Hibernia South draws few comments

Moira Baird
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A call for public comment on the proposed $1.74-billion Hibernia South project netted only a trio of submissions.

The Hibernia partners are aiming to develop an estimated 261 million barrels of crude oil starting in 2013 or sooner.

It's one of several pools of oil in the southern part of the field, and it will be developed using the existing Hibernia production platform.

Bob Cadigan

A call for public comment on the proposed $1.74-billion Hibernia South project netted only a trio of submissions.

The Hibernia partners are aiming to develop an estimated 261 million barrels of crude oil starting in 2013 or sooner.

It's one of several pools of oil in the southern part of the field, and it will be developed using the existing Hibernia production platform.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) issued a four-week call for submissions.

By the May 31 deadline, it received two from the Women in Resources Development Corp. in St. John's and the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA), which represents more than 500 offshore supply and service companies. A third came from a former Hibernia worker now employed at a gas plant in Kazakhstan.

"We don't get a tremendous response to these consultations," said Sean Kelly, spokesman for the CNLOPB. "But we do get some comments, and of course, we'll incorporate those comments into the staff analysis which is underway now."

There is no deadline for the completion of the CNLOPB review of the Hibernia partners' development plan. If all goes well, Kelly said it will take another couple of months and then it will go to the CNLOPB's board of directors.

"If the board approves it, then it's a fundamental decision for the governments so it's sent to them for their review," Kell said.

Once the federal and provincial ministers of natural resources receive the board's decision, they will have up to 30 days to approve it or disapprove it. As a fundamental decision, typically both ministers must sign off on it before an offshore development can proceed.

The Women in Resource Development Corp. said it was pleased with the provisions for gender equity in the amended Hibernia benefits agreement.

In its submission, the organization said it looks forward to working with the Hibernia partners to "ensure that women have equal access to the employment opportunities and benefits" generated by the project.

"This will involve not only ensuring that there are inclusive policies and programs in place, but also that there are strong implementation strategies to accompany the women's employment plan and business access strategy."

The group said such strategies are essential.

"Despite the development and corporate support of gender equity plans, statistics show that progress on gender equity is slow. "This is particularly evident in the skilled trades and technology areas in currently operating offshore projects."

Local content

Bob Cadigan, president and CEO of NOIA, said its members expect each offshore project to increase the level of local content.

As the first satellite tie-back project in the local offshore oil industry, Cadigan said North Amethyst set the bar for local content.

Subsea tie-backs are used to develop small pools of oil and gas up to 30 kilometres away from an existing production platform.

The first expansion of the White Rose oilfield, North Amethyst, started production May 31.

"We like to see each project build on the successes of the past. That's the main reason we look back at White Rose as a good model for those kinds of projects going forward," Cadigan said in an interview.

"A fair amount of the engineering was done here; there was a lot of fabrication done here in terms of the subsea frames, manifolds and so on.

"With Hibernia South, where the production wells will be produced from the platform, it'll probably be somewhat smaller in scope. But it will still be a billion-dollar-plus project."

In its submission to the offshore board, NOIA raised some concerns about local content during the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase of Hibernia South.

"More detailed information should have been provided on local content and supplier development at the FEED stage," said NOIA's submission. "This detailed information should specify the activity to be performed in Newfoundland and Labrador."

NOIA recommended the Hibernia partners "provide detailed information with respect to the detailed engineering and construction and installation that will be required ... specifically with respect to local content."

A former Hibernia worker said using the oilfield's production platform to develop the nearby field is "great and forward-thinking use of existing facilities.

"The existing field will and has decreased in production and connecting the remote Hibernia south field certainly will prolong the use of these costly facilities."

He also cautioned that the aging facility will require careful inspections as the new southern field is tied into the platform.

"The only downside I can see is with new southern fields available, the older fields will take a back seat," said the submission.

"The focus will be on obtaining max production. Safeguards need to be in place to ensure all fields are produced to the last drop."

Four years ago, the original development plan for Hibernia South also generated three public submissions. All three took issue with using the original Hibernia benefits agreement to guide local benefits in the expanded oilfield 20 years later.

The first Hibernia development plan was rejected by the provincial government in 2007.

These days, the province is a 10 per cent partner in Hibernia South.

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Hibernia, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Resources Development Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association

Geographic location: Hibernia South, St. John's, Kazakhstan White Rose Newfoundland and Labrador

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