Nfld. & Labrador

With key testing set to begin, is SeaRose oil production on the horizon?

The company says leak testing could begin as early as the weekend.

Husky says it hopes to start leak-testing the central drill centre as early as this weekend

The FPSO SeaRose operations have been on hold for close to two months.

Husky Energy's SeaRose FPSO could be inching closer to resuming oil production — nearly two months after the largest oil spill in Newfoundland and Labrador's history — but the company is detailing the several key steps, and approvals, that are needed first. 

In a statement issued Friday, the company says it hopes to start leak-testing of the central drill centre as early as the weekend or Monday. 

"[This] is a necessary step to ensure us, the regulator, and our certifying authority that this area is safe to resume operations," said Husky Energy.

"This will require us to circulate reservoir fluids, including oil, gas and water, from the production flowlines back to the FPSO."

Back-to-back spills sent an estimated 250,000 litres of oil, water, and gas into the Atlantic on Nov. 16. The incident happened as the company attempted to restart production during a lull in an intense winter storm.

As part of the testing regime, Husky said it will have remotely operated vehicles in the water to watch for any leaks. 

Husky said it has also:

  • Finished a risk assessment.
     
  • Reviewed startup procedures.
     
  • Updated adverse weather policies.
     
  • Completed an inspection regime.

Flowline connector a priority

Husky Energy's Trevor Pritchard says the company's priority is to reestablish integrity in the flowline. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Husky Energy also said recovering the flowline connector — which failed on a day when waves were recorded at 8.4 metres ​— and plugging the flowline "remains a priority for both us and the [Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board]."

Trevor Pritchard, Husky's senior vice-president for the Atlantic region, said the company has been working with three different companies to design and engineer the plugs for the flowline, and are using remotely operated vehicles to plan for their installation.

"We've been doing that to make sure that when we take it subsea, we are effective in putting the plugs into the end of the flowline," he said.

The flowline is not damaged, and officials from the C-NLOPB and the coast guard will discuss the final plan on how to reconnect it. 

According to Husky Energy, this connector is the culprit. (Husky Energy)

"We are committed to ensuring all the appropriate checks and balances are in place for this work to proceed safely and with minimal environmental impact," said the media release. 

Earlier this week, the board said it's still reviewing Husky's plan for plugging the flowline and recovering the failed connector.

At the time of the incident, Husky drew criticism from politicians and the C-NLOPB for staying silent for days after the spill, and the incident raised questions about why Husky would try to restart production in bad weather, and why the offshore board, as regulator, isn't the one to make the call.

Pritchard said proper safety protocols were followed, but changes will be made to those procotols to prevent future spills.

"We've got to have learnings out of every incident like this, serious incident, so that is one of them — that the adverse weather policy guidelines have been adapted."

What the spill has cost so far

Because the SeaRose is not producing oil, it means deferred revenue between $55 million and $60 million for the Newfoundland and Labrador government, according to the Department of Finance. 

The provincial government said it breaks down to a daily impact of $130,000 per day.

Finance officials stress that it is not lost revenue, since the oil will still be produced at a later time, once operations restart.

Pritchard said there is a financial cost for Husky, but it's not all about the money.

"Our priority is about safety of people, impact to the environment, and so that's where our focus has been."

Husky isn't saying when it expects to be back to full production.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Sarah Smellie

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