Montara Oil Spill: "A failure of sensible oilfield practice"

While BP's deepwater spill in the Gulf of Mexico was worldwide news for months, the worst incident of its kind in Australia in August 2009 also leaked for 74 days before the well could be brought under control. Yet in Australia media interest was muted after the first few days and most people even here would have forgotten that it ever happened. Nobody seems to care if you don't have a household name like BP?

An inquiry was completed in August 2010, but the report has only now been released along with the Government's response. This post provides a summary of the incident and findings, primarily based on the Inquiry's Report.


The Montara Development Project is owned and operated by PTTEPAA, a subsidiary of the Thai company PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited (PTTEP). The Development is located in a remote area of the Timor Sea, approximately 250km north‐west of the Western Australian coast, and almost 700km from Darwin.

The Montara oil spill occured after a blowout and fire on the Montara wellhead platform. The blowout occurred on the H1 well on August 21, 2009 while the West Atlas jackup drilling rig was operating over another well at the time. Sixty-nine workers were safely evacuated from the drilling rig. The leak continued for 74 days, until an intervention well was successful on its fifth attempt on 3rd November and mud was pumped in to 'kill' the well.

The Thai operator estimated that the flow of oil may have been between 1000-1500 barrels per day in the early stages and declined to 400 barrels per day later. In total it is estimated that 30,000 barrels were spilled (plus presumably a good deal of gas and/or condensate). The total surface area over which oil or sheen was observed at one time or another was around 90,000 square kilometres.

The Incident

From the inquiry: at the time the H1 Well was suspended in March 2009, not one well control barrier complied with PTTEPAA’s own Well Construction Standards (or, importantly, with sensible oilfield practice).

Relevantly, the 9⅝” cemented casing shoe had not been pressure tested in accordance with the company’s Well Construction Standards, despite major problems having been experienced with the cementing job. In particular, the cement in the casing shoe was likely to have been compromised as it had been substantially over‐displaced by fluid, resulting in what is known as a ‘wet shoe’. None of this was understood by senior PTTEPAA personnel at the time, even though the company’s contemporaneous records, such as the Daily Drilling Report (DDR), clearly indicated what had happened. The multiple problems in undertaking the cement job – such as the failure of the top and bottom plugs to create a seal after ‘bumping’, the failure of the float valves and an unexpected rush of fluid – should have raised alarm bells. Those problems necessitated a careful evaluation of what happened, the instigation of pressure testing and, most likely, remedial action. No such careful evaluation was undertaken. The problems were not complicated or unsolvable, and the potential remedies were well known and not costly. This was a failure of ‘sensible oilfield practice 101’.

As at April 2009 when the H1 Well had been suspended and the West Atlas rig had departed from the Montara WHP to undertake other work, not one well control barrier in the H1 Well had been satisfactorily tested and verified, and one barrier that should have been installed was missing. In other words, the H1 Well was suspended without regard to PTTEPAA’s own Well Construction Standards or sensible oilfield practice.

When the West Atlas rig returned to the WHP in August 2009 it was discovered that the 13⅜ ” PCCC (pressure containing anti‐corrosion caps) had never been installed. The absence of this PCCC had resulted in corrosion of the threads of the 13⅜” casing and this, in turn, led to the removal of the 9⅝” PCCC in order to clean the threads. This was viewed by PTTEPAA personnel as a mere change of sequence that simply involved bringing forward the time of the removal of the 9⅝” PCCC. PTTEPAA’s Well Construction Manager, Mr Duncan, took a positive decision not to reinstall the 9⅝” PCCC. This meant that, according to PTTEPAA’s operational forecast and drilling program, the H1 Well would have been exposed to the air without any secondary well control barrier in place for some 4 to 5 days, with sole reliance on an untested primary barrier (the cemented 9⅝” casing shoe) that had been the subject of significant problems during its installation.

