Husky Energy facing 3 charges for massive SeaRose oil spill off coast of N.L.

Husky Energy is facing three charges for a massive spill of crude oil into the Atlantic Ocean in November 2018. 

250,000 litres of petroleum spilled into the Atlantic Ocean in November 2018

Husky Energy is facing charges for a 250,000-litre oil spill in November 2018 — the largest in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The spill came from a flowline connected to the SeaRose, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel. (Husky Energy)

Husky Energy is facing three charges for a massive spill of crude oil into the Atlantic Ocean in November 2018. 

The 250,000-litre spill — the largest in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador — came from a leak in a flowline to the SeaRose FPSO, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel about 350 kilometres southeast of St. John's.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the industry regulator, is accusing the company of not ensuring work that was likely to cause pollution ceased without delay, resuming work before ensuring it was safe to do so without pollution, and causing or permitting a spill in the offshore area. 

Conservation officers with the C-NLOPB charged the company in provincial court on Tuesday afternoon. The company is due in court on Nov. 23

The spill occurred  Nov. 16, 2018, as crews in the White Rose field were preparing to restart production, which had been halted by high winds and rough seas the day before.

It was blamed on a faulty connector in Husky's underwater cables to the SeaRose FPSO — for floating production, storage and offloading vessel — though Husky faced questions about why it was the first company to restart drilling operations after the rough weather moved through the oilfield.

According to Husky Energy, the cause of the spill was this flowline connector that failed while warm crude was being pumped through the SeaRose's underwater network. (Husky Energy)

Regulator has laid charges for spills only 3 times

Waves in the area measured about 30 feet high when Husky tried to restart production on the SeaRose FSPO. The company later said that was within a normal operating range.

Bad weather initially delayed work to contain and clean up the oil spill.

The spill created an oil slick 21 kilometres long and eight kilometres wide, almost the size of Fogo Island.

The C-NLOPB said Tuesday it would not comment any further since regulatory charges have been laid. It's just the third time the regulator has charged a company for an oil spill.

Husky's internal investigation into the incident found that the spill consisted of two fluid releases. The company said the incident happened as crews were circulating warm crude to warm up the flowlines that feed oil to the vessel from the underwater wells.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Cenovus — which acquired Husky Energy in 2021 — said the company "took full responsibility" for the spill.

"We have also shared our lessons learned with other operators so they can consider how they might apply them to their operations, and we continue to take an active role in improving environmental and safety stewardship with other operators in the basin," wrote spokesperson Colleen McConnell.

"As the matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador