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Australia Oil Well on Fire

Posted by feww on November 1, 2009

UPDATE: Australia Blazing Oil Rig May Collapse

Australia West Atlas oil well catches fire

ON FIRE: West Atlas drilling rig and the Montara wellhead platform

Oil Spill AFP via BBCThe oil well which has caused a massive spill in the Timor Sea, off the north west coast of Australia, caught fire on Sunday

PTTEP Australasia, a Thai-based energy  company which operates the well, said the fire broke out as it made another attempt to plug the underwater leak.

After a 10-week leak, West atlas drilling rig and the Montara wellhead platform caught fire on Sunday. Photo AFP via BBC. Image may be subject to copyright.

“Fire broke out on the West Atlas drilling rig and the Montara wellhead platform after the West Triton successfully intercepted the leaking well this morning,” Ferguson said.

“Well kill operations were under way at the time, but have now been suspended. Non-essential personnel are being evacuated from the West Triton.

“Current operations are focused on reducing the intensity of the fire.”

The rig’s Thai-based operator, PTTEP Australasia, said specialists had finally succeeded in the first stage  of plugging the well at 9:30 am (0130 GMT) after weeks of failed attempts.

“They had not actually stopped or killed the leak… and then unfortunately the fire broke out,” AFP reported a company spokeswoman as saying.

For more than 10 weeks the leak has been spewing  oil and gas at at least 400 barrels a day.

Jose Martins, a director at PTTEP Australasia said the only way to extinguish the fire was to plug the leak.

When oil, gas and condensate began seeping into the Timor Sea PTTEP estimated it would take 50 days to plug the well in an area described by Tourism Australia as “one of the world’s last true wilderness areas.” Three previous attempts by PTTEP Australasia to plug the leak, 2.5km below the sea bed, by pumping it full of heavy mud, have failed. Photograph: Debra Glasgow/WWF. Caption: Guardian UK. More Photos…

“The measures which we have been able to take so far can only mitigate the fire. They will not stop the fire.”The best way to stop the fire is to complete the well-kill and stop the flow of gas and oil at the surface from the H-1 well, cutting off the fuel source for the fire.”

Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement that some of the world’s leading experts were working to fix the leaking well and respond to this latest problem.

Mr Ferguson said the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority had been called out to help fight the fire and that Geoscience Australia and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority were on standby.

However Greg Hunt,  an opposition spokesman, has accused Environment Minister Peter Garrett of doing nothing to stop the oil leak.

“Ten weeks of complacency, 10 weeks of drift, 10 weeks of inaction from Mr Garrett,” he said.”In the absence of action… the prime minister must step in and convene a national environmental emergency task force within the next 24 hours.”

“The government remains deeply concerned about this incident,” Ferguson said.

“From day one our top priorities have been the safety of people and the protection of the environment. Stopping the flow of oil and gas safely and as soon as possible remains our prime objective.”

The Australian government on Saturday released a report saying birds and marine species were at risk from the oil spill, but it said the full impact could not be immediately determined. Reuters reported.

“This spill has been a disaster from the outset,” Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said on Sunday.

“Coupled with the environmental impacts of the oil entering the ocean, the potentially hazardous effects of the dispersants being used and the threat to fisheries both here and in Indonesia, now we have a fire on our hands.”

PTTEP plans to produce about 35,000 barrels of oil per day from the Montara field, which should boost its 2009 petroleum sales to 240,000 bpd.

PTTEP operates more than 40 oil and gas projects in 14 countries throughout  the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with Montara as its main exploration and production business, said Reuters.

PTTEP are just as guilty as BP [America.] The difference is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation, do their jobs, whereas Aussie authorities sit on their thumbs.

When the US govt takes BP to the cleaners, shouldn’t Australia show some grit, too?

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    10 Responses to “Australia Oil Well on Fire”

    1. WG said

    2. Anonymous said

      Good content, hard to find a quality site like this one anymore. Thanks

    3. […] * = Das Bild rutscht Tag für Tag weiter nach hinten. Das Bild stammt vom 2.11! Weitere Bilder – auch vom Ölteppich gibt es bei fire-earth-blog […]

    4. Colin L Beadon said

      At last, today, 3rd November 2009, I have some information as a rig man, that I can understand.
      I wish everybody working on the ‘Killing’, safety and luck.

    5. Saeed Boojarian said

      Industrial accident occur sometimes, particularly in Oil & Gas fields and plants as a critical industry. However, a comprehensive investigation is essential to be carried out to find out root causes, and the results shall be released for the public and lessons we can learn to prevent further accidents.

