1. Blowout

The Seadrill West Aquarius has been approved to drill for BP on the Scotian Shelf.

Antonia Juhasz, who is an energy analyst, author, and investigative journalist specializing in oil, has taken an interest in Nova Scotia’s offshore, and so asked Robert Bea to have a look at the regulatory approval for BP’s drilling on the Scotian Shelf.

Bea was the right person for Juhasz to ask. Bea is a Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley and co-director (and founder) of the university’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. He studies the “engineering and management of design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning marine systems including offshore platforms, pipelines, and floating facilities.”

“If Robert Bea shows up on your project, it’s not a good sign,” writes Mark Crawford for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers:. “Either you’re in the middle of a major disaster or someone is worried enough to send out the nation’s foremost forensic engineer to take a look. … Bea has studied some of the worst engineering disasters in U.S. history, including the Exxon Valdez, space shuttle Columbia, and Deepwater Horizon.”

“What is the most common denominator you see in engineering failures?” Crawford asked Bea. His response:

Organizations that lose their way by developing gross imbalances between production and protection. One of the big drivers for increasing production is decreasing costs (decreasing protection). The balance progressively shifts until there is a major system failure — a monetarily-driven spiral to disaster.

And so here’s Bea nosing around Nova Scotia’s offshore, and what does he find?

“I focused my review on the risks (validated quantitative analyses of the likelihoods and consequences) associated with an uncontrolled blowout that could occur during the proposed drilling operations,” he writes for the National Observer:

As I performed my review, I was overcome by feelings of déjà vu because BP’s proposals to drill offshore Nova Scotia were eerily like those I had reviewed during 2016 at the request of the Australian Parliament.

My review of BP’s proposal documentation indicated their conclusions that the risks associated with uncontrolled blowouts in the Australian GAB drilling were “As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP)” were not correct, nor properly documented and validated. Both the likelihoods and consequences of uncontrolled blowouts could be further reduced and the validity of these risk assessment and management processes properly quantified and documented.

Bea submitted the results of his study, and the Australian Parliament imposed more regulatory constraints on BP. Rather than comply, the company killed the project.

“My review of BP’s exploratory drilling proposals documentation submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) have reached similar conclusions,” continues Bea:

My review of BP’s exploratory drilling proposals documentation submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has reached similar conclusions. Contrary to the CEAA’s Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Guidelines, the “risks of accidents and malfunctions” have not been properly assessed, documented and validated by BP. BP’s assessment of the likelihood of an uncontrolled blowout are much too low, based on the Nova Scotia exploratory drilling conditions. BP’s assessment of the consequences of an uncontrolled blowout are based on unsubstantiated assessments of the times required for successful mobilization of blowout preventer capping stack, and if required, drilling a relief well. Both the short and long-term ‘consequences’ of the oil and gas released to the environment have been significantly underestimated.

CEAA’s assessment that “BP Canada’s proposed drilling project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects” is not valid given the International Standards Organization’s guidelines (ISO 3100) to determine ALARP risks nor those implemented by other countries based on those guidelines — e.g. the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive’s and the Australian NOPSEMA’s “Safety Case Regime” requirements.

Given the potential severe consequences of a sustained uncontrolled blowout during BP’s exploratory drilling operations offshore Nova Scotia and the relatively high likelihoods of such a blowout, the Canadian governments with responsibilities for offshore oil and gas developments should do all that is possible to assure that such a miserable failure will not be realized.

“Relatively high likelihoods of a blowout.”

But we’re all going to get rich on the offshore, so let the vilification of Bea commence.

I forgot to mention that yesterday was the 26th anniversary of the Westray disaster. Seems relevant somehow.

2. Coastal Cannapy

The city issued this press release yesterday:

The Halifax Regional Municipality has applied to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an order to close Coastal Cannapy Medical Dispensary Inc., at 2411 Agricola Street.

Both Coastal Cannapy, a retail shop selling cannabis, and the landlord (3065468 Nova Scotia Limited) pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, in Nova Scotia Provincial Court, for operating without a permit. Coastal Cannapy was ordered to close. The operation has, however, remained open in violation of the Provincial Court order and in contravention of the municipality’s Halifax Peninsula Land-Use By-Law.

A hearing date in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has not been set.

The municipality does not issue permits to businesses for the sale of illegal products such as cannabis.

Store-front operations that sell and dispense cannabis (both medicinal and non-medicinal) are operating illegally under federal law. When cannabis is legalized in Canada, dispensaries will remain illegal in Nova Scotia. Only provincially approved distributors will be permitted to sell and dispense cannabis. In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation will be the sole authorized seller of cannabis.

The municipality continues to assess by-law violations and will seek legal action on a case-by-case basis.

The owner of Coastal Cannapy is Andrew Laughlin of Halifax, who has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Saint Mary’s, concentrating on Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurship studies. (Aren’t we supposed to celebrate entrepreneurship?)

The numbered company that owns the building that leases to Laughlin is owned by Gregory and Cynthia Arab of Bedford.

