ST. JOHN’S — Shoal Point Energy put the cart before the horse Wednesday when providing an update on its search for oil in Western Newfoundland, suggesting regulatory approval for drilling before an application to regulators has been made.
A news release issued by the company, shortly after 11 a.m., included false statements and led to response from both the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) and the provincial Department of Natural Resources.
Leading up to 5 p.m., the company issued a clarification, retracting the statements and apologizing for confusion caused.
The company has been at the centre of the conversation on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the province, tied to a proposal to drill and frack as many as three onshore-to-offshore exploration wells.
Shoal Point is not itself doing the work, letting Black Spruce Exploration take the lead, through a farm out agreement settled in January. It maintains an interest in the results.
On Tuesday, a representative for Black Spruce Exploration told TC Media that the company will proceed on the proposed exploration well at Shoal Point, as per existing regulations, by filing for environmental assessment.
That filing might come as early as next week, he said. It would start the review process. However, Shoal Point Energy then issued its public statement, claiming Black Spruce had already been awarded authorization to drill its test well.
That specific authorization can only come following completion of environmental review.
“The statements in the news release with respect to the board issuing an approval are false,” CNLOPB spokesman Sean Kelly said Wednesday afternoon.
“We have been in touch with the company, who plan to issue a retraction or clarification.”
The provincial Department of Natural Resources was similarly taken off guard by the Shoal Point release.
According to the company: “The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is considering the introduction of regulations or rules for hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland and Labrador. The timing is not specified at this time, but the board of Shoal Point Energy believes that these regulations are likely to be in place to permit the drilling campaign to commence in the second half of 2013.”
In its clarification, Shoal Point Energy said its statements regarding regulations for drilling and fracking, “were made without the benefit of discussion with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, with which Shoal Point Energy has had no contact, formal or informal, on this particular subject.”
Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall says he is generally interested in looking at regulations, rules and guidelines for fracking in other areas. He has committed to a trip to Saskatchewan later this year to gather information.
Meanwhile, “any application we receive from Shoal Point Energy will be properly assessed to determine whether specific terms and conditions should be attached to an approval to drill a well,” he said, in an statement in response to the Shoal Point news release.
Attempts to reach a representative for Shoal Point Energy by phone and social media message received no response as of press time.
The company’s initial public statement suggests significant changes are coming to its top ranks in June 28, when a shareholder’s meeting is held in Toronto.