Nfld. & Labrador

Hebron oil platform heads out to new home in N.L.'s Grand Banks

The weather is finally right for the massive Hebron oil platform to begin its journey to offshore Newfoundland.

ExxonMobil confirms tow vessels will begin journey out of Bull Arm

Several vessels were attached to the Hebron platform, as it began its journey offshore on Saturday afternoon. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

The massive Hebron oil platform — which has been waiting for almost a month to begin its journey from Bull Arm, 150 kilometres northwest of St. John's, to the offshore — has begun its two-week journey to its new home.

The platform's tow-out was delayed because of thick ice in Trinity Bay, but the company confirmed Saturday that conditions have improved enough to begin moving it to its new destination in the Grand Banks.

Eight tow vessels were hitched on to the platform to take it from Bull Arm, through the ice that still dots Trinity Bay, to the Jeanne d'Arc Basin, 350 kilometres southeast of St. John's.

The $14-billion platform is set to begin producing oil in Hebron's field by the end of this year.

The structure is 278 metres high, has a 130-metre diameter through the base, weighs 750,000 tonnes and has living quarters for 220 people. The platform took 40 million work hours to build, and it's expected to produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day at peak production.

Work on the project began in Bull Arm in 2011. This week, the mayor of nearby town Sunnyside said the departure of the structure will bring mixed emotions to residents.

"Some people will probably be glad to see it go," Robert Snook told CBC. "[It will] give them back their harbour so they can come and go as they like in their boats and they can fish in places they can't fish now."

At the same time, with the platform goes the last major project Bull Arm has seen while Newfoundland and Labrador's oil industry has grown and declined. Those projects including Hibernia, which got underway in 1990, and Terra Nova, which saw a peak workforce of 1,600 people.

ExxonMobil has been paying $225,000 in lieu of taxes each year to Sunnyside, which has set the money in a legacy fund. Snook said the Hebron project has been a better deal for the town than any previous one.

"This one has been a more positive one, from my perspective, anyway," he said. "We've done well."