Significant or commercial discovery
Companies need to apply to the CER if they believe they have found an area in the North or offshore under federal jurisdiction and where producing oil or gas may be feasible. Declaring a discovery helps a company preserve its rights to exclusively produce in an area they have discovered.
Here’s what a company that is seeking to drill, and eventually produce oil or gas in the North or offshore typically does if they want to have subsurface rights to an area:
- Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) (north) or the Department of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) (south) issue a call for bids.
- A company applies for an exploration licence in response to this call. With it, a company has the right to explore for, and the exclusive right to drill and test for, oil and gas. It also has the exclusive right to develop that area to produce oil and gas, and possibly the exclusive right to obtain a production licence. A company will also need an operating licence, an authorization, and well approval from the CER if it wants to drill any wells.
- If, during the tenure of an exploration licence, a company discovers oil or gas, they will need to apply for a significant discovery licence. This kind of licence doesn’t have an expiry date like an exploration licence does. To get this kind of licence, a company needs to apply to the CER first and have its significant discovery declared.
- Whenever a company believes that it is ready to produce oil or gas resources it has discovered, it will seek a commercial discovery declaration from the CER.
- It then seeks development plan approval from the CER and a production licence from either CIRNAC or NRCan.
Below is a table of declarations made since 1998.
- the type of discovery declaration (significant [SDD] or commercial [CDD])
- the date the declaration was made
- the company who made the declaration
- the field or well name
- geographic area where the CER regulates (Mackenzie Delta, Liard plateau, Beaufort Sea, Colville Hills, Mackenzie plain, and South Great Slave plain)
- section (longitude and latitude)
What we expect when companies apply to declare
Before companies apply for a significant or commercial discovery declaration, we advise that they meet with us first to understand the information or documentation required for this kind of application.
To apply, companies are advised to follow the Guidance Notes (Revised) for Applicants – Applications for Declaration of Significant Discovery and Commercial Discovery – Revised Section 4 – 17 November 2003
Petroleum resource management on Canada's federal lands, onshore or offshore, is done under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act (CPRA) or the Petroleum Resources Act (for discoveries in the onshore part of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region only).
- Canada Petroleum Resources Act
- Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act
- Petroleum Resources Act
- Oil and Gas Operations Act
- Guidance Notes (Revised) for Applicants – Applications for Declaration of Significant Discovery and Commercial Discovery – Revised Section 4 – 17 November 2003
- Directed Affected Persons Process
- Naming Process for Federal Permit System (FPS) Survey Grids and Wells
See our section on the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act for a full list of related regulations and guidance.
Land administration and distribution maps
Rights and licences (exploration licence, significant discovery licence, production licences) are managed by CIRNAC and NRCan.
Maps showing areas where a company may have a significant discovery, exploration, or production licence are available from CIRNAC for areas under its administration.
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