Timor Sea Drilling Spill – 4th Relief Attempt Fails

The fourth attempt to kill the out-of-control well on the Montara platform was scrubbed due to equipment problems. The well has now been leaking oil, gas and condensate for 70 days. And the operator, PTTEP, is now saying the well may not be plugged for “several more weeks.” Indonesia officially confirmed that oil has reached their territorial waters, something we documented in satellite imagery back on September 3.

World Wildlife Fund just released a report on their research cruise to the spill-affected area, where they observed slicks and impacted wildlife. See their photos and video for an up-close look, and get the full report here. (Photo #4 shows researchers studying a SkyTruth image of this spill.) The Australian government has also released a report on the research and wildlife surveys they’ve conducted so far in the area.

Common Noddy recovered from the Montara oil spill by researchers working for the Australian government. Photo taken from their report.

Meanwhile, a second leaking well has been reported in another offshore field about 50km northwest of Montara. This is being described by the company as a minor gas leak but it’s been ongoing for some time with no immediate prospect for repair. Fugitive methane emissions such as this from oil and gas facilities could be a major source of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Here’s a visual of those emissions: we processed a MODIS satellite image of the Montara area that was taken on October 27. The well is still actively spewing oil, but the sunglint conditions on this image are not favorable so the slicks aren’t visible. But a pale plume is emanating from the platform location and spreading out as it blows toward the Australian coast to the southeast. This is probably an aerial plume of hydrocarbon smog caused by the natural gas and vaporized natural gas condensate that are also blowing out of the damaged well. Usually those airborne emissions are invisible, but atmospheric conditions must have been right to form a visible smog:

See all of our images here. And if you like what we do here at SkyTruth, please support our work!

1 reply
  1. Red Hand says:

    A fire has broken out at an oil well that has been leaking in the Timor Sea for 10 weeks.

    PTTEP Australasia says the West Atlas rig and Montara well head platform are on fire. All personnel on the nearby West Triton rig and on work vessels in the area are reported to be safe. Oil has been spilling into the Timor Sea at an estimated rate of 2000 – 6000 barrels a day since August 21.

    The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has 300 people working on the clean-up. Redhand would like to know where are the 300 hundred people who were apparently cleaning up this spill? Where were they when the rig caught fire? Where have these 300 hundred people come from? Have they been flown in from Darwin or Broome? Are they being accommodated in Darwin or Broome?

    How was this fire stated? How do they intend to deal with this massive disaster now?

    Now that this rig is on fire, Redhand believes that it is about time that both the Pearling Industry, Local fishing Industry, the Kimberley Tourism Industry, the Broome Chamber of Commerce, the local Shires and regional peak bodies start to take a serious look at this global disaster. They must at least, begin to come to terms with the facts that this spill and the subsequent fire is going to have ominous and dire consequential ramifications for all these Industries and local and regional governance. The oil will eventually run the entire Dampier coastal foreshore and will make its way to Cable Beach.

    In the light of this global significant disaster, that can be viewed from space, what Risk Management Strategies does the Shire of both Broome and Derby and the state government have in place to deal with this particular oil spill or any other major industrial or tanker accidents that could take place anywhere along the western Australian coastline?

Comments are closed.