On Thursday, November 15, Husky Energy shut in production at the White Rose field due to operational safety concerns resulting from severe weather. Once the storm had passed and safety checks were completed, we commenced the process of resuming operations. The release took place during that process and an estimated 250 m3 (or 250,000 litres) of oil was released.
An underwater survey by a remotely operated vehicle showed that the release came from a subsea flowline connection near the South White Rose Extension drill centre, approximately 5.5 kilometres away from the SeaRose FPSO vessel. This underwater survey did not observe any oil at the source. Since Friday, November 16, no additional oil has been observed at the surface.
A thorough investigation is underway. Operations at the White Rose field remain suspended until a full inspection of all facilities is completed, we believe we can operate safely and Husky receives the support and approval of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.
Why did you try to restart?
On Friday, November 16, as part of the decision to resume operations, we reviewed detailed weather forecasts, which we receive four times a day from third-party experts. The waves and wind speeds were at heights within the range of our normal operating parameters and forecasted to improve.
At the time of the incident the waves were about 8.4 metres. On a typical November day in that part of the Atlantic Ocean we would operate in waves of between 3 metres and 14 metres. Our facilities and operating procedures are designed for the harsh climate, including high waves and wind. Conditions on Friday, November 16 were within our normal operating parameters.
What was the weather like?
On Friday, November 16, conditions, including wave height and wind speeds, were within our normal operating parameters. That morning waves averaged about 8.4 metres. On a typical November day in that part of the Atlantic Ocean we would operate in waves of between 3 metres and 14 metres. Our facilities and operating procedures are designed for the harsh climate, including high waves and wind.
What are normal operating conditions offshore Newfoundland and Labrador?
The Atlantic region is considered a harsh operating environment and all facilities and equipment, as well as policies and procedures, are designed and tested for the conditions. They are also subject to approval by the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.
Conditions, depending on the time of year, can include icebergs moving through the area and storm systems that bring high winds and waves.
What is a flowline connector?
The flowline connector involved in the release connects a subsea flowline to the South West White Rose drill centre. It is designed to release under specified tension (such as a scouring iceberg) to protect drill centre infrastructure. The investigation will look at why the flowline connector released.
The remotely operated underwater vehicle survey Monday, November 19 confirmed a flowline connector as the source. This survey did not observe any oil at the source and, since Friday, November 16, observation flights and on-water monitoring have observed no additional oil at the surface.
How often are flowline connectors inspected?
Our subsea inspections are conducted using a remotely operated underwater vehicle, and videos of these inspections are also reviewed onshore.
We undertake an annual inspection campaign and conduct additional inspections when necessary. Not all equipment is inspected each year as the plan is risk-based.
Flowline connectors are inspected annually, and the one involved in this incident was inspected in May 2018. A thorough investigation is underway.
What is hot oiling and why do you do it?
Hot oiling is the process of circulating warm oil from the crude tanks on board the SeaRose FPSO into the flowlines in order to warm them up prior to starting production from the reservoir. It's a bit like warming up your car before leaving your driveway on a winter's morning.
We do this to minimize the risk of hydrates forming. The hot oiling process is focused on achieving a certain temperature, versus a length of time, but typically takes between six and eight hours to complete.
What is the impact to wildlife?
We are committed to minimizing the impacts to wildlife and every live bird we're able to recover is being treated at a specialized wildlife rehabilitation centre. We worked closely with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and other federal agencies to carry out search patterns to look for wildlife that may have been impacted.
How can you be sure the oil is gone? How can you be sure there isn't still a leak?
Daily observations at the spill site continue through a combination of satellite monitoring, subsea checks, aerial surveillance and on-water observations. Our intent is to always have one or more of these available. There have been no on-water sheens observed since Sunday, November 18.
What happens to the oil?
What happens to oil in a marine environment depends on a number of factors, including the properties of the oil involved, prevailing weather and sea conditions and whether the oil remains at sea.
The oil that was released is considered medium weight, which is lighter than water and would have migrated to the surface quickly.
Given the wind and sea state on Friday, November 16, waves would have quickly broken up the oil on the surface into small drops which would have dispersed into the water column. The sheen observed in the days following the release would likely have been dispersed oil drops re-surfacing and creating a sheen over the area where the dispersed oil spread. This oil would have had a low tendency to emulsify.
The level of turbulence in the water when the release occurred would likely have contributed to a rapid breakup of the oil on the surface into small patches, which would have been carried by the wind and currents a considerable distance, with further spreading. (link to map)
Evaporation also plays a role. A number of components of oil will evaporate into the atmosphere, reducing the volume remaining on the sea surface.
What do Husky's Atlantic region operations consist of?
The SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel is the production vessel for the White Rose field and satellite extensions. It is 272 metres long and 45 metres wide, about the size of three football fields.
It is designed, and intended, to remain on station year-round, however it can disconnect in the event of an emergency.
Development of the White Rose field is based on a subsea tie-back design. This means wells are drilled separately with a mobile offshore drilling unit and connect back to the SeaRose through a network of subsea flowlines.
On board the SeaRose, production is separated into oil, gas and water. Produced water is cleaned to approved limits and discharged into the ocean. Gas is either used to help power the facility, or is reinjected into the reservoir to support production. Oil is processed and stored in the vessel's cargo tanks before being offloaded to tankers for shipment to market.
Operations also include the Henry Goodrich drilling rig and supply and service vessels that support the offshore operations.
When will you resume operations?
Production operations at the White Rose field remain suspended until a full inspection of all facilities is completed, we are convinced it is safe to resume operations and Husky receives the support and approval of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.