The Hibernia oil platform off Newfoundland's east coast has pumped its one billionth barrel of oil, a milestone reached on Dec. 21.

Newfoundland and Labrador's first producing offshore oil field began operations in 1997, and has far exceeded initial estimates for production.

"When the original development plan was filed they talked about recoverable oil of 563 million barrels," veteran oil industry consultant Rob Strong said Thursday.

"It's very encouraging obviously when you start off at 563, you're up to a billion, and probably going to 1.6 billion. Yeah, it's pretty good," he added.

Rob Strong

Veteran oil industry consultant Rob Strong described the production of one billion barrels of oil at the Hibernia platform as an 'amazing' milestone, with years more production to come. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

In a news release issued Thursday, the head of Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. described the project as the foundation of the provincial oil and gas industry.

"I am very proud to lead an extremely talented team and want to thank the leaders and workers who came before me, our co-venturers, contractors and the external partners who contributed to our success in terms of our safety culture and production performance," HMDC president Jennifer Walck stated.

"I also want to express appreciation to the government and regulator for their ongoing support,"

Billions in royalties, taxes

The project has generated billions of dollars in royalties and taxes for the provincial and federal governments, and created thousands of jobs, Walck added.

In recent years, the development of the Hibernia Southern Extension and Ben Nevis reservoirs has been instrumental to the sustained production level and longer production outlook.

The Hibernia platform was installed on the seabed 315 kilometres southeast of St. John's nearly two decades ago, and was expected to be coming to the end of its lifespan around this time.

But satellite fields have significantly increased oil reserves, and production is now expected to continue for another 15 to 20 years.

Hibernia was built at a cost of nearly $6 billion, and according to the provincial government, the value of the oil produced up to a year ago was more than $65 billion.

There were roughly 2,000 people working on the Hibernia project in 2016, with the vast majority from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Premier Dwight Ball said he expects the success that begun with Hibernia will continue.

"With our province's abundant resources and highly skilled workforce, we anticipate the continued successful exploration and development in the oil and gas industry for many years to come," Ball said in a news release.

HMDC is the operator of the Hibernia field, which is owned jointly by ExxonMobil Canada (33.125 percent), Chevron Canada Resources (26.875 per cent), Suncor Energy (20 per cent), Canada Hibernia Holding Corporation (8.5 per cent), Murphy Oil (6.5 per cent) and Statoil Canada Ltd. (5 per cent).

Hibernia is one of three producing oil fields in Newfoundland's offshore. A fourth, Hebron, is scheduled to begin production late next year.