‘The next economic frontier’: Minister promotes NWT offshore oil in Texas

NORTHERN JOURNAL - Meagan Wohlberg

Ten companies hold over 3 million hectares in oil and gas leases in the Beaufort Sea, along with numerous declared significant discovery areas.

Global oil prices may be down, but that isn’t stopping the NWT from encouraging companies to invest in infrastructure now to prepare for the eventual market rebound.

Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) Minister David Ramsay was in Houston, Texas last week to pitch the territory’s resources to attendees of the Offshore Technology Conference.

Though admitting the cost of doing business in the North is about as high as the resource potential, he said decades down the line, the territory will be poised to become the world’s next stable energy source.

"The world is looking for a reliable supply of energy resources to meet a growing demand. The Arctic offers one of the best new and stable sources of energy on the planet," Ramsay said, noting that partnerships with Alberta and B.C. will be key to opening up the territory.

"The Northwest Territories is the key to opening western Canada to international oil and gas investors, explorers and producers. We offer the next economic frontier and the foundation of sound economic expansion – investment attraction, job creation and future prosperity," he said.

In his speech to delegates, Ramsay spoke of the massive potential of the NWT’s oil and gas reserves, both on and offshore, for future energy needs in North America and the rest of the world.

"Based on geological analysis by both the U.S. Geological Survey and our own advisors, the Arctic waters off the Northwest Territories have the oil potential to rival the

Gulf of Mexico," Ramsay boasted. "The Amauligak field just off of our northern shore line is thought to contain up to 250 million barrels of oil."

According to a 2009 report, the estimated discovered marketable oil and gas is between nine and 10.4 trillion cubic feet, evenly distributed between the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea.

Currently, 10 companies hold over 3 million hectares in leases in the Beaufort Sea, along with numerous declared significant discovery areas.

Though the GNWT attained powers over most onshore oil and gas in the NWT, the National Energy Board continues to regulate offshore.

Ramsay said access will increase as the territory works on developing its combined energy, communications and transportation corridor along the Mackenzie Valley. That includes the proposed Mackenzie fibre-optic link, highway and pipeline projects.

He said the NWT is open for business.

"We offer a gateway to the Arctic Ocean," Ramsay said. "We are ready to talk to socially and environmentally responsible companies that want to work and invest with us to develop our resources, build our economy, unlock our potential – and bring our resources to hungry markets around the world."