Kate Mackenzie When offshore oil goes horribly wrong

WWF Australia

Source: WWF Australia

The Montara oil well, between Western Australia and Indonesia, has been spewing crude oil into the sea for more than two months, and a fourth attempt by the well’s owner PTT Exploration and Production to plug has been postponed.

From Bloomberg:

Bangkok-based PTTEP said today a bid to intercept a 25 centimeter diameter steel well casing 2,600 meters (1.6 miles) below the seabed was now likely later in the week, after drilling equipment became stuck on Oct. 24 and caused a delay. On Oct. 25, PTTEP said the attempt was likely to be made today.

The Thai company has already spent $155m trying to plug the leak and will pay another $A5.3m to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which has been monitoring and cleaning the spill by spraying dispersants, skimming and containing the oil.

This comes as concern about the environmental impact of the leak is growing – WWF last week published the results of three-day survey of the area which documented numerous dolphins, birds, seasnakes and a few turtles “interacting with the oil sheen”. The image on the right, from the report, shows two dolphins swimming in oily waters.

Meanwhile the Australian Greens party says the well could be releasing much more than the 300 – 400 barrels that government ministers have given:

Yesterday (Wed 21/10/09), under questioning by Greens’ Marine Issues Spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert, Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism officials said that PTTEP had given them no basis for their 400-barrels-day figure, and their own calculations based on Geoscience Australia data suggested a rate of around 2,000 barrels-a-day, plus condensate.

Related links:

Photo gallery: Timor Sea oil spill (Crikey)