Trevor Pritchard hasn’t had an easy time as Husky Energy Inc.’s senior vice-president for the Atlantic region. He took over the job in January 2018 and navigated the fallout when the SeaRose FPSO was not disconnected from Husky’s White Rose oil field and sailed away from danger―as it should have been―when an iceberg got too close to the vessel. In November 2018, he dealt with another high-profile incident after 250,000 litres of oil leaked from a subsea flow line connection at White Rose during a severe winter storm. Those incidents have put Husky, and the company’s top executive in Atlantic Canada, under the microscope.
Natural Resources Magazine: Why did Husky re-start production on Nov. 16 at the White Rose field? I understand waves were as high as 8.4 metres at the time. That doesn’t sound like a safe environment for re-starting production.
Trevor Pritchard: We did have a large storm pass through. But there were abating seas and it’s not unusual to be operating at eight metre seas. Wind states were down to less than 30 knots. We fly in 60 knot conditions. As for the sea states, we are flying helicopters when the sea states are six metre seas. The sea states were eight metres and coming down. We can work on the decks above helicopter flying limits. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) was right to allow people to go out on deck. He made the assessment that the trending forecast was going down. He started the hot oil flushing and it was two hours into that operation that the flow line connector failed. We’re uncertain why it failed. We need to recover that component and do the forensics on it.
NRM: You don’t think it was a mistake to attempt to re-start production in those conditions?
TP: No. The OEM took the right steps in terms of making sure the safety equipment was available and ready in case any emergency occurred. I’m not going to say going out in eight metre seas is a normal every day occurrence. But 10 to 12 per cent of the time seas are going to be at that condition.
NRM: What has Husky learned from this incident and its investigation into it?
TP: One of the biggest learnings is within our system of equipment, people and processes. We had no documented processes for abnormal conditions and trouble shooting. That’s an area we’ve been working on to understand what we can put in place that triggers people to understand we are in abnormal conditions. Why we think we were in an abnormal condition that day is because we were shut down in a storm and couldn’t put people on the decks. Therefore, we couldn’t flush around the flow line. Normally we do that if we are going to be down for more than six hours. We didn’t flush around for more than 20 hours in this case because we couldn’t get people on the deck. The product was in the line sitting there for 20 hours. That is an abnormal condition. We’ve now built up documentation on how to recognize abnormal conditions.
NRM: In the past two years Husky had an incident where it didn’t disconnect the SeaRose when an iceberg got too close to it and now an oil spill. What would you say to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador whose confidence in Husky as an environmentally responsible operator may be shaken?
TP: I would segregate the two incidents. In the first incident, we should have and could have done better. We did not follow the procedures of the ice management plan, which is why the regulator lost confidence in us. My modus operandi when I arrived was that we will follow procedures. With the oil spill, it’s not that anyone didn’t follow the procedures. We did follow them. But we didn’t have a procedure to support the offshore team in recognizing abnormal conditions and the trouble shooting aspect. We need to enhance our procedures and learn from this.