May 22nd, 2017
Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulator has refused to disclose the location and organisation responsible for the 10,500-litre oil spill into the ocean in April 2016.
An offshore oil and gas well in Australia leaked oil continuously into the ocean for two months from February to April 2016 but brief information about the oil spill was only released this month in the annual offshore performance report by National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).
But the report did not provide detail when the spill took place or who was responsible, noting that it had been identified during a routine inspection, reported The Guardian.
As tabloid asked about the discharge, Nopsema said the leak went on for two months, at a rate of about 175 litres – equivalent to a bathtub’s capacity – a day, released an estimated 10,500 litres in total.
A spokesman for Nopsema further clarified that the leak had been caused by a seal degrading and the company had been instructed to check the seals were working before disconnecting the floating platform for maintenance.
It was a North West Shelf- an extensive oil and gas region off the coast of Western Australia where oil spill into the ocean.
According to the recent report, Woodside Petroleum was responsible for an oil spill off the coast of Western Australia which was kept secret by the Australian oil regulatory body for more than a year. Petroleum Company clarified that because the leak from the CK4 well was “80% water” and 80m below the sea surface, it had “no lasting impact to the environment”.
The secrecy around Woodside’s oil discharge contrasted with the Australian regulator’s public alert around a smaller oil spill in February at an ExxonMobil platform in the Bass Strait.
A Nopsema claimed that the regulator had “an implied duty of confidence” not to disclose companies that reported oil leaks. But an expert in offshore oil safety and a Greenpeace campaigner had said the secrecy was concerning and not justified.
“They should release the names of companies concerned because one of the values of this is the naming and shaming approach – that companies that know they will be named in the case of an incident like this, they are going to be less likely to do it,” said an offshore oil safety expert.
Safety expert further said if the requirement for checking that the seals worked before they were relied on wasn’t already in the safety case, then that was a failure on behalf of the regulator in ensuring risks were kept as low as possible. “It’s not as if this is an unpredictable unforeseeable event,” he said.
A campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific said: “Australians, and especially those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood, should be deeply concerned about reports that the national oil regulator has withheld information from the public about a 10,500-litre oil leak for over 12 months … There’s absolutely no justification for continuing to keep the company involved or the location of the oil spill a secret … Any spilt oil is unacceptable but the US oil industry suffered three spills over 8,000 litres in 2016, despite producing 30 times the oil that Australia does. It’s farcical that the industry claims to have a safe record in Australia.”
Nopsema’s report also showed that oil leaks increased by 28%, despite activity in the industry dropping 40%.
“Nopsema’s performance report should be a wake-up call to the government and to anyone who has the bad luck of sharing the marine environment with the oil industry,” the Greenpeace campaigner said.