Home Canadian News Uncertainty remains after SeaRose oil spill

Uncertainty remains after SeaRose oil spill

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It’s been nearly two weeks since 250,000 litres of crude spilled into ocean off the coast of Newfoundland. While no oil has been spotted since three days post-spill, there’s no guarantee the ordeal is over.
That’s because the connector on the sub-sea flow line the oil released from on Nov. 16 is still open.
It sits about 115 metres beneath the SeaRose floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, which is about 350 kilometres from St. John’s in the White Rose oilfield. In the field, wells are drilled by a mobile drilling unit and connected to the SeaRose through a network of sub-sea flowlines.
“As long as no one disturbs it, I’m not expecting any oil to come out,” said Trevor Pritchard, senior vice president of Husky Energy in the Atlantic region.
“But I’ll never say never. There is an open end at the moment.”
He said the connection is being monitored to make sure there isn’t any further oil finding its way to the sea.
As Husky works to try and recover the failed connector from the bottom, it’s also looking at putting a barrier in the line.
“It’s important for us to get our hands on that component,” Pritchard said, noting they’re building a plan for how best to do that. “We need to investigate … why (it) failed on us.”
Until Husky regains confidence in the connector, production will remain shut down on the SeaRose.
At this point, why it failed is a bit of a head-scratcher. Being located in the North Atlantic, the connector was created with iceberg scours in mind.
“It’s designed to come apart under load,” Pritchard said. “We can’t recognize how any load or any excess pressure was applied.”
The spill happened during an intense storm, said to be the worst conditions since the night the Ocean Ranger sank in 1982, killing all 84 on board. However, at this point in the investigation, Husky doesn’t think the weather was a factor in the failure. Inspections of the area by remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV) haven’t shown any disturbances in the affected flow line or others on the sea bed.
As its investigation continues, a parallel one by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) is also underway. Any plans to recover the connector and deal with the separated subsea flow line have to be approved by the offshore regulator before they’re implemented.
In the days since the spill, there has been no shortage of criticism directed at this structure, with some saying not only does the industry regulate itself, it’s now investigating itself. There have been repeated calls for the creation of an independent offshore safety and environmental authority.
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