Bay du Nord: A bad bet for the future of Newfoundland & Labrador
Equinor’s Bay Du Nord is a massive new deep-sea offshore oil project, consisting of a huge floating production station and up to 40 wells in the Flemish Pass Basin. The station will be 500 kilometres east of St. John, would impact local ecosystems, and could impact fisheries and other industries in the event of a spill.
Equinor could, and should, support community-based renewable energy in Newfoundland and Labrador instead of building a mega oil project.
The Bay du Nord oil project promises benefits ranging from”clean oil” to secure jobs and marine safety, but there are big holes in these claims. In fact, Bay Du Nord will not deliver on these fronts.
Bay Du Nord claims to drill and provide “clean oil”. What this really means is that the project will try to capture the emissions produced while extracting the oil. It will green the operations of the drilling and extraction itself, but it does nothing to “green” the end product. No matter how clean your operation is, if you’re producing oil, it will still be burned somewhere down the road. Bay du Nord could see up to 1 billion barrels of oil extracted. To put that into perspective, the estimated 73 million barrels per year produced by the project would be equivalent to adding more than seven million gas cars to the road.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly stated that if we want to meet our climate targets, no future oil and gas projects can be built. It does not matter how ‘green’ the extraction process is. What this also means is that any projects that are built are likely to be economically short-lived in a world moving away from fossil fuels. The UN Secretary General has called funding more fossil fuel projects ‘moral and economic madness.’
We also know from research last year that bringing new projects like Bay du Nord online also makes Canada’s own emissions reduction targets impossible. Meeting climate targets is vitally important because if we don’t prevent climate change from getting worse more communities are going to be hit by wildfires, more coastline will disappear to the sea, and many of Atlantic Canada’s fisheries could collapse.
The project also claims to add “11,000 person years” to the project. 11,000 person years doesn’t mean a ton of jobs for a lot of people. For someone hoping for a lifelong, 30-year career, 11,000 person-years is only 366 and a half jobs. Unless workers are looking to share the years here and there, Bay Du Nord will do little to bring secure, long-term employment. That’s not to mention the natural boom and bust cycles of oil work as it is; it’s an industry subject to intense volatility.
Bay du Nord would take several years to come online and it would have no impact on the current energy security situation in Europe. European countries are now looking to accelerate a transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, because of the energy situation there, which makes long term projects like Bay du Nord even riskier investments as experts have pointed out.
Finally, a deeply flawed environmental assessment process revealed failure to assess risk of accidents and spills, failing to incorporate a past massive oil spill by Husky Energy in the assessment, and failure to address impacts on deep sea coral, sponges, and whales. In fact, the project isn’t required to incorporate a key safety mechanism — a capping stack — to limit damage in case of a spill. If a sub-sea blowout happens — Equinor estimates 36 days to cap the leak. That’s 36 days of damage and continued spill right into Newfoundland’s fisheries and marine ecosystems, and assumes perfect weather conditions. For comparison, BP’s Deepwater Horizon took 87 days to cap in the Gulf of Mexico, where weather conditions are decidedly more favourable.
While sold to us as a positive, safe bet for our economy and our environment — people in Newfoundland and Labrador have the most to lose if Bay Du Nord goes ahead.
P.S. If you’re hearing myths about climate change not being real, or not being tied to greenhouse gas emissions, find out why those myths are myths here.