After the 9⅝” PCCC had been removed, the H1 Well was left in an unprotected state (and relying on an untested primary barrier) while the rig proceeded to complete other planned activities as part of batch drilling operations at the Montara WHP. The Blowout in the H1 Well occurred 15 hours later.

It seems that Halliburton who performed the cement job were aware there was a problem, but the operator accepted it anyway:

Despite the fact that the Halliburton cementing report clearly showed that the casing shoe could not be regarded as having barrier integrity, the report was ‘signed off’ by Mr Treasure (PTTEPAA’s senior on‐rig representative) later in the evening on 7 March 2009, with a handwritten annotation ‘good job well done’.

[And from the detailed section of the report:]

The extraordinariness of this state of affairs need not be laboured. It suffices to reproduce the following evidence given by Mr Treasure.

Q. To someone who’s familiar with this document, it’s not a matter of missing the words. I want to put to you that a person who would ordinarily see this document would know, without a second glance, that this was not a normal situation; correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That there had been a problem experienced; correct?
A. Yes.
Q. And that that problem hadn’t been resolved; correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. So in this document was all the information, I want to put to you, that anyone in your position needed to realise that a problem had occurred and had not been resolved; correct?
A. Correct.
Q. In the clearest of terms; correct?
A. It was obvious, yes.
Q. Well, it can’t be any clearer. What else do you think Mr Doeg (Halliburton) should have done to make it clearer to you?
A. There’s nothing else he could do, is there?

In this case it seems that the lines of responsbility for accepting the poor cement job are clear and that Halliburton does not bear much of the blame. Whether that will the case for the Gulf of Mexico incident remains to be seen. One doubts that Halliburton are pleased their name has been associated with both incidents, but they do not have many peers in their line of work so it could easily be coincidence.

In summary, as at April 2009 when the H1 Well had been suspended and the West Atlas rig had departed from the Montara WHP to undertake other work, not one well control barrier in the H1 Well had been satisfactorily tested and verified, and one barrier that should have been installed was missing. In other words, the H1 Well was suspended without regard to PTTEPAA’s own Well Construction Standards or sensible oilfield practice.

Having worked in the industry, my impression was that most operators are working pretty hard to prevent accidents like this. The quotes from the inquiry above suggest that is not the case, with the Thai operator in this case failing to meet the most basic requirements for safe drilling. How many other two-bit (thanks for the pun Euan) operators are there operating round the world in such a cavalier and incompetent fashion?

Inquiry Findings

The inquiry did not mince words:

In essence, the way that PTTEPAA operated the Montara Oilfield did not come within a ‘bulls roar’ of sensible oilfield practice. The Blowout was not a reflection of one unfortunate incident, or of bad luck. What happened with the H1 Well was an accident waiting to happen; the company’s systems and processes were so deficient and its key personnel so lacking in basic competence, that the Blowout can properly be said to have been an event waiting to occur. Indeed, during the course of its public hearing, the Inquiry discovered that not one of the five Montara wells currently complies with the company’s Well Construction Standards. Indeed, so poor has PTTEPAA’s performance been on the Montara Oilfield, the Inquiry considers it is imperative that remedial action be instituted.

Offshore Industry Regulation

The Northern Territory is too small to manage the regulation and oversight of the oil industry, and a new national regulator has been recommended - this would seem well overdue!

The Northern Territory has also contended that ‘at all material times prior to the [Blowout], the Territory appropriately administered the licence area within which the Montara Wellhead Platform is located’. The Inquiry has no hesitation in rejecting this contention.

and again..

The Inquiry is of the view that nothing should detract from the primary responsibility of PTTEPAA to ensure well integrity. However, the Inquiry finds that the NT DoR’s regulatory regime was totally inadequate, being little more than a ‘tick and flick’ exercise.

