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Encana’s Deep Panuke offshore project on hold as fire is investigated

The jack-up rig Rowan Gorilla III is loaded on to the semi-submersible heavy lift ship Triumph in Halifax harbour Jan. 8, 2011. The rig was drilling on the Deep Panuke natural gas development offshore Nova Scotia. Encana Corp. has put its Deep Panuke natural gas project on hold temporarily while an investigation is carried out into why an electrical fire broke out on a production platform.


Energy giant Encana Corp. has put its Deep Panuke natural gas project on hold temporarily while an investigation is carried out into why an electrical fire broke out on a production platform off the coast of Nova Scotia.

SBM Offshore, which owns and operates the platform, says the fire was quickly extinguished after it began early Saturday. Forty-six people were evacuated as a precaution from the platform, which is 250 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

"The work that was taking place on the platform is on hold until there are some findings from the investigation," said Lori MacLean, a spokeswoman for Encana.

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She said it's too early to tell if there will be delays in the project as a result of damage.

There have already been holdups in the project. The development received regulatory approval in 2007 and was initially supposed to go into production by late 2010.

Dutch-based SBM Offshore said last fall that natural gas wouldn't begin flowing until an unspecified date prior to June 30.

SBM spokeswoman Anne Guerin-Moens said experts from the company will participate in the fire investigation with Encana.

"We will take whatever time is necessary to complete this investigation," she said. "They (investigators) will look at everything that happened, both root causes and how it was handled."

One issue that will be examined is why a fire suppression system that releases carbon dioxide didn't work.

Ms. Guerin-Moens said after the suppression system failed, the firefighters entered the scene and extinguished the blaze.

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The findings of the inquiry will be presented to the offshore regulator, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which monitors the investigation and reviews the conclusions.

Board spokeswoman Tanya Taylor White said it has personnel who will go out to the platform to survey the scene, but the board doesn't provide the public with a report.

"Encana is responsible for making the findings of the investigation public," she wrote in an e-mail.

Last week Nova Scotia's Energy Department said it will complete a study into a dwindling supply of natural gas reserves in the province.

The government said natural gas prices rose in December because of supply shortages, especially for large industrial-scale users, such as hospitals and universities.

The department cited the ongoing delays in the start-up of Deep Panuke as a factor contributing to the supply problem.

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The department says about 20,000 households and businesses use natural gas in Nova Scotia.

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