Canada to open oil exploration lands in remote Arctic islands

Mon Mar 4, 2013 4:28pm EST
 
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* Call for nominations in Arctic islands

* Region lightly explored since the 1970s

* Bent Horn oil field up for grabs in next auction

CALGARY, Alberta, March 4 (Reuters) - Canada invited oil and gas companies on Monday to nominate drilling lands in the country's Arctic archipelago for inclusion in a future property auction and said one small oil field that was discovered in the tax-dollar-fueled exploration rush that swept the region 40 years ago will also be up for grabs.

The government's nomination process asks oil companies to select blocks of land they would like to see posted for bidding in a future auction.

The remote region, part of Canada's Nunavut territory, has been little explored since the 1970s, when high oil prices, protectionist energy policies and government grants encouraged oil companies to drill there.

That exploration boom led to the discovery of 16 fields containing 300 million barrels of oil and 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, including the 12-million barrel Bent Horn field.

The field, on Cameron Island about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of the North Pole, produced 2.8 million barrels of crude from 1985 to 1996 before it was abandoned by Petro-Canada, the former government-owned oil company acquired by Suncor Energy Inc in 2009.

The government gave notice that Bent Horn would be included in the next drilling-rights auction.

The call for nominations runs until April 24.