Hibernia Temporarily Halts Production After Oil Releases Into Ocean

Hibernia platform Newfoundland

Hibernia platform Newfoundland

A sheen was first spotted on the water near the platform Wednesday, prompting suspension of production to deal with the spill of oil and water.

Hibernia has been producing oil since 1997.

The discharge occurred during routine activities related to removing water from one of the storage cells, said Hibernia Management and Development Co Ltd (HMDC), which operates the 220,000-barrel-per-day platform located 315 kilometers from St. John's, NL.

Investigation is ongoing, but Sandlin said the discharge is likely related to an issue with the sensors in the cells that indicate the levels of oil and water. The operating company has acknowledged the spill, although they have said it was an "isolated activity".

But the later statement said that wildlife observers had been sent to the area, both in the supply vessel used to deploy the absorbent barriers and a separate vessel. An oil spill that occurred in the region about 15 years ago killed between 10,000 and 12,000 seabirds.

"We chose to proactively shut down production on a temporary basis because it provides the most efficient way to resolve the issue", Scott Sandlin, president of the Hibernia Management and Development Company, said in a statement released by ExxonMobil.

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It was using a range of clean-up measures including a boom-type system deployed over the side of a vessel, assisted by a skimmer.

A surveillance flight also set out Friday morning from St. John's to check on wildlife, as well as the location of the oil sheen, and report back to the response team.

It is not yet clear when operations will resume.

ExxonMobil spokeswoman Lynn Evans said the company could not say how long production would be shut down.

The spill comes in the wake of the Husky Energy spill of 250,000 litres of oil into the North Atlantic last November, the largest in the province's history.

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