Shell Canada has secured approval from Canada’s Environment M inistry for its East Coast offshore drilling project in a region south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Following the approval, Shell will begin its $1bn exploratory drilling programme later this year.

Canada Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq conditionally approved the project, claiming that it would not harm the environment.

"Shell must ensure that the project takes mitigation measures to protect fish and marine habitats."

Under the conditions, Shell must ensure that the project takes mitigation measures to protect fish and marine habitats, in addition to follow-up requirements.

The company still needs to obtain the further regulatory permits and approvals from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to go ahead with the project.

In 2014, Shell contracted the 228m vessel Stena IceMax owned by Stena Drilling of Aberdeen, Scotland, for the drilling programme.

As part of the Shelburne Basin Venture Exploration Drilling Project, Shell proposes up to seven exploration wells within six exploration licenses (EL) over a four year period from 2015 to 2019.

With a 50% working interest in the project, Shell operates the ELs.

ConocoPhillips is holding a 30% non-operating interest in the project and the remaining 20% non-operating interest is held by Suncor Energy.