By way of example, when PTTEPAA submitted an application to suspend the H1 Well utilising PCCCs rather than a cement plug, it received preliminary approval in 30 minutes. However, as the Inquiry heard from the manufacturers of the particular PCCC used, they were not intended to be used as barriers against a blowout. In this respect, the information that had been conveyed to the NT DoR was seriously deficient. However the NT DoR, which had no real prior experience with PCCCs, gave almost immediate approval for their use.


The use of dispersants has been contentious in the response to both the Montara and Gulf of Mexico incidents. Since the Montara incident occurred in open ocean, and dispersants are normally used where coastlines and other sensitive marine areas are at risk, there has been some debate about whether the use of dispersants was justified. The inquiry found that an appropriate net benefits decision making process was used and the decision to use dispersant was appropriate. It seems unlikely that any other finding will be made for the Gulf of Mexico.

The inquiry also found that the use of skimmer vessels recovered about 10% of the total oil released to the environment.

Response to the Inquiry

Government Response: The 21 August 2009 uncontrolled oil and gas release at the Montara oil field, operated by PTTEP Australasia (Ashmore-Cartier) Pty Ltd (PTTEP AA), and the more recent incident on 20 April 2010 at the BP operated Macondo oil field in the Gulf of Mexico, where 11 lives were lost, serve as strong reminders to governments, regulators, the offshore petroleum industry and the broader community of the risks of complacency in the operation and regulation of offshore petroleum activities.

While the Government has in its response accepted almost all of the inquiry's findings, there are many vague motherhood statements and a lot of actions that are for the industry, but the Government is happy to accept them on their behalf. For instance, in numerous cases we get the following listed as 'Actions to Date': Following the Montara and Gulf of Mexico incidents, the offshore petroleum industry has performed its own safety checks. A number of companies have implemented further actions..

As the report states, regulation of the Australian oil industry needs a complete overhaul to prevent wildcat operators like this creating more 'accidents waiting to happen'. I am personally amazed that an oil company as bad as this still exists and that they were allowed to operate here in Australia, a country that is normally seen as modern and effectively regulated.

In this context, the most significant finding of the inquiry, which has been agreed to by the Australian Government, is the creation of a new national regulator to oversee the offshore petroleum industry. Hopefully they will have the resources and skills to prevent such an incident, which clearly the Northern Territory agency did not have.


While the Montara spill was perhaps an order of magnitude smaller than the Macondo Gulf of Mexico spill, it is surprising how little attention was paid to Montara even in Australia. It could be argued that the media overplayed the BP incident (serious as it was) with seemingly 24 hour, non-stop coverage and hyperbole. However, for the Australian media and public to turn an almost blind eye is a little concerning. Perhaps our 'dig it up, ship it out' mentality has weakened our concern for the environment. Or perhaps the lack of a recognisable household name meant there was nowhere for people to turn their anger and attention.

Most of the major international oil companies have had their moment (or extended duration) in the public gaze at one time or another over the last decade. The national oil companies from around the world rarely feel any such heat no matter how low their environmental or ethical standards may fall. Despite evidence of an 'accident waiting to happen', the criticisms levelled at the Thai operator will not do it much harm outside Australia, especially since they do not exist as far any consumers are concerned. They will though have to work hard not to lose their license to operate in Australia given the numerous and blatant failings uncovered.

However, the review into BP's Gulf of Mexico Macondo blowout will not occur outside the spotlight. The entire industry will be hoping that the mistakes among BP and its partners and contractors do not amount to a 'failure of sensible oilfield practice' or they will all feel the repercussions, through increased costs, delays and even cancelled projects around the globe.

Phil, thanks for this very interesting comparison with Macondo. Some of the key differences:

• no one died (right?)
• much smaller spill
• Small Thai company has little capital to chase for compensation
• Cultural differences between USA and Australia

It seems that Australia may have under reacted here, and by same token, I think the US over reacted to Macondo where it seems actual environmental harm was not extensive relative to the scale of the incident. But its a tough one to call. Kind of like two guys in a brawl. One hits the other with a left hook. On one occasion the injured guy falls to the ground comes too and then runs away - assailant gets off Scott free. On another occasion he hits his head on kerb and dies, assailant spends 20 years in jail for exact same action. This is about actions and consequences, being lucky and unlucky.

