Timor oil spill inquiry cites company shortcomings and negligent regulator



Posted on 25 November 2010  | 
The West Atlas Oil Rig leaking oil into the Timor Sea, off the northwest coast of Australia.
The West Atlas Oil Rig leaking oil into the Timor Sea, off the northwest coast of Australia.
© Chris Twomey / Office of Senator Rachel SiewertEnlarge
Sydney, Australia: A long-awaited report into the August 2009 oilspill which widely affected marine and bird life in the Timor Sea has condemned “widespread and systematic” shortcomings by the company constructing and operating the well.

WWF-Australia, which played a significant role in publicising the impact of the remote spill, has welcomed the report, calling for the Federal Government “to get serious about protecting Australia’s oceans and coasts” with “a network of marine sanctuaries that prevent drilling for oil and gas in the most environmentally sensitive areas”.

The report, completed during early stages of the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico explosion and oil spill but not handed down to the Australian Parliament until this week, was also highly critical of the Northern Territory Department of Resources, saying it “was not a diligent regulator and its minimalist approach to its regulatory responsiblilties gave it little chance of discovering these poor (company) practices."

Initial undersea cementing problems on the exploration well were compounded by only one of two planned secondary well control barriers being installed, the report found.

The blowout took 73 days to kill. The inquiry was told the oil from the blowout covered 90,000 kilometres of sea and reef – much more than the area admitted to during the spill.

“When WWF visited the toxic spill last year, it was evident dolphins and sea birds were swimming
through a noxious mix of oil and chemical dispersants,” said Dr Gilly Llewellyn, WWF-Australia’s
Conservation Manager.

“This kind of environmental disaster is unacceptable. Montara and the Gulf of Mexico spill have
shown the worse case scenario can and does happen.”

WWF has welcomed the Government’s decision to accept public comments on its draft response of tightening regulatory oversight and better monitoring the impacts of spills on wildlife.

The West Atlas Oil Rig leaking oil into the Timor Sea, off the northwest coast of Australia.
The West Atlas Oil Rig leaking oil into the Timor Sea, off the northwest coast of Australia.
© Chris Twomey / Office of Senator Rachel Siewert Enlarge

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