Expert says the sealing of two offshore exploration wells is a worrying signal

A veteran industry observer says the sealing of two Nova Scotia offshore exploration wells is a worrying signal for the province's hopes of oil riches.

Wade Locke, a resource economist at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, says Shell's confirmation this week of its abandonment of the Monterey Jack well is ``not a good sign.''

It comes several months after the announcement that no commercial quantities of oil were found in the Cheshire deepwater well.

The economist also says higher oil prices are needed to encourage deepwater offshore projects.

Stuart Pinks, the chief executive of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, says ``it would appear unlikely,'' that there will be further oil exploration in Nova Scotia in 2017.

But he also says the Shell effort can be seen as the front end of a new exploration phase.

He says the companies can keep the information they've gained private for up to two years, while other exploration projects -- such as a planned exploration well by B-P -- are yet to be completed.

Locke says one important indicator of the health of Nova Scotia's offshore industry will come in the spring, when the regulator invites bids for exploration of the Sydney basin and the Orpheus-Graben basin off the northeastern coast.