I think the US over reacted to Macondo where it seems actual environmental harm was not extensive relative to the scale of the incident.

Euan, I find that statement to be premature to say the least. There is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence to indicate that the damage may indeed be much more severe and long lasting than had initially been suspected. The fact that an honest accounting of the severity of the damage has not been forthcoming is not very surprising to me but I suspect the long term consequences on the food web and deep sea ecosystms will be unfolding for quite some time to come. Very sad that so many people are trying so hard to deny reality.

A graveyard of deep-sea gorgonian corals has been discovered 11 kilometres south-west of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Though it could take months to be certain that leaked oil or the dispersant used to break it up killed the coral, Charles Fisher, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, is confident the spill is to blame. His team has retraced the likely movements of the underwater plume emanating from the well head, and the 40-by-15-metre patch of dead corals, photographed by the remotely operated vehicle Jason 2, lies directly in the plume's path.

The normally colourful corals appeared brown and had layers of peeling tissue. When corals get stressed, they release mucus, which traps debris. The brown colour, Fisher suspects, indicates that the corals have been getting clogged up and rotting for months. The finding adds to mounting evidence that much of the oil and dispersant did not dissipate but sank.

I find it quite amazing that so few people seem to understand complex systems and their dynamics.

To use your analogy to a brawl where someone hits his head on the curb and dies, well it sure looks like we need to try someone for the murder of an entire deepsea ecosystem.

correct that nobody died in this incident, although that was also probably a matter of luck. could easily have been worse.

and i agree that we were lucky to get our wake-up call without a more significant human and/or environmental impact. let's hope we recognise that and respond as though things were worse. there's a risk that because we largely got away with it this time, that the recommended actions aren't properly followed through and we get unlucky next time because we didn't learn from this one?

PTTEP has a market capitalization of US$20bn and an asset base larger than that. I believe it is the second largest company on the Thai stock market. There is quite a lot of money to go after if anyone wants to.

It is 65% owned by PTT, which is in turn majority (51%) owned by the Thai government, which could complicate things, but not much.

In any case, I don't think it is accurate to say that this is a small Thai company, or that they don't have assets to claim against. In fact, it would be fairly straight forward affair to take back the field itself against payment if a judgment were made against PTTEP.

Phil,your comments about the general lack of concern in Australia about this incident are spot on.
As for the NT government being responsible for oversight of drilling etc in off shore waters that is an area of government which needs to be clarified.NT would certainly not have adequate resources.
I always thought that the Commonwealth and states had some sort of shared responsibility for maritime matters.
However,in Queensland,the 2 recent shipping accidents (a coal carrier grounding on the Great Barrier Reef and shipping containers lost overboard off Moreton Island causing an oil spill)appear to have been handled entirely by the QLD government.
It is an interesting constitutional area which may need some overall clarification in the light of the Montara stuff up.

take a brief look at the inquiry report and you'll see that Northern Territory was responsible for regulation in this case, despite it being obvious to everyone that they don't have the resources to do that job. it will be a national responsibility now.

The greater attention paid to the BP blowout in the US can also be partly explained by proximity and convenience.

If I have my geography right, Montara would be 3500 to 4000 km distant from the major metro areas in Australia, and the nearest is Darwin at 750 km. The coast adjacent to Montara appears to be thinly populated.

On the other hand, the BP well was near New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola, and major metro areas of Houston and Tampa are on the Gulf Coast at about 550 and 750 km from the BP well.

Plus, given the previous devastation of New Orleans by Katrina, all the news organizations were knowledgeable regarding the logistics of moving crews into the Gulf.

Perhaps if Montara had been closer to more highly rated hotels and restaurants it would have received more attention by the media.

