Australia denies ''downplaying'' oil spill
August 31, 2009
The Associated Foreign Press reports that Australia has denied claims it downplayed the scale of a massive oil spill at a drilling rig off its northwest coast, and said the slick was dispersing naturally. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Greens party was exaggerating the size of the leak at the West Atlas drilling platform, about 250 kilometers off the Australian main land. Tons of dispersant chemicals have been dumped on the slick, and Ferguson said most of it was breaking up naturally. The leak began at the West Atlas rig, forcing the evacuation of 69 workers. Its Bangkok-based operator PTTEP Australasia was unable to cap the leak, and authorities have warned it could take up to seven weeks to contain, with a second rig sent from Singapore for the repair operation. Greens Senator urged PTTEP and Norway''s Seadrill, which owns the West Atlas platform, to accept the offer of a relief rig from Australian company Woodside Petroleum, which could be on the site within five days. But PTTEP said there was no indication Woodside''s equipment would reach West Atlas any faster than the Singapore rig, which it estimated would arrive in "seven or eight days". PTTEP estimated the slick was eight nautical miles long and 30 meters wide. It plans to drill a relief well with the secondary rig to intersect the leaking wellhead and stop the flow of oil and gas.