UPDATE 1-Canada's Husky approves $1.6 billion West White Rose project

(Adds comment from company and background)

May 29 (Reuters) - Canada’s Husky Energy Inc said on Monday it is proceeding with its long-delayed C$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) West White Rose project off the Atlantic coast, even as the energy downturn makes the high-cost project less attractive.

In its statement announcing the West White Rose plans, Husky said that the first oil is expected in 2022 and the project could achieve a gross peak production rate of about 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) by 2025.

The company, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, also said that a new oil discovery has been made at the Northwest White Rose production area.

Husky’s decision to proceed with the investment comes at a time when several global energy majors have scaled back from Canada’s expensive oil sands assets, though offshore oil and gas projects are also losing attractiveness due to their high costs. So far, there hasn’t been any large scale exodus from offshore oil and gas projects.

Reuters reported in February, citing people familiar with the matter, that Husky was mulling paring down its stakes in some eastern Canadian offshore assets, in a move that could fetch several billion dollars.

Even if those sales materialize, Husky may remain a major player in the Atlantic region. In February, Chief Executive Rob Peabody said Husky’s Atlantic operations were important and declined to comment on what he said was speculation.

It is unclear how Husky’s potential divestiture plans are currently going. When asked about the plans on Monday, a company spokeswoman repeated Peabody’s comments from February.

The company has previously said it will consider a final investment decision for the West White Rose field, a satellite of White Rose, in 2017.

Husky shares were up 1.6 percent in afternoon trading, while the benchmark Canadian share index was flat. ($1 = 1.3440 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Ethan Lou in Calgary, Alberta; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Paul Simao)