Operator Pleads Guilty in Hibernia Oil Spill Case, Ending Four-Year Saga
Posted 02/08/2023 13:20
The operator of the Hibernia platform off the coast of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, has pleaded guilty in connection with an oil spill that occurred in July 2019, as reported by the Canadian offshore petroleum regulator.
In July 2022, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) laid three charges against Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC) for alleged offenses related to the petroleum spill from the Hibernia platform in the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area on 17 July 2019. The first court appearance was scheduled for 24 August 2022 at the Provincial Court in St. John’s.
HMDC, an ExxonMobil-led consortium, operates the Gravity Base Structure platform, with shareholders including ExxonMobil (33.125%), Chevron (26.875%), Suncor (20%), Canada Hibernia Holding Corporation (8.5%), Murphy Oil (6.5%), and Equinor (5%).
According to the latest statement by C-NLOPB, HMDC has pled guilty to a charge related to an unauthorized discharge of petroleum that occurred on 17 July 2019 from the Hibernia platform. This platform experienced two oil spills in 2019. The first spill occurred in July, releasing an estimated 12,000 liters of oil (75.48 barrels) into the Atlantic Ocean, leading to the platform's shutdown.
Shortly after the regulator allowed HMDC to restart production, a second oil spill occurred in August 2019, releasing an estimated 2,184 liters of oil. This spill was attributed to a power outage caused by a faulty fuel valve actuator on Main Power Generator B, while Main Power Generator A was offline for maintenance.
Following an investigation into the two spills, HMDC received approval in September 2019 to resume production from Hibernia. In April 2022, the company was fined $28,000 for the spill that occurred in August 2019, after the initial amount of $40,000 was reduced by a review committee following the company's request for a review. An inquiry into the July 2019 spill was still ongoing at that time.
As HMDC was found guilty of causing pollution in this case, C-NLOPB imposed a fine of $90,000 under the Accord Act. Additionally, HMDC was ordered to pay $310,000 into the Environmental Damages Fund.
Meanwhile, the Canadian regulator is closely monitoring HMDC's investigation into a recent incident when a 1.8-kilogram piece of timber fell 15 meters to the deck of a support vessel during the lifting of a chemical tank from the Hibernia platform on 25 July 2023. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the incident had the potential for fatality based on the Dropped Objects Prevention Scheme (DROPS) calculator.
The Hibernia platform, positioned on the ocean floor in June 1997, began producing oil on 17 November 1997 and provides living quarters for approximately 185 crew members, accommodating drilling, production, and utility equipment on the platform.