Poor weather prompts temporary shutdown of all N.L. offshore rigs

Following a bout of bad weather, N.L. regulator says all of the province's offshore operations have been suspended.

Weather still preventing Husky from cleaning up spill of 250,000 litres of crude

The Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board says the severity of the mid-week storm prompted the shutdown of all offshore facilities. (CBC)

All Newfoundland and Labrador offshore facilities have been temporarily shut down as a safety precaution due to stormy seas and will not resume operations until the offshore industry regulator says it's safe to do so.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board confirmed the province-wide shutdown Saturday, in the wake an offshore spill that was one of the largest in the history of the N.L. industry.

Husky Energy reported Friday, after the storm, that a flowline to the SeaRose FPSO, a vessel stationed about 350 kilometres off the Newfoundland coast, leaked 250,000 litres of crude. The board is working "around the clock" to ensure appropriate response to the spill, spokesperson Lesley Rideout said.

Due to ongoing high swells, the spill has not yet been contained. A Husky spokesperson could not confirm whether the line has stopped leaking.

The board confirmed Saturday that the SeaRose FPSO, and other rigs including the Terra Nova FPSO and the Hebron platform, had suspended operations just before bad weather hit earlier in the week.

The SeaRose had begun preparing to resume operations Friday when they reported the spill.

"There are significant precautions taken prior to a storm like this," said Rideout. "All workers are safe, which is our main priority."

Offshore operators must obtain authorization from the board before they can continue production. Rideout said the board does not yet know when that will happen.

Lingering impact

A number of accidents — and near misses — at sea followed the mid-week battering.

On Thursday, smoke was reported on the Hebron platform and the crew ordered to muster. According to the board, the smoke came from a breaker fault from standby switchgear. No fire was detected.

Also on Thursday, a Panamanian bulk carrier called for Canadian Coast Guard assistance after it took on water and endured a power outage, but crew wrested control of the flooding and restored power late Thursday evening. Reports claiming crew had abandoned ship in lifeboats were unfounded.

On Sunday afternoon, a Husky spokesperson said the company has been conducting hourly sweeps of the White Rose field with no oil sheens currently in the immediate vicinity of the field, with water monitoring and aerial surveillance. Two sheens were reported Saturday.

"There is a sheen located approximately 50 kilometres south of the field. The Maersk Dispatcher is in the area for surveillance and wildlife monitoring. To date, there have been no reports of impacted wildlife," said an email from Husky's Colleen McConnell.

McConnell said wildlife observers are aboard the Skandi Vinland, which arrived at the White Rose field Sunday night. The ship carries an underwater rover that will be dispatched when swells subside, she said.

A marine wildlife expert has told CBC News tens of thousands of seabirds could be at risk.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador