Hibernia heading to trial over 2019 oil spill

Oil sheen on the surface of the water as seen by a Canadian Coast Guard fly-over after the 2019 spill.  (Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board - image credit)
Oil sheen on the surface of the water as seen by a Canadian Coast Guard fly-over after the 2019 spill. (Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board - image credit)

Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. is challenging charges laid by Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore energy regulator in relation to a 2019 spill that sent 12,000 litres of oil into the Atlantic Ocean.

Lawyers representing the energy giant entered not guilty pleas when the case was called in St. John's provincial court on Thursday.

The incident happened July 17, 2019, when a mix of oil and water spilled from the Hibernia platform and into the water. At the time, Hibernia said it was an isolated incident and halted production, adding it was likely caused by a sensor issue.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said Hibernia didn't ensure work that was likely to cause pollution was stopped immediately, along with failing to manage the associated risk for an identified hazard.

The regulator laid three charges two years later.

Hibernia will head to trial on July 31 on two counts related to contraventions of the Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Drilling and Production Regulations:

  • did not ensure that work or activity that was likely to cause pollution, ceased without delay; and

  • did not ensure compliance with their management system by failing to follow their processes for managing the associated risks for identified hazards.

It is also facing one count of unlawfully causing or permitting a spill on or from the offshore area.

Hibernia was also fined $28,000 by the C-NLOPB earlier this year in relation to a separate spill in August 2019. The spill released an estimated 2,200 litres of oil into the Atlantic Ocean.

The fine was originally $40,000 but was lowered to $28,000 following an appeal from Hibernia and a review of the decision by a petroleum board committee.

The oil rig sits 315 kilometres northeast of St. John's on the Grand Banks and as of late 2021 there were just over 1,000 employees in support of Hibernia.

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