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Australian oil well leaked but spill kept secret

a 10,500-litre spill in April 2016

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 18 May 2017
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/18/australian-oil-well-leaked-into-ocean-for-months-but-incident-kept-secret

An offshore oil and gas well in Australia leaked oil continuously into the ocean for two months in 2016, releasing an estimated 10,500 litres. But the spill was never made public by the regulator and details about the well, its whereabouts and operator remain secret.

In its annual offshore performance report released this week, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority included a mention of a 10,500-litre spill in April 2016. It provided limited details about, noting that it had been identified during a routine inspection.

After inquiries from the Guardian, Nopsema said the leak went on for two months, at a rate of about 175 litres a day. It went unnoticed while the floating platform was undergoing maintenance and was only discovered when the platform returned.

spokesman for Nopsema said the leak had been caused by a seal degrading. The regulator investigated the spill and said the operator had been ordered to check the seals were working before disconnecting the platform.

But despite requests to reveal exactly where the spill occurred, or what company was responsible, Nopsema refused to disclose the information, revealing only that it was in the North West Shelf.

The Nopsema spokesman said that since companies were compelled by law to report these leaks the regulator believed there was an “implied duty of confidence”.

Andrew Hopkins, an expert in offshore oil safety, said the secrecy was concerning.

“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.”

When companies get a licence to drill for oil and gas, they produce a safety case that is supposed to demonstrate how they will minimise risks of spills. Those are also kept secret by Nopsema.

Hopkins 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.

Nathaniel Pelle, a campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: “Australians, and especially those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood, should be deeply concerned by reports that the national oil regulator has withheld information from the public about a 10,500-litre oil leak for over 12 months.
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