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Hebron oil project could generate $20-billion for Newfoundland: review

The boat-lined harbor in St. John's N.L. is the backdrop for a hiker on Signal Hill Friday, August 10, 2007.


The proposed Hebron oil project off Newfoundland could generate $20-billion for the province over 30 years, says a public review that supports the development.

The report, released Tuesday by the Hebron Public Review Commission, said the project should proceed but safety and benefits should be improved.

Commissioner Miller Ayre told a news conference that aspects of the Hebron application "are incomplete, withheld or not supported."

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Such gaps should be filled as a condition of approval from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, prior to government sanction, Ayre said.

He called for "significant improvements" to the development application, including the benefits plan, the socio-economic impact statement and the safety plan.

"Safety and, especially helicopter safety, should remain a top priority," Mr. Ayre said.

The board's safety officer must ensure choppers that take workers offshore "comply with existing and revised regulations" as described in rulings from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, federal and international regulators, Mr. Ayre said.

The Transportation Safety Board has called for offshore helicopters that can run without oil in the main gearbox for 30 minutes, but regulations do not yet make that requirement.

A union leader representing offshore workers also called for safer helicopters during three weeks of hearings last fall.

Mr. Ayre said industry indications are that gearbox improvements will meet that 30-minute run-dry requirement as Hebron develops over the next four years.

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Still, the offshore regulator could well require that helicopters can run dry even longer, he said.

The review makes 64 recommendations aimed at environmental protection, increasing local jobs and ensuring maximum benefits for the province. It was required before the province gives final approval for the offshore oil development.

The Hebron oilfield 350 kilometres east of St. John's is estimated to hold up to 700 million barrels of oil.

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