Friday, March 25, 2011

“The market does not see Browse as pie in the sky without good reason”

“Woodside Petroleum has more than one problem. It is sitting on three of the world’s major LNG projects in Pluto, Browse and Sunrise as major stakeholder, but Woodside is struggling to fund their development. Costs continue to rise and ongoing development delays have been causing grief. As such the market is not confident a third train can be achieved at Pluto, and sees Browse and Sunrise as pie in the sky at this point. No value is being afforded for these projects in the current share price.”

“The market does not see Browse as pie in the sky without good reason”
“Woodside’s funding capacity is stretched too far…”
“…the market is currently affording no value to Browse and Sunrise…”


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Montara oil spill Inquiry finalised: time for the Minister to get serious about “shonky” company and wider industry reforms

Friday, 25 February 2011


Montara oil spill Inquiry finalised: time for the Minister to get serious about “shonky” company and wider industry reforms

Today marks the deadline for final submissions and comments on the Report of the Montara Commission of Inquiry, released by the Minister for Resources and Energy late last year.

The oil spill in August 2009 took 10 weeks to cap and covered an estimated 90,000km². It is Australia’s worst oil spill of its kind, with reports that 318,000 litres of oil was released into the Timor Sea each day.

Although the full effects of the environmental damage are unlikely to ever be known, a number of threatened species such as turtles and whales are known to have been in the area.

The Commission’s Report condemns PTTEPAA for failing in the most basic of sensible oilfield practice.

“When we flew over the oil slick it was like a scene from a disaster movie: oil from horizon to horizon as far as the eye could see,” Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard said.

“It was a devastating scene because we knew the area is a marine superhighway and we now have evidence of spinner dolphins, sooty terns, sea snakes, and threatened hawksbill and flatback turtles swimming in the oil slick. A dead whale was also spotted by Queensland Government scientist Dr Mike Short,” said Mr Pritchard.

The language of the Commission’s Report is remarkably frank: the Montara operation is described as an “accident waiting to happen” and PTTEPAA is lambasted for not coming “within a bull’s roar of sensible oilfield practice[1], for a “manifestly inadequate[2]” understanding of safety protocols by its workers, and for its recalcitrant attitude towards the Inquiry itself.

“It’s a major concern to us that this company got away without penalty after polluting the pristine waters off the Kimberley coast; but what’s worse is that the Minister Martin Ferguson approved two more offshore oilfields and five exploration licences for PTTEPAA during the oil spill crisis.”

“However, even the Minister was moved to acknowledge “widespread and systemic shortcomings” in PTTEPAA’s procedures when he tabled the damming Inquiry Report,” Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard noted today.

Notwithstanding this, last month the Minister gave the green light to the company to continue their operations.

“It’s outrageous that a company whose “egregious failure” to concern itself with the circumstances of causes of the Blowout resulted “on numerous occasions, giving false and misleading information to various officials[3]” has been given the go-ahead to resume work,” Mr Pritchard said.

“As the report notes, the expansion of this industry brings with it an increase in environmental risks. The Kimberley marine environment is of global significance. It’s time for the Minister to get serious about preventing another spill: We need substantial reforms of the petroleum industry to make it safe for both the environment and its workforce,” Mr Pritchard concluded.

For further comment, call Martin Pritchard on 0427 548 075

Photo credit for attached photograph: Martin Pritchard


To read the report in full, please see:

“The problems were not complicated or unsolvable, and the potential remedies were well known and not costly. This was a failure of ‘sensible oilfield practice 101’ p.7

“...In essence, the way that PTTEPAA operated the Montara Oilfield did not come within a ‘bull’s roar’ of sensible oilfield practice. The Blowout was not a reflection of one unfortunate incident, or of bad luck. What happened with the H1 Well was an accident waiting to happen; the company’s systems were so deficient and its key personnel so lacking in basic competence, that the Blowout can property be said to have been an event waiting to occur. Indeed during the course of its public hearing, the Inquiry discovered that not one of the five Montara wells currently complies with the company’s Well Construction Standards...” p.11

Inquiry rejects NT assertion that all approvals issued by them met relevant legislation, and found the NT’s DoR’s regulatory environment was “...totally inadequate, being little more than a ‘tick and flick’ exercise.” P.14

The NT DoR took just 30 minutes to provide approval to suspend the H1 Well using PCCs rather than a cement plug, even though these were not intended to be used as barriers against a blowout. P.16

“...The approach taken by the NT DoR is in part reflective of a profound misunderstanding of what is required of a regulator under the modern day objective approach to regulatory oversight...” p.16

Inquiry notes it took until 15 September 2009 for DEWHA to act as the Environmental and Scientific Co-ordinator:
“...There were no legislative provisions available to DEWHA to require PTTEPAA to undertake scientific monitoring and the cost of scientific monitoring was not recoverable under the National Plan. It needed to be undertaken on a voluntary basis, and there was certainly no funding, resources or equipment available to DEWHA to undertake scientific monitoring....p.24

A scientific monitoring program (the ‘Monitoring Plan’) was not agreed until 9 October 2009 via a MoU between PTTEPAA and DEWHA .

“...It is unlikely that the full environmental consequences of the Blowout will ever be known. This reflects the vast and remote area affected by the spill; the absence of solid reliable baseline data on species and ecosystems; and the slow response in putting in place the Monitoring Plan...” p.26

“...PTTEPAA’s submission to the Inquiry of December 2009 was seriously deficient in terms of its depiction of what had occurred. Subsequent statutory declarations provided by PTTEPAA personnel shortly prior to the Inquiry’s public hearing displayed no real appreciation of the issued that the Inquiry needed to address. In fact, PTTEPAA’s efforts in this regard were in important respects misleading and unhelpful to the Inquiry’s task of determining the circumstances and causes of the Blowout..

“By its own admission, PTTEPAA made no substantive effort subsequent to the Blowout to truly find out what had happened and why. It tried in its submission to limit responsibility to PTTEPAA personnel on the rig. It failed in that endeavour, with senior onshore personnel being shown to be critically involved, or directly involved in oversighting shonky procedures...” p.29

“The Inquiry considers that PTTEPAA’s investigative inertia was both extraordinary and irresponsible.” p.331

“The egregious failure of PTTEPAA to come to grips with the circumstances and likely causes of the Blowout cannot be regarded as a matter of little significance or as a side issue. It resulted in PTTEPAA, on numerous occasions, giving false and misleading information to various officials. Further, that failure undermines the extent to which PTTEPAA can be relied upon to make proper judgments, and act responsibly, when its interests are at stake.” p.333

“ the seven months since the Blowout PTTEPAA has supplied a good deal of false and misleading information to NOPSA and to this Inquiry p.340