APPEA issues update on Montara oil leak

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Oct. 21
-- Australia’s oil and gas industry expects within days to stop an oil leak from Montara field in the Timor Sea off Western Australia, said the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.

APPEA Chief Executive Belinda Robinson, in an Oct. 19 statement, called the sealing of the leaking well at Montara “an extremely difficult and complex operation.” She said, “A team of international and Australian experts are drilling a relief well down through 2.6 km of the seabed and then seeking to intersect a leaking 25 cm section of steel casing.”

The drilling team’s next attempt to intercept and stop the leaking well is scheduled for Oct. 22. The spill started on Aug. 21. Thailand’s PTTEP owns and operates the Montara platform complex.

Seadrill Ltd. said its West Atlas jack up drilling rig is working under a PTTEP contract. An oil leak developed on a well adjacent to where the West Atlas worked, Seadrill said, adding that all West Atlas personnel were evacuated (OGJ, Sept. 7, 2009, Newsletter).

“The operation is being undertaken by Australia’s best drilling experts from across the industry,” Robinson said. “Once the leaking well is intercepted, heavy mud will be pumped from the West Triton drilling platform down into the relief well, displacing the oil, gas, and water and stopping the flow.”

Once the leak has been stopped and a 24-hr safety period has passed, a team will reboard the wellhead platform, and the West Atlas rig to further secure the well by inserting two plugs into the previously leaking wellbore.

This second operation to plug the well is expected to take about another week to complete, Robinson said.

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