Indonesia launches lawsuit against Montara oil spill

Indonesia has filed its long-threatened lawsuit seeking $2 billion in damages associated with the 2009 oil spill in Montara field in the Timor Sea. The civil suit has been filed in a court in Jakarta against Thai company PTTEP and its Australian subsidiary PTTEP Australasia alleging the spill caused environmental damage in Indonesian waters during the 10 weeks of the spill following the blowout of a development well in the field.

Indonesia has filed its long-threatened lawsuit seeking $2 billion in damages associated with the 2009 oil spill in Montara field in the Timor Sea (OGJ Online, Nov. 2, 2009).

The civil suit has been filed in a court in Jakarta against Thai company PTTEP and its Australian subsidiary PTTEP Australasia alleging the spill caused environmental damage in Indonesian waters during the 10 weeks of the spill following the blowout of a development well in the field.

The resulting explosion and fire destroyed the West Atlas jack up rig and severely damaged the field’s wellhead platform.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, Indonesia’s deputy minister for maritime affairs, said the state was seeking damages from oil that crossed the maritime boundary with Australia and allegedly damaged coral reefs, seagrass meadows, seaweed fields, and mangroves offshore East Nusa Tenggara, the country’s southernmost province.

Indonesia is seeking a ruling that would freeze the oil company’s assets in the country and overseas if it fails to pay for the damages sought.

The deputy minister added that Indonesia had attempted to negotiate with PTTEP for a resolution, but was not satisfied with the company’s response that the oil slick did not reach Indonesian waters.

With negotiations at a standstill, legal action was Indonesia’s best course of action he said.

For its part PTTEP says it has always accepted responsibility for the Montara incident. It commissioned a wide-ranging scientific research program in the Timor Sea region and discovered there has been no lasting impact on the area.

It said that satellite imagery, aerial survey images and trajectory modelling concluded that 98% of the oil remained in Australian waters and that no oil reached either the Australian or Indonesian coastlines.

PTTEP was fined $510,000 (Aus.) for the spill in 2012 and convicted for three occupational health and safety offences and one other offence for failing to verify barriers in the well.

Montara field lies 250 km northwest of Western Australia’s northern coast.

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