    6. SPNL said

      Oil and fire disaster ‘ruining state’s reputation’,21498,26294909-2761,00.html

      Narelle Towie, environment reporter – November 02, 2009 02:08pm

      A HUGE fire at the West Atlas rig in the Timor Sea could continue to burn “out of control” for several days, PTTEP’s director Jose Martins admits.

      The fire is believed to have started yesterday when workers intercepted a leaking steel pipe that has been pouring gas, oil and condensate into the Timor Sea for the past 10 weeks.

      Teams of well experts hope to extinguish the fire and flow of petrochemicals by injecting 4,000 barrels of heavy density mud into the leaking well from tomorrow morning.

      Meanwhile WA Premier Colin Barnett says the spill and fire has damaged the state’s reputation in the resource industry.

      Key questions answered: A 71-day disaster Key questions in a 71-day disaster

      “Clearly this is getting worldwide publicity and it’s not the sort of publicity the Australian petroleum industry would want and with 70 per cent of that industry off WA’s coast, it’s not the sort of publicity we want,” Mr Barnett said.

      “We do have some concerns about the incident and how it occurred and we do have some concerns about the management of the incident.”

      Experts are today mixing heavy mud designed to backflow along the leaking well, stopping the flow of gas and oil at the surface of the well.

      But Mr Martins admits the fire may take days to be extinguished.

      “The fire is out of control. What we are trying to do is stop it by injecting heavy mud into the relief well, that is the best well and we have the world’s best working on that,” Mr Martins said.

      “We may require another attempt at a different quantity of mud. (That could take) another few days.”

      Disaster crews should know within a few hours if the first injection of mud has worked.

      Parts of the West Atlas rig have already collapsed onto the well head platform and the West Atlas rig, sitting above the leaking pipe, is also at risk of collapsing.

      Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has announced there will be a “full and independent” inquiry into the leak and subsequent fire.

      Meanwhile Greens leader Bob Brown has called for Mr Ferguson’s head over the disaster.

      “A full judicial inquiry should have begun from the outset. An independent watchdog would have ensured all the necessary expertise from around the world was employed to prevent and reduce the tragic environmental impacts of the spill,” Senator Brown said.

      “Leaving this clean-up operation to the drilling company is not good enough. It’s time for Kevin Rudd to step in and do what the Minister should have done way back in August.”

      “This is the Minister that has rewarded the same company with massive new exploration licenses in the middle of this catastrophe,” Senator Brown said.

      Conservation group Environs Kimberley say the 400 barrels of oil a day, reported by PTTEP as the amount spilling into the ocean since the onset of the leak, is a huge understatement.

      When pressed in Federal Parliament by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, the Acting General Manager for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Martin Squire admitted up to 2000 barrels of oil could leak from this well.

      “The information that we sought from Geoscience Australia was an estimation of what the rate of flow would be if that well was entirely unsealed, for want of a better expression,” Mr Squire said.

      “The maximum leakage rate from that well could be as much as 2,000 barrels of oil a day, with condensate as well.”

      Mr Barnett has also conceded the amount of oil PTTEP claim has been flowing into the ocean since August 21 may be inaccurate.

      “It may be that the company is unable to accurately estimate what the flow is and indeed it might not be consistent.”

      “I think there are some doubts arising about the overall supervision and regulatory framework around this operation,” he said.

    7. SPNL said

      I hate our govt for this –
      regards, Paula
      Key questions in a 71-day disaster,21598,26293186-5008620,00.html

      Narelle Towie, science and environment reporter

      November 02, 2009 09:13am

      AS the Montara spill continues to grow as one of Australia’s biggest environmental disasters, environment reporter Narelle Towie examines the crisis off our coast.

      What happened?
      On August 21 at 5.30am, PTTEP Australasia reported a sweet crude oil and gas leak at the Montara wellhead in the Timor Sea, 250km northwest of Truscott in WA.

      The West Atlas mobile drilling rig is sitting above the leaking pipe. When the leak began the 69 workers on board were evacuated.

      PTTEP has refused to confirm what caused a concrete and rubber plug at the end of a well pipe 3.6km below the sea floor to crack – sparking the leak – because the incident is now the subject of a Government inquiry.

      Who is responsible for the oil spill?
      The West Atlas is a mobile offshore drilling rig owned and operated by Atlas Drilling. But the rig is leased to PTTEP Australasia.

      PTTEP is Thailand’s national petroleum exploration and production company and is one of the nation’s largest publicly listed companies.

      PTTEP is working to plug the flow while the Australian Maritime Safety Authority is responsible for managing and cleaning up the resulting oil slick.

      How many days has it been since the oil escaped?
      The leak started 71 days ago.

      What sort of oil is it?
      Sweet light crude oil is a type of petroleum that contains less than 0.5 per cent sulphur, giving it a “sweet” taste and odour.

