Criticism over response to oil spill
A National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) investigation has found that a “significant threat” was posed to the environment by an improper response to an oil spill.
The spill in the Bass Strait was reported to Nopsema in February after water near the West Tuna oil platform - operated by Esso Australia Resources Pty Ltd as part of the Kipper Tuna Turrum gas project - was reported to have an oily sheen.
After examining Esso’s response to the spill, a Nopsema investigator said Esso’s workers had failed to follow the correct procedures in collecting, testing and labelling oil samples; meaning the staff were unable to identify the source of the leaks.
Nopsema said that this was partly due to the staff not having the required equipment.
The investigation continued that the failure by Esso to follow its own procedures after the oily sheen was detected meant that no representative sample of oil was taken, which hindered its ability to discover the spill’s source and increased the risk of contamination.
The unnecessary delays caused in responding to the spill could lead to “additional environmental impact” that could otherwise have been avoided, an environmental improvement notice issued by the regulator said.
Esso risk facing ‘additional enforcement action’ if the company fails to review its oil spill training within 60 days.
An Esso spokesman confirmed that while they had failed to identify the source of the spill, the firm disagreed that the oil had come from their oil rig: “There is no credible scenario which confirms our operations to be the source of the sheen.”
The spokesman added that although there was a vessel available to take a sample of the sheen, on this instance the vessel did not have sampling equipment on board that met the company’s environmental plan protocols.
“Esso is taking steps to ensure approved sampling equipment is readily available to respond in similar circumstances,” the spokesman concluded.