The media circus helped with the Gulf spill. People were scared and fishing boats were held back. Florida worried about losing millions in tourism dollars.

Step in the politicians with Jindal begging for some type of barricade from the US Treasury and so on.

Then it was the angry at Obama screaming match with the anti-oil drilling folks on the other side also yelling at Obama. A bunch of anger at BP and then the Brits yelling at the Americans for being angry at BP.

Some wanted to use a nuclear weapon on the well even -- lol. What a circus indeed.

There were legit squabbles over oil spill underreporting -- deliberate underestimation/fraud as well.

America is so successful at publicizing the screaming in politics -- maybe the differences with Australia reflect our media's loudhorn as well.

I think the biggest differentiator was obviously visible human impact. In the Gulf, lots of fishing and tourist jobs were impacted. Some of this may have been due to an overreaction, and some due to real damage, but in any case tens of thousands of jobs were affected. Also it came at a horrible time for political approval of off-shore drilling. Recall Obama was in the process of opening up new offshore areas, and the spill changed the political envirnment so drastically that this is now politically unthinkable. In fact we had a moratorium on much current drilling, so more tens of thousands of jobs were affected, and still are, as post MacCondo incident Gulf drilling will now be less than was anticiptated prior to the incident.

I'd offer some additional info that should be of interest.

The BMI investigation plods along, but they finally have started to get to the meat of the issue, human error. Bloomburg has an article on Tuesday's hearing.

Joseph E. Keith, a senior unit manager for Halliburton's Sperry subsidiary, told the U.S. Coast Guard-Interior Department panel in Houston today that he left his post aboard the Deepwater Horizon for about 10 minutes on the night of the April disaster to drink coffee and smoke half a cigarette.

While he was away from his monitors, pressure data indicated the well was filling up with explosive natural gas and crude, according to charts entered into evidence today by the panel in Houston. Keith said that had he seen the pressure data, he would have "called the rig floor" to warn fellow workers they were in danger.

The BMI flow in/flow out chart for the relevant time interval is telling as is the abnormal flow chart

The common denominator between the Macondo & Montara blowouts is the failure of the cement in the shoe track. That means Halliburton. But to date, Halliburton has been allowed to skate during the investigations, with the focus on BP & TO. It is only this week that their subsidiary, Sperry Sun, has been asked tough questions, and look what BMI found!!!

Clearly, the industry does not take failure of the primary cement job very seriously. Look how much emphasis was incorrectly placed on annular flow (centralizers, rupture disks etc. etc) on TOD.

And there has been almost zero discussion of well intervention options, as opposed to well containment options, going forward. Given that Rex Tillerson of Exxon (the nominal "gold standard") told the Oil Spill commission that nothing that was done could not have been done much earlier, one would think that intervention options would be at the top of the list. It's much better to "plug the hole" then try and mop up an ongoing spill.

Bruce - "Clearly, the industry does not take failure of the primary cement job very seriously." Normally I don't correct folks on TOD usually because they are expressing an opinion and not a fact. And everyone has the right to their opinion even if I disagree. But I have to correct your very incorrect statement. I can only assume you base that statement on all the confusing statements made about the BP accident. Not only does the industry take cmt reliability serious it's probably one of the two most critical aspect attention is paid to while drilling. And for very good reason: cmt failure is the most common problem of all aspects of drilling a well. Since the beginning the industry has spent 100's of millions on researching and improving cmt success. The fact that cmt failure is still common should indicate how difficult the procedure is. Again I'll point out that no cmt company (Halliburton or anyone else) ever warrants their cmt work. Not only will they still charge full price for a failed cmt job (as long as they complied with the operators instructions) they'll charge full price to re-cmt. And if that effort fails they'll charge full price to do it again.

