Shell Canada has received an operations authorisation from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) to begin drilling at the Shelburne Basin Venture Exploration Drilling Project.

The drilling unit used by Shell Canada, Stena IceMAX, is currently performing preparatory work before commencing drilling operations.

Earlier this year, the company submitted applications to the board to carry out a deepwater drilling programme 250km offshore of Nova Scotia.

During the initial phase of the programme, the company plans to drill two exploratory wells.

"Shell Canada has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the CNSOPB that it will be taking all reasonable precautions to protect safety and the environment while carrying out the drilling programme."

Before drilling the first well Cheshire, Shell Canada is required to obtain an approval to drill a well (ADW) from the CNSOPB, which is expected in within the next few days.

For the second well Monterey Jack, the company needs to obtain separate ADW at a later date.

CNSOPB CEO Stuart Pinks said: "After an extensive regulatory review process, Shell Canada has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the CNSOPB that it will be taking all reasonable precautions to protect safety and the environment while carrying out the drilling programme.

"Shell Canada’s original submission proposed that, in the unlikely event of a blow-out, the deployment of a capping stack would take up to 21 days.

"CNSOPB required Shell Canada to review the deployment time to determine if it could be reduced."

Shell has responded with an optimised schedule that indicates that a capping stack could be in place at the wellsite within 12 to 13 days should it be required.

The company said it would also deploy a second capping stack as further contingency.

According to CNSOPB, the latest grant does not authorise the use of dispersants in case of a spill.

CNSOPB previously said it will only authorise the company’s drilling programme after confirming that all reasonable precautions would be in place to ensure that the programme proceeds safely.