CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Imperial Oil defers drilling in Canada's Beaufort Sea

Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:21pm EDT
 
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(Corrects time of requested extension in paragraph two to seven years from nine)

CALGARY, Alberta, June 26 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd said on Friday it is deferring plans to drill an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea in Canada's Arctic as it seeks an extension to the length of its exploration license in the region.

Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for the company, said the license, which it shares with Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc, expires in 2020. It is asking the Canadian government for a seven-year extension so it can complete the regulatory process and have adequate time to make a decision on how or when it will drill a well in the region.

"There's a significant amount of work between where we are today and where we would need to be if we were to drill a well by 2020," Rolheiser said. "It's our belief the current license term provided insufficient time to do the work we believe necessary."

Imperial is the second oil company to put aside plans to drill in Canada's remote northern sea. But while Imperial is deferring its drilling operation, Chevron Corp said in December it shelved its plan for a Beaufort well because of the "economic uncertainty" brought about by falling oil prices.

Rolheiser said that while Imperial has written regulators explaining its decision, it is still committed to carrying out exploration work in the Beaufort.

Imperial and Exxon each have a 25 percent stake in the Beaufort license while BP holds the remaining 50 percent share. (Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Tom Brown and David Gregorio)