To support my statement I'll also point out the most the most important safety protocol in a drilling op is testing cmt. It is routinely tested on every job because everyone on the rig knows that a bad cmt job is one of the two most common causes for a dangerous drilling event (improper mud weight is the other factor). Consider that thecause of the BP blow out was a combination of a bad cmt job and improper mud weight. If folks accept what I'm saying as accurate then the various obvious question is why wasn't more attention paid to the situation? Welcome to the club. Everyone else in the oil patch has the same question. The lack of attention paid to what we all know was a very dangerous situation is just as difficult to explain. I'll won't go into detail again but I've explained my safety procedures before: during these potentially dangerous periods I have safety protocols at least triple checked if not more.

Bottom line: cmt jobs will regularly fail a significant percentage of the time. I doubt that will ever change. In fact given how much deeper we're drilling today I'm sure the failure rate has increased over the last 20 years or so. As long as Halliburton pumped the cmt as per BP's instructions they can't be at fault. OTOH, that Halliburton hand not monitoring well properly is a completely different issue. Not only did he fail but BP/Transocean should have had at least two other hands monitoring the situation. Bottom line: had the cmt failed just as it did and had they saw the well kicking they would have stopped the blow out from happening. And no one, except for a very few, would have known how close they had come to disaster. It may not be comforting but such cmt failures and well kicks happen all the time in the GOM and around the world. But most operators are diligent in the safety protocols and situations are contained. If the public doesn't want to accept these risks so be it. Drilling will never be 100% risk free. OTOH running unsafe operators like BP out of the business would go a long way towards greatly reducing the risk.

Rockman - you know I have great respect for your opinion, but from what I have seen in these two incidents, I stand by my statement. I do not see the evidence that the individuals involved in these two accidents have taken the likelihood of a failure of the primary cement job seriously enough. If you read the Montara report you'll see that the operator failed to test the cement job per its own well design standards! That is a very, very bad operator. We all know that the Macondo negative test failed to detect a bad cement job and the crew calmed their own disquietude through a group think explanation, the "bladder effect". They failed to remain alert despite their doubts, with this mudlogger taking a smoke break long enough to miss a vital indication of trouble.

What also amazes me is that even at this late date, nearly eight months after the Macondo blowout, there does not seem to have been any effort to investigate the cement fragments recovered from the deck of the Damon Bankston. BP complained about that very issue in the Bly report. So far Halliburton has escaped any stringent investigation.

One error in the original post is that the Montara blowout did not catch fire until after there was a successful interception of the wild well by the relief well. The official report blames the ignition on a static discharge caused by a cement fragment ejected from the well head during the first (unsuccessful) bottom kill attempt.

The Halliburton cementers have taken a Chico and the Man "It's not my job man!" attitude toward alerting the operators of any doubts that they had. When you build a safety system on emmpowering any individual to call for a safety stop, you are relying on people actually voicing their doubts, which the Halliburton cementers did not do.

If we are gong to keep drilling, we need to put the fear of a blowout due to a failed primary cement job into everyone who participates in the cementing operation, including the Halliburton cementers and the Sperry Sun mudloggers. Then maybe we won't have such accidents because at least one of the multiple sets of eyes will see the danger in a timely fashion and initiate the action to prevent a blowout. The number of times this accident could have been prevented or controlled, but wasn't, is disgraceful. The technology to do the job safely exists, it is the humans who are the weakest link.

Fear is a great motivator and if the crew fears a primary cement failure, maybe they will pay more attention.

bruce - I don't think we're in any great disgreement. Read my post again. Don't try to "read between the line". I'm not known to be that subtle. LOL. I was only responding to your comment about "the industry not taking bad cmt jobs seriously". I fully agree about the foolish assumptions that the cmt was good and the more foolish procedures they undetook based on that assumption. I probably just didn't express mysel clearly: virtually eveyone of us fears a blowout. Being awoke up from a sould sleep at 3 AM to sound sound of an abandon ship alarm (almost always a false alarm) will do that to you. LOL. That was my other point: a total lack of appropriate diligence upon the different hands out there. Each company needs to be taken to task on why their personnel didn't do the job everyone in the oil patch knows is and death critical. That was THE point I was trying to make: I assume every cmt job I pump has failed. I start with the assumption that I need to prove it's OK.

