Hibernia operator fined $80k after pleading guilty in crude oil spill

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. _ The company that runs the Hibernia platform off Newfoundland has pleaded guilty after it continued to operate despite a leak in 2013 that spilled about 6,000 litres of crude oil into the North Atlantic.

The Hibernia Management and Development Company was fined $80,000 and ordered to pay $170,000 into the federal Environmental Damages Fund.

The company “deeply regrets this spill occurred,” spokeswoman Margot Bruce-O’Connell said Friday in an emailed statement. “The Hibernia offshore and onshore workforce is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner.

“The cause of the incident was due to equipment failure, although the offshore loading system equipment was newly installed in 2012.”

Hibernia is located 315 kilometres east of St. John’s and sits in 82 metres of water.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore petroleum regulator announced in 2015 it had laid charges in connection with the spill.

An agreed statement of facts says about 6,000 litres of crude oil leaked from Hibernia’s offshore loading system starting on Dec. 27, 2013.

It describes “a persistent sheen” that the company observed on the surface of the sea close to a valve it didn’t realize was seeping. Instead of shutting down operations, it finished loading a tanker on Dec. 28.

The leak was ultimately blamed on “undetected valve failures” _ including a “false closure signal” emitted by one particular valve. A supply vessel fully sealed it about five days later on Jan. 1, 2014.

Bruce-O’Connell said the company improved its operating, inspection and maintenance procedures after the spill.

It was convicted under the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act.

“Operations ceased, but resumed without ensuring that it could be done without causing pollution,” the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said Friday in a statement.

The shareholders of the Hibernia Management and Development Company are ExxonMobil Canada (33 per cent), Chevron Canada Resources (27 per cent), Suncor (20 per cent), Canada Hibernia Holding Corporation (8.5 per cent), Murphy Oil (6.5 per cent) and Statoil Canada Ltd. (five per cent).