Offshore drilling

The CER regulates, among other things, drilling, testing, producing from, and abandonment of, wells in the Canadian Arctic offshore, the Hudson, James and Ungava bays, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the British Columbia offshore. We regulate these activities under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. Only 2 wells we regulate have been drilled in the offshore area in the last 30 years. The last one was completed in 2006.

Areas offshore of the east coast of Canada are regulated by the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOBP) and Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

View a map of what we regulate

What we expect: Drilling in the Canadian Arctic Offshore

Companies wishing to drill in the Canadian Arctic offshore area need to provide what is in our Filing Requirements for Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic. These requirements were developed in response to a major incident that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. These requirements are specific to the Canadian Arctic offshore and are in addition to other requirements companies must follow.

These filing requirements:

  • outline what companies need to submit to us when seeking authorization or approval for Canadian Arctic offshore drilling activities
  • give clarity about what we expect for information filed with an application

Companies that want to drill in these areas must get the CER’s authorization and must demonstrate that they are complying with all applicable legislation and regulatory requirements.

Legislation and guidance

See our section on the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act for a full list of related regulations and guidance.

Moratorium on drilling in Arctic waters

The last time exploration licences were issued in the Canadian Arctic offshore [PDF] by Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) was in 2014.

In December 2016, the Government of Canada designated all Canadian Arctic waters as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas licensing. This designation is to be reviewed every 5 years through a science-based life-cycle assessment.

In August 2019, Canada issued an order prohibiting oil and gas activities in the Canadian Arctic offshore.

The CER is not involved in rights issuance and management. We work to promote safety, environmental protection, and the conservation of resources. We also work with companies throughout the life of a project to make sure they are ready in case things go wrong. We respond to emergencies as part of unified command and plan ahead with companies so that responses are proper, timely, appropriate, and effective.

The Arctic offshore drilling review

In April 2010, the offshore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, Deepwater Horizon, experienced a fire, explosion, and eventually sunk. It resulted in the loss of 11 lives, and a release of about 800,000 cubic metres (m³) (about 5 million barrels of oil).

After the incident, the National Energy Board (now the CER) initiated the Arctic Offshore Drilling Review. This review examined if this type of event could happen in the Canadian Arctic offshore, looked at learnings from the Deep Water Horizon accident, and assessed how it may be possible to safely drill offshore while protecting the environment.

Date modified: