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NEB says it will weigh Imperial, Chevron's Arctic spill response plans

CALGARY - The National Energy Board has agreed to give two big energy companies more clarity over whether their plans to deal with a potential well blowout in the Beaufort Sea are adequate.

Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO) and Chevron Canada Ltd. had asked the board for more certainty before committing huge amounts of money to explore in Arctic waters.

The NEB requires companies to show they can kill a ruptured oil well in the Arctic offshore with a relief well in the same season it's drilled — a difficult and costly proposition in that harsh environment.

The companies say there are other means to stop an underwater blowout that are more feasible and they asked the board to weigh in on whether those contingency plans are as effective as a same-season relief well.

The NEB says it will look at Imperial and Chevron's alternatives before the companies are required to file a full regulatory application.

The energy watchdog reviewed its Arctic drilling rules following the massive BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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