It was the early 1980s and a heady time in the Nova Scotia oil and gas industry. The semi-submersible drilling rig John Shaw- a visible symbol of the infant industry- was docked and being serviced in Halifax Harbour. In March, the province and Ottawa reached a deal on shared jurisdiction of offshore petroleum resources. As part of the accord, then-federal energy minister Jean Chretien announced $2.5 billion in tax breaks and grants to kick-start development. Major producers such as Shell Canada, Mobil Oil and Petro-Canada had begun to hand out a raft of local contracts.
David Dibblee, president of Leefax Services Ltd., a marine consultancy, was one of about 30 Nova Scotia businessmen who traveled to Aberdeen, Scotland in August 1982 to get a first-hand sense of North Sea oil and gas activities and the potential opportunities for local industry. He vividly recalls the buoyant mood of the group many years later: "Our reaction was, 'wow.'"
Need to organize
The group saw tremendous potential, but they also learned that the oil and gas industry is a truly global business with plenty of natural barriers to entry. "At that time there were almost no local resources or experience in the oil and gas industry," says Dibblee, "We figured we had do something, we had to work together. If I could do A and you do B and he does C, maybe together we might stand a better chance than the proverbial snowball."
In the mists of Aberdeen they hatched the idea to put together an association aimed at pooling information and talent, and advancing the interests of Nova Scotia companies. Each member put $200 into a kitty, and a
board structure was created with two directors. The founders restricted membership to the private sector, and only to Nova Scotia companies. "We wanted to be in a position where we could not be held to ransom by anyone. We wanted to be able to say very clearly what we felt were the best policies for Nova Scotia industry."
The vision of the founders paid off. The original band of companies quickly grew to 200 members, and became the official voice on oil and gas issues for Nova Scotia businesses ever since.
Since the inception of the Association, the energy industry has seen significant changes, as has the Association.
As the industry increasingly began to serve the growing renewable energy sector in the region, the Association adopted a broader mandate to assist companies as they grow. In late 2011 it announced it was dropping the OTANS name to become The Maritimes Energy Association.
The new name represents the Association's broader mandate of serving the complete energy industry - renewable & non-renewable, offshore & onshore. It looks beyond just Nova Scotia to eastern Canada, and the three Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.