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Report On Business Newfoundland launches plan to speed up offshore oil and gas development

The Hebron Platform, anchored in Trinity Bay, Nfld., is shown on April 18, 2017.

Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Cash-strapped Newfoundland and Labrador has launched a 12-year plan to speed and increase offshore oil and gas development while drawing coveted global investment.

The province will review regulations, enhance seismic data and advance cost-saving tie-back technology to extract more from existing sites. Its goal is to double overall production to more than 650,000 barrels a day by 2030.

Premier Dwight Ball called it an ambitious but realistic plan as his province grapples with mounting debt and successive deficits. Offshore oil earnings once accounted for about one-third of revenues but collapsing prices starting in 2014 blew a major hole in provincial finances.

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"We can wait no longer," Ball told a news conference Monday in St. John's. "We are at a critical point. The time for action is now."

The province also wants to enhance subsea and seismic technology to develop what it estimates is an offshore oil potential of at least 37 billion barrels.

And it wants to kick-start commercial production of largely untapped natural gas reserves by 2030 as it counts on growing global demand.

Four major oil sites now operate off Newfoundland.

The plan also sets targets of 100 new exploration wells, a shortened timeline of about 10 years from discovery to oil production, and integrating oil and gas with renewable sources to create a "world-class energy cluster."

Carman Mullins, president of ExxonMobil Canada, said Monday the industry has transformed since the price crash. Still, the plan sets a course to keep Newfoundland and Labrador on the corporate radar for big-ticket investment, she added.

"Every opportunity needs to be competitive on a global scale," she told reporters. "Having regulations that provide clarity, as well as are efficient and effective, are key. We need to develop the resources as well as protecting the environment.

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"We're looking at how can you do things more efficiently? How can you leverage technology? How can you be creative and innovative and bring new research together?"

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