Bad weather hampers oil spill containment off the coast of Newfoundland

Nasty November weather is preventing spill responders from containing an estimated 250 cubic metres of oil that leaked into the sea off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday, officials said Saturday.

Husky Energy said the spill happened after the production, storage and offloading vessel SeaRose FPSO “experienced a loss of pressure” in an oil flowline to the South White Rose Drill Centre, about 350 kilometres southeast of St. John’s, N.L.

An aerial surveillance flight on Friday identified two oil sheens south of the vessel, Husky Energy spokeswoman Colleen McConnell said in an email, adding that a follow-up flight is planned for Saturday.

But she said high waves – between five and seven metres offshore – are hindering workers who are trying to contain the spill.

“Sea states continue to prevent containment and recovery operations, but we did deploy two tracker buoys yesterday (one from Searose and the other from the Atlantic Hawk,)” she wrote.

“Our spill modelling indicates there is no probability of the spill reaching land.”

McConnell said Husky Energy continues to monitor the situation and will be sending additional support vessels, including Skandi Vinland, their subsea intervention vessel.

The next step, she said, is to determine the exact location and nature of the problem, which would require a remotely operated underwater vehicle survey conducted by the Skandi Vinland.

She said the vessel would head offshore on Saturday afternoon and will carry out the survey once conditions permit, likely on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Patroleum Board said it has sought advice from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.

On Saturday, board spokeswoman Lesley Rideout said production activities at the SeaRose FPSO have been suspended.

“As always, the safety of workers and the protection of the environment remain our top priority,” she said.

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