3. Inglis Street fire is “suspicious”

“Halifax Regional Police is handling the file after a blaze engulfed a south-end building known as the Knightsbridge Complex early Tuesday on Inglis St. in the city’s south end,” reports Philip Croucher for StarMetro Halifax:

Police spokeswoman Const. Carol McIsaac confirmed on Wednesday that they are treating the fire as suspicious.

She said the blaze was deemed suspicious by fire investigators on Tuesday, and a forensic identification unit went to the scene.

The case is now being handled by the general investigation section, she said, adding that two people in the department specialize in fire cases.

4. Licence plate readers on the bridges

Motorcade inaugurating service on the Macdonald Bridge, April, 1955. Image: Nova Scotia Archives

The Bridge Commission is going to spy on us:

Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) is collecting license plate information for three months in the toll plazas.

To help HHB understand where cash paying customers are from, HHB will be collecting license plate information for three months beginning the week of May 7, 2018.

Cameras will be installed in four cash lanes – two in each direction on each bridge.

The cameras will capture photos of the license plates for 90 days and the information will be compiled in a report that will identify the  province / state for each license plate. No personal information about the owner of the plate will be collected and no images of the vehicles or people driving the vehicles will be identified.

5. Emergency alert

My phone squawked at me yesterday, but the phones of the people I was sitting with did not.

And what’s the point of the alert if it doesn’t leave a text message I can retrieve later? It assumes I have my phone with me and can read it exactly as the alert is coming.

In principle, the alerts could serve a purpose. In Vancouver, for example, where there’s a high chance of a cataclysmic earthquake, the half-minute (or whatever) warning that the alert might bring before the quake wave reaches from the epicentre to the city could be enough time for people to flee buildings before the buildings collapse.

In practice, however, I suspect we will quickly have “alert creep” as emergency managers find more reasons to use the technology. They’ll start with earthquakes and raging wild fires, but then we’ll move onto Amber Alerts and neighbourhood shootings, then missing persons, then traffic tie-ups, then lost dogs, then photos of some kid shoplifting at the Kwik-E-Mart. You watch, soon enough the damn phone won’t shut up.



No public meetings today or Friday.



Economic Development  (Thursday, 10am, One Government Place) — somebody or somebodies (the calendar doesn’t say who) from the Departments of Business and Labour and Advanced Education will be asked about “Building a Newfangled Economy.”


No public meetings.

On campus



Gut Microbiome Dynamics in the World of Bone Marrow Transplantation (Thursday, 10am, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Ying Taur from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, will speak.

The Eye and the Sky (Thursday, 7:15pm, Planetarium, Dunn Building) — $5, reductions for families (minimum age 8 years). Reservations:

In the harbour

5:45am: Fram, cruise ship with up to 318 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Cap-Aux-Meules, Magdalen Island
7am: Pantonio, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
10:30am: Pantonio, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11am: Crete I, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
11:30am: Hoegh Chiba, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
11:30am: Arsos, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
Noon: Eastern Confidence, bulker, moves from anchorage to Pier 27
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
4:30pm: Undine, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
4:30pm: Eastern Confidence, bulker, moves from Pier 27 back to anchorage
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
5pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11pm: Fram, cruise ship, sails from Pier 24 for Louisbourg


[insert insightful, and yet hilarious, note here]

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Re: plates, I was recently in BC for several months, where they have pay-by-plate. I had NS plates and just whizzed back and forth. Nothing ever happened. Others from other provinces had the same experience.

    Re: BP drilling offshore, with their well-capping device 30 stormy days away, why don’t I see more protests? This is a risk to this coast on the same order as Kinder Morgan’s risk to BC — and by the very same company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. You’d think we’d have fishermen and processsors, tourism operators etc. marching in the streets.

    1. Kinder Morgan poses almost zero risk to BC, and a great deal less risk than the container ships and chemical tankers entering and leaving Vancouver and other BC ports.

    2. I would contend that this is one of the key differences between Nova Scotia and British Columbia, apathy vs. engagement. I love this place, but it can be a real backwater of critical thinking.

  2. Re: Bridge Commission spying on us. This would seem to be a wasted effort. They need to know how many cars with NS plates are from Halifax and how many are not. This will not tell them that.

    Meanwhile I was caught in a long line to get on the MacKay Bridge from Dartmouth early on a Friday afternoon recently because I did not have a MacPass. They have reduced the cash lanes to two and one was full of trucks. This seems to be a means to coerce people into getting passes. It worked for me. So now they have $15 of my money tied up, and at the rate I use the bridge, it will be a year or two to use that much.

    1. I’m not sure that they’re looking to know how many are from Halifax; it may just to be to find out how many are from out-of-province. They’ve been looking into going completely cashless, which could mean a pay-by-plate system. I imagine billing is harder (or impossible?) for out-of-province plates, so they probably need to know how many of those they get.

  3. Check out the findings of the two previous incidents of ‘loss of well control’ offshore NS (Shell and Mobil).
    Mobil flew in engineers from all over the world,never experienced such a problem because at that time the conditions offshore Nova Scotia were not found anywhere else in the world.