Friday, November 13, 2009

What really is the point of the Inquiry

The fire on Seadrill's West Atlas mobile offshore drilling unit and PTTEPA's Montara wellhead platform in the Timor Sea was extinguished on 3 November 2009, following several attempts by Seadrill's West Triton mobile drilling unit to intercept and kill a leaking well.

Seadrill is now working to assess and establish the damage to the West Atlas. Visual inspection confirms that the rig's steel cantilever structure, which is extended over the Montara well-head platform, has been buckled and deformed by the fire.

The next step would be to send a specialist team onboard the West Atlas to establish whether it is safe for additional personnel to board in order to continue well capping operations and to do a full assessment of the structural damage to the West Atlas.

Preliminary indications, based only on the visual inspection of the damage, indicate that it could take a number of months to remove the West Atlas rig from the vicinity of the Montara wellhead platform.

The West Triton currently remains on location, approximately two kilometres from the West Atlas, as it is still required by PTTEPA to monitor and complete well plugging operations.
More more images of the 250 million dollar scrap heap,23607,5062379-5013959,00.html

Minister Ferguson said, "The Montara Commission of Inquiry is established under amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 I introduced, and which received the support of all parties in the Parliament, in September.”

This Inquiry possesses the powers and authority of a Royal Commission. It will have power to summon witnesses, take evidence on oath and require individuals and corporations to give the Commission documents relevant to its terms of reference. The Inquiry will also receive public submissions. The Commissioner will determine further details of how the Inquiry will be conducted.

Consistent with the proven approach taken by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau the Commission of Inquiry will receive evidence on a “no blame basis”. Independent of the Commission of Inquiry, the relevant regulatory processes will determine whether any non-compliance with the law has occurred and whether any measures to seek penalties and other sanctions should be pursued.

In accordance with the Terms of Reference, Mr Borthwick will investigate and report on:

· The likely cause(s) of the incident;

· The adequacy and effectiveness of the regulatory regime, including approved safety, environment and resource management arrangements;

· The performance of relevant persons in carrying out their obligations under the regulatory regime;

· The adequacy of response requirements and the actual response to the incident;

· The environmental impacts as a result of the incident, including reviewing environmental monitoring plans; and

· The offshore petroleum industry’s response to the incident and the provision and accessibility of information concerning the incident to stakeholders and the Australian community.

Mr Borthwick, the Commissioner will present his report to me before the end of April 2010.

Concurrent with the Commission of Inquiry, the following investigations and reviews are being progressed by the Australian Government:

· NOPSA is investigating all aspects of the incident concerning occupational health and safety;

· The Northern Territory Department of Regional Development, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources is investigating all aspects of compliance with the regulatory regime applied under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006;

· The Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is undertaking an audit of compliance with the conditions of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 approval relating to the drilling and other activities on the Montara wellhead platform; and

· Under the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and other Noxious and Hazardous Substances, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will undertake a separate review into the effectiveness of the response to the incident.

The NATPLAN Review will be chaired by Mr Jim Starkey, an independent consultant with significant executive experience in the petroleum industry, the Australian Public Service and as a former chairman of the National Plan Management Committee responsible for oversight of Australia's oil spill preparedness and response capabilities.

The review team will involve the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, relevant Commonwealth departments, the Western Australian Government and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre. Public submissions will be called for and considered.

Redhand believes the terms of Reference should investigate that when oil was spewing into the ocean and effects where being made to stop the flow how was it possible that PTTEP also had time to take over control of five new exploration licences and several oilfields in Australian waters.

Despite growing concerns about the impact of the twelve week oil leak, the $11 million purchase of new oil assets was supported by Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Purchased from fellow oil exploration company OMV, the licences gives PTTEP control of an extra 1480 square kilometres of Australian waters near the burnt out shell of the Montara rig, about 650 kilometres west of Darwin.

The government rejected an amendment from Greens Senator Rachel Siewert to enshrine broad terms of reference for future investigations of this type. She was concerned the probe might only look into the technical and regulatory issues and not review the clean-up operations or the environmental impacts of the spill. The minister says he had already been considering extensive powers for the inquiry in light of a report on the explosion last year at the gas plant on Varanus Island, about 100 kilometres off the coast from the Pilbara town of Karratha.

Thai rig operators PTTEP are said to be paying the Commonwealth for the costs of monitoring the spill. Industry estimates put the final cost of the spill as high as $100 million but the environmental cost, which cannot be expressed solely in dollars and cents, is immense. This is exactly the sort of nightmare scenario state and federal governments must have dreaded as they increase the pace of resource extraction in an attempt to prop up a fragile economy. With Australian manufacturing moving offshore or simply closing their doors and other sectors of the economy slowing in the wake of the global financial crisis, governments are banking on income from big resource customers like India and China.

Environmental concerns over the proposed Gargon gas project off WA’s northwest coast were dismissed by the federal government in August. The scheme incorporates a gas plant on Barrow Island, which lies in the heart of an area dubbed “Australia’s Galapagos”. Part of the “sell” for the project was the introduction of pioneering and unproven carbon dioxide burying technique. Critics claim the unstable sea floor will cause the greenhouse gas to escape and threaten wildlife.

1 comment:

  1. It needs to be for learning. Learning what causes loss control in complex operations like the Montara Development or in the financial community. The inquiry could prove how making money king leads to disorientation of the decision maker and then there is loss control.