Bad weather still preventing SeaRose spill containment, Husky says

The vessel leaked an estimated 250,000 litres of oil into the ocean Friday. Crews are unable to contain or begin cleaning up the spill.

'It's like playing Russian roulette and the bullet just happened to be in the chamber,' says MUN prof

Oil production has been suspended on Husky Energy's SeaRose FPSO following a spill Friday.

A leak from an oil vessel flowline 350 kilometres from St. John's caused 250,000 litres of crude to spill into the sea Friday, and the extraction company responsible says it still can't contain the leak due to poor weather conditions.

Two oil sheens have been spotted on the ocean surface in the White Rose field. Waves are still too high to investigate what caused the spill or whether the line to the SeaRose FPSO is still losing crude, Husky Energy said Saturday.

Husky spokesperson Colleen McConnell said the company, alongside spill responders, are waiting for swells to subside before they can deploy underwater rovers. Until then, the company can't say whether the vessel's flowline is secure or intact.

McConnell said a second observation flight is planned for today, and two buoys have been released to track the spill.

The Skandi Vinland, an offshore supply vessel, has been tasked by Husky with deploying remote-controlled vehicles once swells shrink to four metres, McConnell said. 

'Russian roulette'

Bill Montevecchi, who studies seabirds at Memorial University, says it's inaccurate to call the incident a "spill."

"What we're seeing is not an accident. It is the outcome of weak regulation," he said. "The platform, which had shut down presumably because of storm sea conditions on the Grand Bank, was then going back into operation at a time when clearly it should not have been doing that.

"It's like playing Russian roulette and the bullet just happened to be in the chamber on this one. That should not be an option."

Montevecchi said the regulatory board is "scandalously close" to the industry.

"We need independent people out there. We've been asking for that for 25 years," Montevecchi said. "You don't ask a corporation that's liable for oil spills to self-report what's happening. A system like that is is corrupted before it even starts."

He expressed concern for the wildlife in the area of the spill, which could include tens of thousands of murres and dovekies. Free-floating oil separates the plumage of seabirds, allowing cold water to penetrate to the birds' skin and causing them to freeze to death.

A spill from the Terra Nova platform in 2004 killed thousands of seabirds — an outcome that stricter rules could have prevented, Montevecchi said.

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