Thursday, November 5, 2009

The fire is out but the scaring is worst

The company responsible for an oil well that spewed its contents into the Timor Sea for more than two months says it knows what caused the environmental disaster.

But PTTEP Australasia chief financial officer Jose Martins has refused to reveal what the reasons for the Montara oil well spill and West Atlas rig fire are.

The well began spilling oil on August 21, while the fire broke out on the rig on Sunday. The clean-up effort was hampered by the time it took to get a second rig in place to drill a relief well, while it also took several attempts to finally stop the leak yesterday.

"Yes we do (know the causes), there's a range of causes but we're not going to go into it," Mr Martins told ABC Radio.

"There's going to be a proper legal process that would be undertaken to find out what caused the leak.

He also revealed he expected an insurance claim to recover costs of the incident to be "much higher" than the $170 million it had cost the company so far, to take into account costs of the rig fire.

The clean-up has cost the company about $5 million so far, but this could also rise, Mr Martins said.

PTTEP would not request any federal government help.

The clean-up was expected to take another two months, but it could take up to seven years to work through the environmental effects of the disaster, Mr Martins said.

PTTEP was prepared to be paying for the incident for several years.

Engineers would attempt to plug the well soon, and when that happened a relief well drilled to plug the leak could then be abandoned.

Despite the effects of the incident, Mr Martins refused to apologise.

The company was "confident" it was not to blame.

"The accident shouldn't have happened in the first place," Mr Martins said.

"We regret what's happened and I think the rest will have to come out in the inquiry.

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