Hibernia platform shut down after oil spill off Newfoundland

Production has stopped aboard the Hibernia oil platform off the coast of St. John's after an undetermined amount of oil spilled from a storage cell into the water.

An oil sheen was spotted Wednesday, and the company said in a news release that the spill was an "isolated activity."

In a separate release issued about six hours later, the company announced the rig had halted activity.

"We decided to proactively shut down production on a temporary basis because it provides the most efficient way to resolve the issue with the storage cell," said Scott Sandlin, president of the Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC).

Hibernia said the sheen was reported to be 900 metres by 200 metres, but was dissipating. That was before the decision was made to stop production.

The amount leaked is not yet known, as HMDC said it's working to determine the volume. HMDC said it has been mechanically dispersing the oil mix. as well as using sorbent booms to soak up discharge from the ocean surface.

In a news release on Wednesday night, the company said it believes "there was an issue with the crude oil level measurement system."

Hibernia has been referred to as the 'crown jewel' of Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The system is used for measuring oil and water within storage cells. The release said the spill happened "during routine activities related to removing water from one of the storage cells."

Wildlife observers were in the area Thursday, travelling by boat and air, but the company said no wildlife has been seen there.

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

The province's offshore 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 (FPSO). It began partial production again in January, with three of its five drilling centres back up and running. The other two are still idled.

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