Canada’s Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, gave Shell Canada up to three weeks to cap any subsea blowout that might result from future petroleum exploration off Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Similar legislation in the U.S. requires companies to cap a ruptured well within 24 hours.
The three-week time period is included in Shell Canada’s capping plan, a part of the company’s proposed Shelburne Basin Venture Exploration Drilling Project. Minister Aglukkaq green-lighted the project on June 15 following an assessment by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Under the plan, a blowout would spill oil or gas into the ocean for up to 21 days before Shell would be required to have a capping stack or marine well containment system in place.
Capping stacks buy time for engineers to plan a permanent seal or a diversion of hydrocarbons at the site of a blowout. Because they can weigh 50 to 100 tons, transporting and maneuvering stacking caps to the site and onto a blowout can be time consuming and difficult.