Husky taking steps to resume SeaRose operations two months after oil spill

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Canadian oil and gas company says it's working to reassure regulators that it can resume safe operations, two months after a massive oil spill at one of their offshore oil production sites.

Work at the site of Husky Energy's SeaRose production vessel has been halted since an estimated 250,000 litres of oil spilled into the ocean on Nov. 16 at the White Rose oilfield, about 350 kilometres off the coast of St. John's, N.L.

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In a release on Friday, Husky said the company could begin flushing and leak testing of the central drill centre as early as this weekend, weather depending.

"This will require us to circulate reservoir fluids including oil, gas and water from the production flowlines back to the SeaRose," said the release. "The flowlines will be displaced with seawater prior to testing."

A Husky spokeswoman said the company has already conducted "assurance and verification activities" on both the oilfield and the SeaRose, which include inspecting flowlines, drill centres, supporting subsea equipment, and parts of the SeaRose.

Colleen McConnell said this work has been reviewed and validated by Det Norske Verits, Husky's certifying authority.

"In addition, we have been reviewing and revising certain processes and procedures to incorporate lessons learned," she said in an email.

Husky also said it's working with the coast guard, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, and other bodies to finalize a plan to recover the flowline connector where the leak originated and plug the open ends of the flowline.

McConnell said the agencies involved held meetings throughout last week to review elements of Husky's flowline recovery and plugging plan.

"Completing this work is important for us to restore the integrity of the South White Rose Extension system and further reduce environmental risk," she said, adding that the company will submit an updated plan to the board this week.

"This remains a priority activity for us and the regulator."

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board regulates the industry's development in the province, as well as its safety and environmental responsibilities.

On Friday, the board said it was still assessing the plan, and said the investigation into the incident is ongoing.

The huge spill of oil, water and gas happened while the SeaRose was preparing to restart production during a fierce storm.

The company submitted a preliminary report to the board in December, saying the initial release of oil occurred over 20 minutes when crews were troubleshooting a drop in flowline pressure, and a retest led to a second release lasting about 15 minutes.

The spill, considered the largest in Newfoundland and Labrador's history, has renewed calls for the government to take a fresh look at how the province regulates the offshore industry.

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