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Work underway to recover flowline connector responsible for N.L.'s largest oil spill
Husky Energy is preparing to plug a flowline at the White Rose field more than two months after the 250,000-litre spill there in November.
It was the largest oil spill in the province’s history.
The spill happened at a failed flowline connector near the South White Rose Extension drill centre, about 350 kilometres east of St. John’s, on Nov. 16. The SeaRose FPSO vessel was attempting to restart oil production after a shutdown due to a storm.
Now, the C-NLOPB has accepted Husky’s plan to recover the flowline connector and plug the flowline.
The next hurdle is finding at least 48 hours of appropriate weather conditions to do the work – that includes ensuring specific sea states and visibility.
“This work is a priority for Husky and the regulator and is important to restoring integrity to the (South White Rose Extension) flowline area and reducing the potential for environmental impact,” a Husky news release reads.
“(We) are confident the necessary equipment, expertise and mitigations are in place to carry out the work safely and in an environmentally responsible manner,” reads the release.
Husky wrote that mitigations for the operation include design, fabrication and testing of plugs to mechanically seal the ends of the flowline, development of a recovery process and procedure, risk assessments, tabletop exercises, and development of a wildlife response plan.
Other mitigations include pre-deployment of spill response equipment and on-site direction from a spill response contractor, aerial surveillance, a wildlife observation plan, and two dedicated wildlife observers. Any work with a potential environmental impact will be restricted to daylight hours and all Husky-contracted vessels supporting the response will be equipped with a spill detector radar.
Husky senior vice-president Trevor Pritchard said he went offshore on Monday and Tuesday. He said the crews have reviewed the plans and are ready to start once weather conditions allow.
Once the flowline connector is recovered, an investigation will try to determine the root cause of its failure.
Central Drill Centre now online
Wednesday morning, Husky also began restarting the Central Drill Centre (CDC), which is isolated from other production flowlines and drill centres at the White Rose field.
It opened the first well in the CDC Wednesday afternoon.
The CDC is the only one of the five drill centres near SeaRose with a well currently online. The other four are still shut in.
“We’ll just make sure that our topsides equipment is running correctly and in order before we start looking at the next well from the Central Drill Centre,” said Pritchard.
“Eventually, we’ll get all our wells on the Central Drill Centre back online.
“The approach with the Southern Drill Centre, North Amethyst, and South White Rose – because they are on somewhat a different loop – is that we need to gain integrity by removing the weak link (the flowline connector) and fitting the plugs.”
Pritchard said Husky is “still a long way off production” in those drill centres.
When asked if he has an approximate timeline, Pritchard said it’s difficult to predict. He said there are steps they need to go through, and many of those steps are weather-dependent.
To prepare the CDC to come back online, Husky wrote in its news release that inspections were completed on the SeaRose hull, topsides and mooring system. Husky also completed additional risk assessments, reviewed start up procedures, updated its adverse weather guidelines and completed a safety review.
“We are committed to taking the time to bring the field on safely and in accordance with our values of operating safely and protecting the environment,” the news release states.
Small steps, as Husky Energy works back to production
‘We followed our procedures,’ Husky says of oil spill in Newfoundland offshore