Thanks to a ruling from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), Shell Canada was able to go back to drilling one of two planned exploratory wells on June 22 after being shut down for over three months.

Shell Canada

The reason for the original drilling ban was an accident on March 5 approximately 140 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. That mishap caused a pipe that connected a wellhead deep under the Atlantic Ocean with the offshore drilling rig, the Stena IceMAX, to break off and sink.

In order to avoid the potential for any environmental dangers to a prime area for lobster and haddock, the 6,500-foot pipe had previously been flushed with water. In addition, the well itself had a blowout protector firmly in place.

The well, known as Cheshire, had been approved last October as part of Shell Canada’s Shelburne Basin project that had an estimated price tag of $1 billion. The goal depth the company had been seeking was just over 24,700 feet and had gotten almost 90 percent (21, of the way there when the accident took place.

In the accident’s aftermath, it was discovered that nine buoyancy modules have broken loose. A subsequent search resulted in only one of the nine being found. Since the modules are primarily made of Styrofoam, the failure to find the other eight wasn’t seen as an environmental issue.

Despite getting the go-ahead, Shell Canada does have some restrictions still in place as further investigation continues. One of the key aspects is that when waves reach just over 16 feet (instead of the previous 26) in height, the sub-sea well head must be disconnected.

At present, there are no plans to try and recover the riser that is now lying on the bottom floe of the Atlantic Ocean.