Hibernia oil spill estimated at 6,000 litres

Leak stopped, permanent fix dependent on weather

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on January 18, 2014
The Hibernia oil production platform. — Telegram file photo

A leak in December 2013 at one of two systems used to offload oil from the Hibernia platform, about 350 kilometres offshore St. John’s, resulted in 6,000 litres of crude ending up in the ocean, according to the Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd.

 The first public report on the problem at Hibernia came Jan. 3, after the company reported oil spilled to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB). The initial report by the company was of a 10-litre spill on Dec. 18, as a result of a problem with a valve in the offloading system, with no oil sheen visible on the water.

Also, on Dec. 27, HMDC reported oil was again visible on the water’s surface near the platform. The source was confirmed as a leak in the valve of the offloading system.

No estimate was given on the second spill until this week.

“The sheen was rapidly dispersed by heavy seas,” said Margot Bruce-O’Connell, spokeswoman for HMDC, who noted the company has spill response equipment available offshore for such cases, but further response has been prevented by the sea states.

The leaky valve has been isolated and the oil leak reportedly stopped. A permanent fix can only come with repair or replacement of the valve, requiring a work window of clear weather and relatively calm seas.

Since the problem was first confirmed, the opportunity for the final repair has yet to present itself, according to HMDC.

As to why it has taken until now to provide an estimate on the main spill?

“Our first priority was to respond to the incident, to isolate the source and investigate the cause,” Bruce-O’Connell said, adding that the estimate of 6,000 litres was established and reported after that response work.

“HMDC regrets the discharge and is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner,” she added.

The company had stopped offloading oil and cut back on production into early January, while the problem was first being investigated. The Hibernia platform has two offloading systems and normal production has since been restored by making full use of the unaffected system.

Meanwhile, staff at the CNLOPB have been in contact with HMDC about the spill and response. The board is trying to understand exactly how the latest estimate on the spill was determined.

The offshore regulator is investigating the problems at Hibernia and may yet revise the company’s estimate on total oil spilled, according to CNLOPB spokesman Sean Kelly.

 This is an edited version.