My safety protocols are not that different than most: have at least 3 independent checks during thos dangerous transition. I've run off more hands than I can honestly remember for not taking my procedures serious.

Rockman- You've seen the consequences of inattention personally. One of the points made during the Oil Spill commission meeetings last week is that the Navy vastly improved its safety program following the loss of the USS Thresher by having their personnel listen to the sounds of it breaking up. Reminders of the consequences need to become a part of the training oil field workers going forward.

But another aspect of what we ought to be doing is improving the technology. As an engineer, I am quite familiar with the concept of designing products and processes to be "idiotproof". One thing that I have noticed is that the vast majority of those in the oil patch thought that the Macondo blowout was via the annulus rather than up the inside of the production casing. They did not consider Occam's Razor and put the odds on the more likely failure of the primary cement, instead focusing on the less probable annular failure scenario. That led them to discount the potential to successfully intervene inside the well to plug the leak, in favor of a containment strategy.

I have asked a few times if there is anyone who knows who was the father of the "raising the plume techique" used so successfully to fight the oil well fires in Kuwait. No one else has stepped forward, so let me make my claim of paternity. If you remember, the wild well specialists (Red Adiar, Boots & Coots, Wild Well Control etc) put out a call for suggestions given the paucity of infrastructure to fight hundreds of fires. So I sent in an idea for a system that is notionally identical to what soon thereafter began to appear, a section of casing with an inert gas injection system.

To get the flavor of what existed before and after, you can watch this video on Youtube For the first several minutes you can see how daunting the task was, from 5:30 to 6:04 you can watch as they snuff out a well fire in 34 seconds. That was how they took a job that was expected to take years and finished it in months.

Those wells spilled more oil in one day than the total flow from the Macondo. Good engineering is what made it possible for roughnecks to perform a technological marvel. I think good engineering could have successfully intervened in the Macondo well and averted most of the spill.

Nobody seems to care if you don't have a household name like BP?

As you can see, only 11 comments in several hours for this interesting post... After 2010 BP disaster you have to spill at least 1 billion barrels of oil a week to catch attention.

Cicerone, I know what you are saying, but comment volume is not the only measure of an influencing post. Site traffic is only slightly down on this, and since most traffic comes from USA and Europe, this is not surprising since this post is from a far flung colony in the Southern Ocean;-)

80,000 * 7 = 560,000 = much less than a billion;-)

"colony",Euan? I beg your pardon,Australia ceased to be a colony over 100 years ago.
I realize that you are probably writing tongue in cheek but that is still offensive.

relax Thirra.. Euan's from the other side of the england border too :-)

Where was NOPSA in this? National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority, is the Australian regulator with jurisdiction over federal and state offshore drilling activities. Surely they are at much as fault as the NT regulator?

"The entire industry will be hoping that the mistakes among BP and its partners and contractors do not amount to a 'failure of sensible oilfield practice'..."

Not sure what you meant by that, Phil.

It is fairly obvious by now that there was no "failure of sensible oilfield practice" at Macondo; instead, there was a very definite failure by BP to follow sensible oilfield practice.

Rockman describes the challenge of cementing very well. There were a lot of red flags raised during the Macondo well, but the Rubicon was crossed when BP ordered its contractors to start offloading drilling mud before the well had been securely suspended. That seriously corrupted the data which would otherwise have made the inflow problem obvious much earlier, as well as interfering with the ability to correct the problem if it had been noticed in time. That was BP's decision. And it was an extremely bad decision.

Yes, CEO Tony Hayward is rightfully gone (although still on the BP payroll); he was the guy responsible for a corporate environment which rewarded taking foolish risks to cut costs. But there were lots of other BP employees with impressive sounding titles who have not yet been publicly shamed. BP still does not accept that BP caused the problem at Macondo -- just as much as PTT caused the problem at Montara. BP is like an alcoholic trying to blame other people for the problems he created.

