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Bloomberg: British Columbia Premier Says Oil Ban to End Within Three Years

By Joshua Fellman

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) — British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said he expects an almost four-decade-old ban on offshore drilling for oil and gas to end in two years to three years, after the completion of scientific studies.

New onshore petroleum resources in the Canadian province’s northeast will probably come on line first, followed by offshore fields, Campbell said today after a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

“We and the federal government are spending millions of dollars to do the science so we can conduct drilling in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way,” Campbell said. As the ban has been in place for almost a generation, a lot of study is needed, he said.

Fields off Canada’s westernmost province’s shores hold as much as 10 billion barrels of oil and 40 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to government estimates. It could be the biggest offshore reserves for any province based on these estimates, topping Newfoundland on the east coast.

Chevron Corp., the world’s fourth-largest oil company, owns a refinery in British Columbia. It paid for a stake in the fields in 1970 allowing for exploration and drilling if the ban were lifted. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Cos. had drilled 14 wells in the area by 1969, before the ban was imposed.

Neither Chevron nor Shell has released the results of test wells drilled in the region.

The bans were imposed to prohibit tanker traffic. Federal and provincial governments came close to lifting the ban in the 1980s, shelving talks after the Exxon Valdez tanker struck a reef off Alaska, spilling about 40 million liters of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean near British Columbia in 1989.

British Columbia would be able to reap royalties from its natural resources similar to Alberta and Newfoundland should companies were allowed to pursue exploration.

Campbell is visiting Hong Kong as part of trade mission to China. He will go to Guangzhou tomorrow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Fellman in Hong Kong at [email protected]

Last Updated: November 22, 2006 03:24 EST

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