The Hibernia platform offshore Newfoundland, Canada, has spilled an estimated 12,000l of oil into the North Atlantic Ocean.
Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC) observed an oil slick on the water near the ExxonMobil-operated platform on 17 July 2019, with an estimated initial slick size of 900m x 20m. Based on aerial surveillance, the estimated total volume of oil released was 75 barrels of oil.
The spillage occurred during routine activities related to removing water from one of the Hibernia’s six storage cells. Findings from HMDC’s preliminary investigation indicate the incident was caused by a problem with the crude oil level measurement system.
The company has undertaken a controlled shut-in of production operations. Wildlife observers have been deployed to the area by vessel and PAL Airlines overflight.
HDMC reports all platform personnel are safe, and according to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) no wildlife has been observed in the trajectory of the spill to date.
A single vessel side sweep (SVSS) has been deployed from a response vessel to collect oil from the water, which will then be collected by a skimmer and stored for disposal.
Initial responses included mechanical dispersion and the deployment of oil absorbent booms from the Avalon Sea support vessel. This was followed by the deployment of a tracking buoy and surveillance flights.
HMDC president Scott Sandlin said: “Everyone at HMDC takes safety and protection of the environment very seriously. We’re disappointed the discharge occurred, but we are working diligently to minimise impacts on the environment.”
While this oil spill poses a danger to existing wildlife, it is relatively small incident within the offshore oil industry, which has seen a number of high profile accidents in recent years.
These include the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released around 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and the 2004 Taylor oil spill, which the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimates releases 4,500 gallons into the Gulf of Mexico per day, although the real amount is highly contested by both the company and environmental groups.
And even these figures seem to pale in comparison with the quantities of oil spilled by tankers in the seaborne oil trade, with approximately 5.73 million tonnes of oil lost from tankers between 1970 and 2016.