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SeaRose FPSO on its way to dry dock as Cenovus eyes future of White Rose oil field

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The vessel, which was used to produce, store and offload oil from the White Rose field off the coast of Newfoundland, will cease operations this month and travel to Ireland for a $100 million overhaul.

The SeaRose FPSO will be dry docked at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast to comply with Transport Canada regulatory requirements, according to a statement from Cenovus Energy, the Calgary-based oil company that operates the White Rose field.

Other partners in the field include another Calgary-based oil giant, Suncor, and OilCo, the state-owned oil company of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is just one component of a multi-billion dollar project to extend the life of the field, which also includes ongoing construction of a satellite project called West White Rose. Cenovus reported last fall that the project was 70 percent complete and on track to produce first oil in 2026, with daily production expected to reach 80,000 barrels.

West White Rose will be Newfoundland and Labrador's first offshore well platform and will consist of a concrete base being constructed at a dedicated dry dock in the Port of Argentia and integrated deck facilities currently under construction in Ingleside, Texas.

The White Rose field began oil production in 2005 and is one of four mature offshore fields.

SeaRose too big for Canadian dry docks

The SeaRose's refit, meanwhile, includes hull maintenance, which will require the 271-meter-long and 46-meter-wide vessel to be taken out of the water. The company said it was necessary to send the SeaRose to a foreign port because there are no facilities in Canada to drydock the vessel. The Irish shipyard had already overhauled the SeaRose in 2012.

The dry dock will extend the ship's service life by at least another 14 years and “enable continued safe and reliable operations in the White Rose field,” the company said.

SeaRose is expected to return to the White Rose field and resume production this summer.

The contract with Harland and Wolff was signed last fall and is worth 61 million pounds, which is equivalent to around 104 million dollars in Canadian currency, according to a press release from the shipyard.

This is a depiction of the West White Rose expansion project. The project has been suspended for the remainder of the year. This is a depiction of the West White Rose expansion project. The project has been suspended for the remainder of the year.

This is a depiction of the West White Rose expansion project. The project has been suspended for the remainder of the year.

This is a rendering of the West White Rose expansion project. The project will be the first fixed well platform offshore Newfoundland and will be connected by subsea lines to the existing production vessel SeaRose FPSO. The platform will extend the life of the White Rose oil field by 14 years and provide Cenovus with access to an additional 200 million barrels of oil. (Husky Energy)

The SeaRose is expected to remain in dry dock for more than three months and about 1,000 workers will be working on the overhaul.

According to the shipyard's website, the Belfast shipyard is “one of Europe's largest heavy engineering facilities with access to deep water, two of Europe's largest dry docks, extensive quayside facilities and huge manufacturing halls.”

Cenovus announced last fall that it plans to spend nearly $1 billion this year on SeaRose remediation and ongoing construction of the West White Rose project, which is designed to ensure future production at the field through at least 2038. This does not include the expenditure shares of Suncor, which holds a roughly 40 percent interest, and OilCo, which owns a five percent interest in the White Rose satellite fields.

Cenovus estimates its daily oil production offshore Newfoundland will be between 10,000 and 15,000 barrels in 2024, reflecting the impact of production disruptions at SeaRose.

While the SeaRose is being refitted, various underwater components such as mooring chains and tower buoys are also being upgraded, according to Cenovus.

According to the offshore regulator's 2022-23 annual report, SeaRose produced just under 7.3 million barrels of oil in 2021, with total production through March 31, 2023, reaching 265 million barrels.

The report shows that the SeaRose produced an average of 45.51 kilograms of carbon emissions per barrel of oil in 2021. By comparison, the Hibernia averaged 14.61 kilograms and the Hebron averaged 8.99 kilograms. There was no data for the Terra Nova FPSO in 2021 because the vessel was not in production.

The weekly status reports published by the regulator show that the SeaRose produced oil during the week of December 17 to 24.

A quarterly industry report from the third quarter of 2021 – the most recent available on the regulator's website – puts the number of people working onshore and offshore in the White Rose field at 660, with more than 90 percent of those workers residing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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