In a sign of the times, interest continues to dwindle in Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas reserves. For the fourth year in a row, no new licences will be issued to explore the offshore region, leaving Nova Scotia’s petroleum future uncertain.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board issued a call for bids in May to explore two parcels in the southwestern Scotian Slope. The call was open for six months and the board received no bids. Calls for offshore petroleum exploration are made annually, but last year’s call was vetoed by the federal and Nova Scotia governments.

There were no bids made for offshore exploration in 2019, and there was no call in 2018 as the province embarked on an offshore promotional strategy.

The oil and gas sector saw a downturn globally in 2020, but it started slowing in Nova Scotia before that.

In 2017, Shell Canada capped two exploratory wells in the Shelburne Basin. The following year, all exploration off Nova Scotia’s coasts dried up after the Hess Corporation, in partnership with BP Canada and the Scotian Basin Exploration Project, sealed a well that failed to return any commercially viable resources.

Also in 2018, ExxonMobil ended production at its Sable offshore natural gas project after nearly 20 years in operation. The company finished decommissioning the site in 2020.

There are three active exploration licences for the offshore but the petroleum board says no applications have been made for seismic surveying or drilling.

Whether there will be a call for bids in 2022 will depend on whether anyone nominates Crown land parcels for exploration. The deadline for nominations is in December.