3 oiled birds spotted after Hibernia spill, sheen still visible

Three oiled birds have been spotted and a sheen still remains on the water after an estimated 12,000 litres of oil spilled from the Hibernia platform on Wednesday.

As of Monday morning, one of those birds had been captured and was on its way to shore, said Scott Sandlin, president of the Hibernia Management and Development Company.

"We were not able to recover those other two but we reported all three observations to the appropriate regulatory agencies," he said.

Hibernia is owned by a conglomerate of oil companies under the umbrella of HMDC, with the largest partner being ExxonMobil.

An estimated 75 barrels of an oil and water mixture was discharged into the ocean from a storage cell on Wednesday. Under HMDC orders, all production on the platform was stopped.

On Thursday morning, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said there were two slicks visible on the surface of the water. One was 1.71 square kilometres and 3.27 kilometres long, and one was 6.64 square kilometres and 3.78 kilometres long.

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Sandlin said some of that oil is still visible on the surface and seven boats are in the area, helping with efforts to scoop it up.

A plane and a helicopter are guiding from above, he said.

Still too soon for answers

It's too early to tell how much of that oil has been recovered, he said.

"What we get is a mix of sea water and the oily water mixture that we're attempting to recover," he said. "We still have testing to do to see how much of that fluid is actually the targeted oily water mixture and how much is sea water."

Right now, the company is focused on cleaning up the mess and figuring out what caused the spill in the first place, he said.

Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board

The spill was blamed on the system used for measuring oil and water within the platform's six storage cells, and Sandlin said HMDC is looking at the sensors on those cells that indicate how much oil and how much water is in each.

The cells still contain an oil and water mixture, but it's all held in with mechanical barriers, he said. With production shut down, he said, there's no risk of another spill.

And it's too soon to even talk about starting up again, he said.

"We'll have the conversation about that at the appropriate time and that's not today."

A number of spills

The province's offshore industry has been in hot water in recent months, after Husky Energy spilled 250,000 litres of oil into the North Atlantic in November.

It was the largest spill in the history of the province's offshore, and resulted in the shutdown of the SeaRose floating production storage offloading vessel. It began partial production again in January, with three of its five drilling centres back up and running. The other two are still idled.

In 2017, HMDC had to pay $250,000 in connection with a 2013 spill at the Hibernia platform. 

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