It's pathetic, we are that and apathetic. Australian MSM had virtually no interest in the Montara spill - personally I don't think thats entirely because the MSM editors thought we were not interested. There was certainly a dearth of press releases from the company and our governemnt regarding the spill and it was reported by MSM that it was "difficult" to get out and fly over the spill. There was a no fly zone imposed as I understand it.

While we virtually give away our resources for low return and little regulation the incumbent politicians spend hundreds of millions of mining royalies to stay in power and the taxpayers are very often left to pay to clean up the mess after it's all over.
Heck we will even let foreign govenrments buy a lease and operate it like a sovereign country within our own country under their foreign labour laws with their own imported slaves.... I mean workers. What is wrong with us that we cannot see past a mediochre short term boost to the economy and see that we are getting ripped off financially and being left with degraded areas around the country.

Often the taxpayer can't spend enough to correct the negligent practices of many resource companies, the uranium tailings from the 60's and '70s and '80's and the '90's are still eroding away spreading process chemicals and isotopes across "pristine world heritage areas" long after the profits have been taken. the mountains of asbestos tailings are still exposed, the PCB's remain in the waterways and subsoil, blah blah blah, theres a massive list. Can anyone point me to even one example of proper remediation of degraded land that has happened with an ex mine site or industrial facility with or without taxpayers funding in Australia? We either throw some topsoil on it and build a "Meriton" suburb of apartments on it or ignore it because its out in the sticks. (Meriton are a company renowned for building large developments of very cheaply built apartments)

The resource companies make a nice profit, the politicians get their pensions and as taxpayers for some reason we think its great. After all we get jobs dont we? It would be very interesting to see the real cost of our "success" given the squandering of the proceeds. As a country we should be able to build some substantial infrastructure from those funds but nothing is happening like that.

Re - our regulators - I would be surprised if the NT regulator had never even seen an offshore oil\gas rig let alone been on one. Their mandate is probably "Don't upset the company" for fear of repercussions from higher in the government.

The problem is resources is all we have, we have little value adding, a shrinking manufacturing industry, very little hi tech industry and have failed to become a financial hub of Asia (as if in the first place.)

We are hostage to our resource industry, spineless politicians and our own apathy.

Now I'm waiting to see who pays the damages bill to Indonesia for the Montara spill.
I expect PTTEP Australia is separate enough from the Thai parent company to keep the parent company safe, PTTEP Aust. will probably declare themselves bankrupt and the Australia taxpayer will have to fork out the compensation - it's just the sort of thing our resource company friendly government will do - wouldn't want to discourage further O & G "investment" by not helping out would we.

I'm over it - there needs to be an "Environmental Accident & Remediation" bond held separately from general government revenue to make sure incidents like this are paid for by the company involved when they seek to exploit a resource and to ensure the remediation is done before the profits have been taken and the company moves on.

I have no issue with responsible resource expoitation as long as its responsible, that the business model includes the true costs to the company , the government, the people and the environment of exploiting the resource and that the company is held to be accountable for those costs. If that makes some prospects un-profitable then so be it, find a better way to exploit it or leave it in the ground. We cannot "reimburse" permanent degradation to the environment.

Speaking of lack of interest - Why doesn't anyone seem to care that Development Driller 3 is still locked on station 5.5 NM northish of mc252 in the GOM for the last couple of months - cannot believe after the everthing thats happened out there that now no one seems to be curious as to what that vessel is up to. I was under the impression it costs a lot of money to keep a vessel like that holding on station with D.P.. You won't see her in AIS Shiptracking unless you use "Search All" search specifically for Development Driller 3, then she shows up. Even the CT's seem to have tired of it (although most of them should be feeling pretty stupid and probably want to fade away quietly)