Offshore regulator nods for Hibernia restart following second oil spill

Canadian regulator, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), has approved Hibernia Management and Development Company’s (HMDC’s) plan to resume drilling and production at the Hibernia platform off Canada, following the suspension of operations after a second spill in August 2019.

The first oil spill happened in July and just as the production was about to start following an approval from the regulator, the second oil spill happened on August 17, 2019.

The C-NLOPB said on Thursday that, since the August spill, it had had extensive engagement with HMDC. A comprehensive investigation report by HMDC identifying root cause and causal factors of the spill has been accepted by the C-NLOPB and includes a suite of corrective actions. The spill was determined to have been triggered by a power outage due to a faulty fuel valve actuator on Main Power Generator B, while Main Power Generator A was offline for maintenance.

The power outage resulted in a loss of instrument air pressure which led to a subsequent activation of the firefighting water deluge system. The high water rate from the deluge system flooded the hazardous drains system and tank (HODT) resulting in overflow and discharge of hydrocarbons contained in the HODT to the sea.

The conditions that are prerequisites to resumption of operations encompass required corrective actions that include procedural changes, training, Certifying Authority review and a Pre-start-up Management System Review. In addition, the C-NLOPB required that the Certifying Authority conduct a detailed review of their Certificate of Fitness activities for the Hibernia platform, including a review of the status of the maintenance system for open corrective maintenance, maintenance and inspections as well as Certifying Authority observations.

The C-NLOPB has completed an extensive review of HMDC’s management system, plans for the HMDC Pre-start-up Management System Review and associated risk assessments. The HMDC Pre-start-up Management System Review includes a detailed restart exercise, a review of the operational status of all systems and equipment, a review of maintenance systems, a review of personnel training and competency, and the submission of a new Declaration of Fitness.

The C-NLOPB is thereby satisfied with HMDC’s plan for restart and will be continuing enhanced oversight meetings with HMDC to monitor progress on corrective actions following from the July 17 and August 17 spill incidents. The investigations into the two recent spills up to this point indicate no connection between the two spills.

“Based on our due diligence and review of HMDC’s people, processes and equipment, I am confident that the restart of Hibernia operations can be done safely and environmentally responsibly,” said Paul Alexander, the C-NLOPB’s Chief Safety Officer.

Five incidents still under investigation 

The regulator added that it continues its formal investigations into five previous incidents: the April 2018 discharge of synthetic-based mud from the Transocean Barents rig; the November 2018 spill by Husky Energy at the White Rose Field; the July 2019 spill at the Hibernia platform; the August 2019 spill at the Hibernia platform; and the September 2019 incident on the Transocean Barents, which left one worker injured.

The injured worker has been released from hospital. Operations on the Transocean Barents remain suspended.

Decisions on enforcement actions will only follow the completion of each investigation under the Atlantic Accord Implementation Acts. The C-NLOPB will report publicly as each of these investigations is completed.

On August 30, senior officials of the C-NLOPB attended a meeting held by Natural Resources Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Natural Resources to discuss recent incidents, steps the C-NLOPB has initiated to enhance regulatory oversight, and ways to drive enhanced industry performance through the legislative/regulatory regime.

Some of the key actions arising from the meeting include: continued discussions with local operators, to task them with tangible plans to improve performance; conducting a global benchmarking exercise with a view to confirming areas of concern, identifying any new ones, and seeking out best practices; holding a spill prevention and response forum; and holding a climate change-focused round-table with operators, looking at the changing offshore environment.

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