The White Rose incident offshore Newfoundland in November 2018 shows that operators can never be complacent when it comes to oil spills and highlights the importance of having effective measures in place
Operator Husky Energy reported on November 16 that its SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in the White Rose field had experienced a loss of pressure from a subsea flowline, resulting in a discharge of crude oil into the sea. The incident occurred during preparations to restart production at the facility, following a suspension as a result of a storm the previous day.
Husky’s own investigations revealed the incident occurred during “hot oiling”, a process of circulating warm crude from the FPSO through the subsea network in order to warm up flowlines prior to restarting production.
By Husky’s own estimates, some 250,000 litres of fluid, containing a mix of oil, water and gas, was released in two discharges during the incident. A survey carried out by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) showed the spill came from a subsea flowline connection near the South White Rose extension drill centre, 5.5 km from the FPSO itself.
The initial release happened during a 20-minute period while offshore teams were troubleshooting a flowline pressure drop, with the second release taking place during a retest.
Since the incident occurred, Husky has been carrying out daily observations of the spill via a combination of satellite monitoring, subsea checks, aerial surveillance and on-water observations. The company is also conducting inspection and planning to support resumption of production.
In the aftermath of the spill, Husky worked in collaboration with the Canadian Wildlife Service and other government agencies to monitor and treat affected wildlife.
Husky used an ROV to identify this flowline connector as the source of the release (credit: Husky Energy)
According to Husky, DOF-owned OSV Skandi Vinland will carry out the recovery and repair work on the flowline using its two work-class ROVs. Built in 2017, Skandi Vinland is a Vard-designed 93.2 m-long multipurpose vessel with a dwt of 2,970, accommodation for 55 seafarers and a bollard pull of 115 tonnes. Husky also has several vessels on contract in the region as part of its normal operations and has capacity to bring on additional vessels via the spot market if required.
At the time of writing, production at SeaRose remained shut in, as investigations into the incident – both Husky’s own and those of the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) – are ongoing.
The company submitted a preliminary investigation to C-NLOPB on 7 December 2018 and on 7 January 2019 C-NLOPB issued an incident disclosure update, saying it would meet with Husky to review the preliminary investigation.
“Our focus remains on reviewing Husky’s plan for plugging of the flowline and recovery of the failed flowline connector to ensure the work can be carried out in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” C-NLOPB explained.
C-NLOPB and partner agencies will need to approve Husky’s plan before it can be implemented. The agency said this will take considerable time to do properly and thoroughly, “as would be the case with any investigation of any incident with potential enforcement implications.”
In Husky’s most recent public update on the situation (10 December 2018), the company said: “We are deeply sorry for the incident and are committed to learning from it and putting measures in place to ensure it does not happen again.”