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PTT May Need 50 Days to Plug Oil, Gas Leak at Timor Sea Rig
PTT Exploration & Production Pcl said it may take at least 50 days to plug an oil and gas spill at its Montara project in the Timor Sea off Australia by using another rig to intercept the leak and plug it with mud.
“There is more than one way of potentially controlling the well, however at this stage this is probably our preferred course of action because it is lowest risk and highest probability of success,” PTTEP Australasia Director Jose Martins said at a press conference in Perth yesterday.
The leak, which began on Aug. 21 at the West Atlas rig 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Australia’s Kimberley coast, caused a slick of light oil about 15 kilometers long, with gas and condensate also being emitted, according to government authorities. The Kimberley is described by Tourism Australia as “one of the world’s last true wilderness areas.”
“This area has been dubbed a ‘marine superhighway’,” Australian Greens marine spokeswoman Senator Rachel Siewert said yesterday. “There are populations of baby turtles this time of year, and the area also serves as a migratory route for whales and other marine life.”
PTT, Thailand’s only publicly traded exploration company, will pay for the cost of dispersing the spill, which was caused by a sub-surface leak in a well-bore, Martins said.
Mobilizing the West Triton rig from Singapore to the site will take 20 days, preparation to drill two days, drilling to secure a point above the target 20 days and intercepting the vector to target and kill the well eight days, Martins said.
Oil, gas and condensate have been seeping from the West Atlas rig, operated by Seadrill Ltd., since about 5:30 a.m. local time on Aug. 21. All 69 crew members were evacuated the same day.
Dispersants are breaking up the spill and will have to continue as long as the leak does, Tracey Jiggins, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said yesterday.
PTT acquired the Montara project in February as part of its $170 million purchase of closely held Coogee Resources Ltd. It was expected to start producing about 35,600 barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter.
International drilling experts arrived in Perth on Aug. 22 to help PTT engineers develop a plan to stop the leak, the company said.
High volumes of gas around the West Atlas rig and the leaking well, known as H1, create a fire risk and are the biggest challenge for engineers, according to Martins. Aircraft spraying dispersant won’t go within 2 nautical miles of the rig, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said yesterday.
“What we hope to do is intercept the existing well-bore and at that time pump heavy mud, which is designed to then flow up the H1 well and effectively block it off,” Martins said. The procedure has successfully been used previously, he said, without providing an example.
A Singapore-based company has been hired to spray 20,000 gallons of seawater a minute on to the West Atlas to disperse the gas and minimize the risk of ignition.
The leak started about 3,500 meters below the sea bed, Martins said. He declined to comment on the chances of the rig catching fire, what caused the leak in the well bore, how big the size of the hole is, how much oil or gas may be leaking, and how much fixing the spill will cost.
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