domingo, 28 de novembro de 2010

Report blames rig operator for Australian spill

Report blames rig operator for Australian spill

CANBERRA, Australia – A Thai-owned oil rig operator could be banned from Australian waters after a government report on Wednesday blamed it and a lax regulator for Australia's worst ever oil spill that stained the coasts of Indonesia and East Timor last year. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told Parliament he is investigating whether deficiencies in procedures at the Montara oil field that was operated by a unit of Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production Plc. reflected the company's "general performance as an operator."
The investigation, to be completed this year, will help determine what action should be taken against the company which could include cancellation of its oil and gas production rights, Ferguson said.

The Thai company's Australian unit, PTTEP Australasia, holds five production licenses in Australia's waters including Montara but is not currently producing oil or gas from any of them. The company would require new regulatory approval before it could resume production at Montara and has not yet make such an application.
PTTEP Australasia issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the "deficiencies" identified by the report and said all managers and supervisors involved in the Montara drilling have been "removed from their positions."

It said it was implementing reforms that address the technical and governance problems identified in the report to "ensure the incident which occurred at Montara is never repeated." Ferguson said the company could yet be charged over failure to comply with regulations and for endangering the 69 workers at Montara.
Australia's burgeoning offshore oil and gas industry oil earned energy companies 35.6 billion Australian dollars ($35 billion) in oil and gas revenue last year.

The rig and wellhead platform in the Timor Sea began leaking in August last year. More than 400 barrels of oil a day stained the coasts of Indonesia and East Timor before mud pumped through a relief well shut off the deepwater spigot 11 weeks later. PTTEP paid $390 million for the clean up. Ferguson said the government planned to change the law to remove any doubt that companies responsible for any future leaks would be made to pay.Indonesians were still seeking compensation, Ferguson said.

Environmental group WWF Australia reported that thousands of dead fish and clumps of oil had been found drifting near Indonesia's coastline more than two months after the well began leaking. "PTTEP Australasia did not observe sensible oil field practice at the Montara field," Ferguson said. "Other findings include that the widespread and systematic shortcomings of PTTEP Australasia procedures were a direct cause of the loss of well control," he said.Ferguson said the field's regulator, the Northern Territory Department of Resource, was "not a diligent regulator and its minimalist approach to its regulatory responsibility gave it little chance of discovering these poor practices."

"Well control practices approved by the regulator would have been sufficient to prevent the loss of well control," he said. "However PTTEP Australasia did not adhere to these practices or its own well construction standards." Ferguson said the government planned to replace state regulators with a national regulator of the offshore energy industry by January, 2012. Ferguson said the industry did not have a "cowboy culture," with Montara the first major leak in Australian waters in 25 years during which more than 3,000 wells had been drilled.

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