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Microbial Genomics for De-risking Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration in Nova Scotia


Generating solutions




Genomic Applications Partnership Program

Genome Centre(s)



Project Leader(s)

Fiscal Year Project Launched


Project Description

Atlantic Canada’s petroleum industry has a significant impact on the region’s economy. Since 1995, it has generated investments of $37 billion and more than 12,000 direct jobs. But offshore drilling is expensive. A critical component to Nova Scotia’s ongoing ability to attract interest is a comprehensive set of tools to help de-risk the exploration process. This project offers microbial genomics as one of those tools.

To put it simply, some bacteria thrive on hydrocarbons and can be found around seeps—areas where petroleum naturally bubbles up out of the seabed. These bacteria can provide an indication of petroleum trapped beneath the surface.

Dr. Hubert’s team will develop new genomics-based tools to identify aerobic, anaerobic and thermophilic bacteria associated with seeps. Adam MacDonald will lead the core sample collection, geochemical analysis, and integration of the results to deliver a deeper understanding of the characteristics and origins of the petroleum.  This adds a valuable layer of information to more conventional geological data to de-risk offshore exploration.

The project will initially focus on the southwestern to central Scotian Slope and then extend to other areas off the coast of Nova Scotia. Results will expand the understanding of offshore petroleum resources developed through the original Play Fairway Analysis conducted by the Department of Energy in 2011. That initiative helped to attract over $2 billion in new exploration commitments. 

This project is intended to develop new analytical techniques and data that will provide additional insights to heighten industry interest, enhance exploration activity and increase the dollar value of work commitments arising from future licensing rounds. This could lead to job creation, royalties and taxes that benefit both Nova Scotia and Canada as a whole.