Suncor charged in spill off Newfoundland coast
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) laid down the hammer today (April 4) on Suncor Energy Inc., slapping the oil sands heavyweight with three charges for “alleged offences related to a spill of synthetic based mud from the mobile offshore drilling unit Henry Goodrich operating in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area.”
In a press release, the C-NLOPB says the spill occurred March 28, 2011 while Suncor was exploring at the Ballicatters M96-Z well located in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin. The basin is where the giant Hibernia discovery was made in 1979 and ushered in a rush to extract black gold from the province’s offshore.
The charges came after an investigation by C-NLOPB conservation officers responded to a report of a spill of 26,400 litres of synthetic based mud into the ocean from the drilling rig. The mud is a heavy, dense fluid used during drilling operations to lubricate the drill pipe and balance reservoir pressure.
C-NLOPB spokesperson Sean Kelly says that when the board does these investigations, charges are laid when it determines the incident “was something that should have or could have been prevented.”
In today’s press release, the board makes it clear this was one of those cases:
The Operator is charged with causing or permitting a spill into the Offshore Area, failure to ensure that drilling fluids were stored and handled in a manner that would have prevented pollution, and failure to ensure that drilling fluids were handled in a way that did not create a hazard to safety or the environment.
Of course, these are charges and Suncor has not been found guilty of anything. It’s now up to a federal prosecutor to decide what to do next.