Oil spill threatens ocean  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Age has a report on a drilling accident off northern Australia - Oil spill threatens ocean as driller faces multimillion bill.

THE operator of an oil rig responsible for a massive oil leak off the West Australian coast will be forced to pay millions of dollars to clean up the spill, which authorities warn poses a serious threat to the environment.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority yesterday launched a major clean-up operation as oil and gas continued to seep from a 1200-metre-deep well drilled by the West Atlas - an oil rig located 690 kilometres west of Darwin, 250 kilometres off the far north Kimberley coast and 150 kilometres south-east of Ashmore Reef.

The spill, which is eight nautical miles long and 30 metres wide, began early on Friday, forcing the evacuation of 69 workers to Darwin.

The company responsible for the rig, PTTEP Australasia, said the leak had not yet been brought under control.

PTTEP director Jose Martins said the leak was mainly gas, with a much lower oil content than when the spill began, but the related fire risk meant it was impossible to get back on to the platform. ''So that option for bringing the leak under control is ruled out for now,'' he said.

He said early reports that poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas had been released were wrong. The company has called in gas and oil spill experts to help with the clean-up.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority was put in charge of the operation after the size of the spill became apparent. It warned that the remote location of the rig would make the clean-up difficult.

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