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Fire breaks out on Montara wellhead platform in Timor Sea

Rick Wilkinson
OGJ Correspondent

MELBOURNE, Nov. 2 -- PTTEP Australasia is now fighting a fire on the Montara wellhead platform in the Timor Sea. The fire broke out during operations to plug the leaking well at the field, which was successfully intercepted over the weekend (OGJ Online, Oct. 28, 2009).

The company says the fire broke out around the cantilever section of the West Atlas jack up drilling rig, which is directly above the platform, while heavy mud was being pumped into the well from the West Triton jack up rig about 2 km away.

No one was aboard West Atlas. The rig was evacuated when the oil leak began last August.

The Nor Captain fire fighting vessel did pour water onto the fire in the early stages, but it is believed that this vessel has been moved away and is stationed a kilometer or two off the rig area.

PTTEP says seawater is also being pumped down the relief well in a bid to wet the gas and help bring the fire under control.

The company says the best way to stop the fire is to complete plugging the leaking well and stopping the flow of oil and gas to the surface.

Another leak found
Separately, it was reported that Sinopec’s Puffin field, which lies about 50 km northeast of Montara field, is also leaking.

The leak is reported to be minor and remedial action is not considered urgent.

A small amount of gas has escaped from Puffin.

The field has been suspended since May after Sinopec and AED Oil terminated the charter contract of Sea Production for the use of the Front Puffin floating production, storage, and offloading vessel at the field for alleged breaches related to occupational health, safety, and the environment.

Sea Production has contested the claims.

Although the leak may be minor, the Montara incident has increased scrutiny and the field operators are likely to be asked questions about Puffin including why it has taken so long to report it.

Calls have also come to widen the Australian government’s inquiry into Montara to include Puffin.

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