Oil price volatility and low natural gas prices continue to have a significant impact on oil and gas exploration and production activity. Compounding the various challenges faced by the Canadian oil and gas sector due to low commodity prices, restricted options for the transportation of oil (particularly to foreign markets), and the loss of some traditional gas markets, has proven challenging. Environmental and regulatory reviews of proposed projects have stalled and put in doubt the future of the construction of new transportation capacity, putting additional pressure on commodity prices. However, the emergence of new drilling technologies, including directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, has expanded opportunities to exploit unconventional resources that were not technically feasible to produce until very recently.
In providing a brief overview of the applicable regulatory regimes, it is helpful to discuss matters in the context of the primary regions of oil and gas activity in Canada. These primary regions are:
- Northern Canada;
- Offshore the west and east coasts of Canada;
- Conventional and unconventional onshore in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Québec; and
- The oil sands in northern Alberta.