Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kimberley oil leak disaster:

Go to for interesting submissions to the oil spill inquiry.

PTTEP blames missing equipment for WA oil leak
David Weber Friday, January 15, 2010 08:19:00

Listen to MP3 of this story (minutes)

TANYA NOLAN: Environmental groups have renewed their call for a halt to the expansion of the offshore petroleum industry, after a company revealed the likely causes of a massive oil spill in the Timor Sea.

Oil leaked from the Montara Well Head Platform off Australia's north-west coast over a 10-week period last year.

In its submission to the Montara Commission of Inquiry, the company PTTEP Australasia, says a missing piece of equipment was among the causes of the spill.

Other submissions from environment, marine and industry groups are highly critical of the Federal Government's handling of the case.
PTTEP Australasia media release -
By Jane Bardon and Jano Gibson

One of Australia's largest oil spills might have been prevented had the Northern Territory Government properly monitored offshore wells, the oil safety watchdog says.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority says "a failure in the integrity" of the Montara well, off the north-west Australian coast, led to the spill of thousands of barrels of oil between August and November last year.

In its submission to the federal inquiry into the spill, NOPSA says it had responsibility for the safety of workers, but the Territory Government had responsibility for regulating the integrity of the well.

NOPSA says the Territory government agency responsible for the assessment of well integrity appeared not to be adequately resourced.

It says if NOPSA had been in control of regulation, the risk of a spill would have been far less likely.

"A more focussed and better resourced administration of the arrangements for regulating the integrity of wells would have significantly reduced the likelihood of occurrence of this uncontrolled hydrocarbon release."

However, the submission states that the Territory, and some other states, were reluctant to hand over that power to NOPSA, despite four independent reviews stating that that should be done.

"Some state and/or Northern Territory agencies have appeared reluctant to support changes to the legislation which would facilitate these arrangements.

"As a result, NOPSA presently has no regulatory mechanism to control the integrity of wells."

The authority also says allowing state and territory governments to regulate oil well integrity as well as earn oil and gas revenue is a conflict of interest.

The Territory Government says the Commonwealth provides it with sufficient funds to undertake its role in overseeing oil well integrity.

"The Northern Territory Government forwards all revenue received to the Commonwealth," it said in a statement.

"This issue is currently before the Independent Commissioner."

The federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, says he will not pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry.

"The views expressed by NOPSA are its own," he said.

"NOPSA is one of a number of agencies making submissions to the Montara Inquiry.

"It is the role of the Commissioner to properly consider the merits of all submissions put before him."

The Northern Territory Environment Centre says states and territories should not be responsible for regulating the offshore oil and gas industry.

"This is a Commonwealth matter, it's in Commonwealth waters, it should be regulated by a Commonwealth department," the centre's Dr Stuart Blanch said.

"And, frankly, I think the Territory resources department probably does not have the resources or the expertise or the budget to trip around on a boat off the north coast of Australia, inspecting well platforms."

The Northern Territory Opposition's Dave Tollner says the oil spill highlights the inadequacy of the Territory Government's regulation procedures.

"This is a terrible indictment on the Northern Territory Government," he said.

"I mean here we've got a Government who spends a lot of time talking to people about our environment and how important it is to reduce pollution [and] all of a sudden we see a leak of this nature, something that NOPSA is saying could have been prevented."
Meanwhile, the operation to plug the Montara oil well is now complete, with the successful installation of a pressure cap, PTTEP Australasia says.

A cement plug was first set into the bottom of the well in November, and two mechanical plugs have now also been installed.

Comment: Environs Kimberley []

While we are relieved the Montara well has finally been plugged, we are very concerned that the massive amount of oil that leaked into the Timor sea off the Kimberley coast will have an impact on sea life for years to come.

The government has yet to make it clear how they will make sure this type of disaster doesn’t happen again in an area that has extremely high natural values. The marine areas in the north west have a high diversity of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins and are a hotspot for sea snakes and turtles as well as a huge variety of fish and corals.

The only way to protect the pristine marine areas off the Kimberley coast is not have oil and gas there in the first place. This is what happened on the Great Barrier Reef decades ago and Kimberley coral reefs are of global significance and are just as important.

We need large sanctuaries that protect marine life from threats such as oil leaks otherwise it will no longer be a haven for sea life that is found nowhere else on earth.

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