Husky Energy officials say a gap in the pipe at its SeaRose floating platform, 350 kilometres southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland is the likely cause of what may be the largest oil spill in the province’s history.
Husky says the 250,000-litre spill occurred during restart procedures on November 16, when workers were in the process of resuming operations following record inclement weather. Daily updates on the spill can be found here.
Husky officials took four days to address the media regarding the spill, which irked some of the province’s ministers. However, when Husky finally addressed the spill publicly on November 20, the company said it had no idea why the pipe’s connector became weak and disconnected through a lack of pressure.
“Husky, the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) and Canadian Coast Guard authorities continue to monitor the oil and impact on wildlife,” the energy company stated in a news release November 20. “A wildlife rehabilitation centre is activated. Fourteen oiled sea birds have been confirmed, with three recovered and transported to the centre for treatment.”
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Since the statement, several more birds have been located for treatment. At this point, five birds, including three petrels and two murre, have died from the contamination, the company reported.
The largest oil spill in recent memory for Canada’s East Coast offshore industry occurred in 2004, when 165,000 litres of oil leaked from a Terra Nova platform. The spill was linked to the death of some 10,000 birds, which some bird experts say may indicate some bad news to come regarding the recent Husky spill, which occurred at the same time of year, yet was significantly larger.
All oil operations at the SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading vessel have been suspended during the ongoing spill investigation. As of Friday, the company had six vessels surveying the scene by water, and had undertaken 10 observation flights.
In a statement on November 18, the C-NLOPB said: “Thanks to the efforts of many, there have been no reports of workers getting hurt during last week’s storm, which was one of the worst this region has seen offshore since the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982. The absence of injuries speaks to hard-earned advances in safety in the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area.”
Both Husky Energy Inc. and Husky Oil Operations Ltd. remain embroiled in a First Nations lawsuit and face environmental charges relating to a 2016 pipe break that spilled oil into the North Saskatchewan River. The James Smith Cree Nation and the Cumberland House Cree Nation allege that some 90,000 litres of oil mixed with distillates spilled into the river. An additional 160,000 litres of oil was spilled, but did not enter the river.