West White Rose under review as work continues

Public consultations Tuesday, Wednesday and ongoing online

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on June 24, 2014
While not yet given the full go-ahead by project partners, Husky Energy is already spending on early works for its West White Rose project at Argentia. Dexter Construction is creating a reusable graving dock at Argentia. Pending sanction — a decision expected by the end of this year — an offshore oil platform will be built at the site.
— Submitted photo courtesy of Husky Energy

First oil from the West White Rose offshore oil development is expected in late 2017, although the operator, Husky Energy, has plenty of hurdles to cover between now and then.

The company has moved the proposed project — with construction of the base of an offshore platform at Argentia — through the environmental assessment process, but needs further approvals.

At the top of the list is a public review ordered by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), underway by Memorial University’s Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development (Harris Centre). The review will gather public input on the development and provide recommendations relevant to the future of the project.

It includes two public meetings today at the Placentia Arts Centre and two Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s. Sessions are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. both days. (See: whiteroseconsultation.ca)

The company has not yet decided if the immense cost of the offshore project as a whole will be taken on and a sanction decision — a final yes or no — must be issued by Husky’s partners: Suncor Energy and Nalcor Energy.

“Pending completion of that (public review) process and the subsequent governmental reviews, we anticipate a project sanction decision towards the end of the year,” said Martyn Fear, Husky’s vice-president of drilling and completions for its Atlantic Region. He was speaking to the timeline at the Noia oil industry conference in St. John’s Thursday.

In the last year, he said, Husky and its partners have been able to confirm that building a “wellhead platform” is the best option to produce oil from the White Rose extension. They’ve signed a benefits agreement with the provincial government and filed a final development application to the CNLOPB.

“For some of the components within the (concrete platform), some limited long-lead procurement is already underway to help preserve the project schedule,” he said.

Husky has similarly pressed forward with establishing its construction site at Argentia.

Currently, 50 acres of land left empty by the closure of an old American naval base is being transformed by Dexter Construction to a new construction site. There, a reusable, concrete graving dock will remain as a legacy of the project, providing for future work in the area whenever a large, dry dock space is needed.

“(It’s) similar to what’s in Bull Arm. However, in Bull Arm the bund walls are removed and replaced each time, which certainly takes a lot more time and money,” said Harvey Brenton, CEO, Argentia Management Authority.

Brenton’s organization is tasked with drawing new entrants to the area of the old Argentia base and spurring industrial developments. He said he will participate in the upcoming public review process, calling for the project to be speeded forward.

“We’re really looking forward to the activity, what we’ve got here now, increasing tremendously during the next couple of years,” he said.

Husky’s concrete gravity structure (CGS) for West White Rose will — if approved — be similar to oil platforms such as Hibernia and Hebron, but smaller and without the available oil storage space of those facilities. In the CGS, oil produced through drilling from the platform will go to Husky’s SeaRose production vessel.

The concrete base of the CGS is set to be built at Argentia, with a living quarters for the topsides, helideck lifeboat stations and flare boom built elsewhere in the province. It is expected the topsides will be set to the base using the Pieter Schelte, the largest platform installation vessel in the world.