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Oil leak from FPSO off Newfoundland coast said to be province’s largest ever

20 November 2018

An oil spill off the coast of Newfoundland caused an estimated 250,000 litres of crude to leak into the ocean, Husky Energy said on November 16. The leak, from a flowline to the SeaRose FPSO, stationed about 350 kilometres off the coast, happened in the White Rose field while crews were preparing to restart production after operations were suspended the previous day due to high winds and rough seas.

SeaRose FPSO - Image: Husky Energy
SeaRose FPSO - Image: Husky Energy

Oil extraction remains suspended as the cause of the spill is investigated, but ocean swells of up to seven metres are preventing any underwater examination, Husky spokesperson Colleen McConnell said. The spill cannot be contained or cleaned up until waves subside.

The company said that once swells shrink to four metres, remote-controlled vehicles can be sent to navigate the area around the FPSO, a floating production, storage and offloading tanker permanently moored over the White Rose field.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said in a statement that there had been no injuries and all wells were in a safe state.

“The risks in offshore oil activity can never be underestimated, especially in our harsh environment. Those risks are only acceptable when all reasonable measures have been taken to reduce them,” the statement said.

Husky said it had deployed tracker buoys, specialised equipment used to track oil spills. An aircraft from Newfoundland-based PAL Airlines was also headed to the area to carry out an observation flight.

All offshore oil rigs in the province’s waters were temporarily shut down while the environmental conditions were being assessed, but the offshore board said on November 19 that the nearby Hebron platform had restarted following safety checks.

The SeaRose was shut down earlier this year after the petroleum board found Husky violated operations protocols during a near miss with an iceberg in 2017. In that incident, the vessel did not properly disconnect lines used to bring oil onboard as the iceberg approached.

More than 80 crew members and 340,000 barrels of oil were on the vessel at the time, according to the board. An investigation showed the decision not to disconnect was "economically driven," according to documents obtained by CBC News at the time.

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