Hibernia to operate normally as Bill approaches

Sat Aug 22, 2009 3:11pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The approach of Hurricane Bill is not expected to affect operations at the 98,200 barrel per day Hibernia oil platform in the North Atlantic southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, a spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil Corp said on Saturday.

Hibernia and two other oil projects, together capable of producing nearly 275,000 barrels per day, lie south of Bill's expected path over Newfoundland's southeastern peninsula in the Jeanne d'Arc basin.

Though Canadian forecasters said Bill was likely to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it reaches the area late on Sunday or early on Monday, the region will still see strong winds and waves up to 14 meters (46 feet), according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre's latest forecast issued on Saturday afternoon.

Hibernia, a massive concrete structure built to withstand the icebergs common in the North Atlantic, will continue to produce normally despite the harsh conditions, Exxon spokeswoman Margot Bruce-O'Connell said.

Bill "is not expected to impact Hibernia operations," Bruce-O'Connell said in an email.

She also said there are no plans to remove employees or contractors from the project and Hibernia expects to operate normally as the storm passes.

Bill, the first hurricane of the 2009 season, is expected to move into Canadian waters on Sunday morning after buffeting the U.S. East Coast and brushing Bermuda with rain and high waves.

Suncor Energy Inc, which operates the 76,600 bpd Terra Nova oil project in the Jeanne d'Arc basin, said on Saturday morning it has not yet decided whether to evacuate its employees.

Husky Energy Inc is also still monitoring the storm and has not yet removed its staff from the region.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett, editing by Vicki Allen)