      High-quality crude oil is processed into gasoline, kerosene and diesel.

      Why wasn’t a boom used in the first days of the leak to contain the slick?
      Booms are used to contain spilt oil close to shore or in areas not affected by waves or currents, such as harbours. The oil is then cleared with skimmers similar to vacuum machines.

      Before now, AMSA says it has never tested a boom in an offshore environment.

      However, booms are being trialled in the clean-up and so far have been successful because of seasonably calm waters.

      Conservation group Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said AMSA waited too long to test the booms.

      “We are very concerned that dispersants are toxic and therefore could be doing more harm than good,” he said.

      “We were surprised that there were no booms available to contain the leak when it first happened. This could have determined whether dispersants were needed to be used at all.”

      What is the extent of the slick?
      The Montara oil spill is one of the biggest in Australian history and the longest flowing. But reports on the size of the slick differ.

      PTTEP would not provide an estimate of the extent of ocean affected by the leak.

      AMSA also said it was unable to provide an estimate of polluted areas because the slick was constantly moving.

      The Wilderness Society said oil had contaminated 50,000sq km of ocean.

      Based on estimates provided by PTTEP – that 400 barrels of oil have leaked into the ocean a day – 4,515,600 litres of oil has spilled from the leaking well head so far.

      But, The Wilderness Society believes this figure to be much higher.

      The biggest spill in Australian history occurred in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay in 1903 when the Petriana ran aground, spilling 1300 tonnes of bulk oil on to the beach.

      Has the oil reached the shores of Roti and has it damaged fish and seaweed farms there?
      Farmers on Indonesia’s Roti Island, 500km northeast of Australia, say oil from the Montara field has damaged more than 1000ha of seaweed ready to harvest.

      Hundreds of local fishermen also claim thousands of fish have been killed as a result of the spill, massively decreasing stocks of red snapper in the area.

      Normally clear waters off the island have reportedly turned a milky-white colour, emitting a rancid odour.

      PTTEP claim information they have received from AMSA and satellite imaginary shows the slick to be 250km from the Indonesian coast.

      “The basic information is what we are hearing and what information we have is not the same,” Mr Martins said.

      To what extent has wildlife been affected by the slick?
      PTTEP’s consultant environmental scientist John Wardrop said 25 oil-coated birds had been discovered and 17 had died.

      But WWF Australia’s conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said a recent survey found hundreds of migratory seabirds, turtles, sea snakes and dolphins had been found in the slick-affected area.

      Up to 15 species of whales and dolphins, more than 30 species of seabirds and five species of turtles were potential victims of the Montara Field oil spill.

      “New estimates show up to 30,000 individual sea snakes and 16,000 turtles may be found in the area affected by the slick,” the conservation group say in an online press release.

      “We need to shatter the myth that an oil spill only affects marine wildlife when it washes up on our beaches,” Dr Llewellyn said.

      A report commissioned by the federal Department of the Environment on the impacts of the spill on birds, cetaceans and marine reptiles is inconclusive. “It was impossible to ascertain how many individual species were adversely affected,” the report said.

      “However, the presence of dying birds and dead sea snakes suggests that there is an immediate risk to species utilising the water that has been affected by the oil slick.”

      Is the slick likely to move towards Australian shores?
      Seasonal changes are likely to push the slick towards the WA coast, Mr Wardrop conceded.

      Still conditions and northeasterly winds would change in the next few months as the cyclone season arrived — from November to April — potentially moving the slick towards the Australian coastline.

      What other options are there to fix the leak sooner?
      The simplest, but far more dangerous, method of plugging the leak would be to work directly on the exposed wellhead from the West Atlas rig.

      PTTEP said this option wasn’t chosen because of the risk to human life.

      “What looks like smoke is gas with oil and water in it and, of course, with a gas cloud there, any spark has the potential for ignition,” a spokesman said.

      “It was just deemed too dangerous.”

      Why didn’t the company accept help from Woodside when the leak first started rather than shipping in its own relief rig?
      The relief rig, which took weeks to ship to Montara from Indonesia, is called a jack-up rig. It stays on top of the water because it is pinned to the sea floor and is therefore able to support the heavy mud needed to plug the leak.

      The rig offered by Woodside is a semi-submersible platform and would sink under the weight of the mud, PTTEP director Jose Martins said.

      What has the spill cost the company?
      PTTEP says it has spent $170 million on clean-up, a relief rig and costs associated with the incident.

      This figure did not include the cost of oil lost in the spill. If 400 barrels a day had leaked into the ocean for 71 days, based on present prices, the company had lost more than $US2 million in sales since August 21.

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