along its entire length.
- The licence holder must, within 30 days after it has finished the work to seal the survey, publish a declaration of the existence of the survey collar in the land register.
- Within 90 days following completion of the work to seal the survey, the licence holder must send the minister a report, certified by an engineer of the Ordre, containing the result of all the analyses performed as well as a paper copy and a copy in .LAS format of all logging performed and the related interpretations. The licence holder must send the minister at least half of the cores collected and the result of the analyses performed.
- The licence holder must inspect the site yearly for a period of five years after a stratigraphic survey is sealed and report on the inspections to the minister.
- Lastly, no perforation, stimulation or fracturing work, drill-stem testing or extraction testing for petroleum or natural gas may be conducted on the stratigraphic surveys carried out on the lands on Anticosti Island that are reserved to the state.
This prescriptive regime is primarily intended to protect the environment, ensure public safety and harmonize the performance of such surveys with other uses of the territory of Anticosti Island with a view to promoting sustainable development.