New start for Timor Sea spill site

newPRODUCTION has begun at PTTEP’s Montara oil field in the Timor Sea – the site of its 2009 oil spill – following a rigorous transformation of management culture, operational capabilities and safety and environmental processes.
The Montara project is 690km west of Darwin and includes the Skua, Swift and Swallow fields, an unmanned well head platform, four horizontal production wells and a gas re-injection well.
At the beginning of June, hydrocarbons were introduced to the Montara Venture floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facility – which can store 750,000 barrels of oil – and “steady production” was achieved 12 days later, the company reported. PTTEP Australasia (PTTEP AA) chief executive Ken Fitzpatrick said the well head platform, subsea equipment and tie-backs and FPSO facilities were going through a start-up and commissioning phase.
“First oil at Montara is an exciting development for PTTEP AA,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
According to PTTEP, oil production at Montara would initially ramp up to 21,000bbls of oil per day and the project’s first offtake of oil was expected in August. Once a fourth production well is drilled, oil production from Montara is expected to reach a maximum rate of 35,000bbls/d. However, the project has not been without delays.
A fourth production well was scheduled to be completed last year but will be postponed to the second half of this year, due to a lack of drill rig availability. “As with any project of this nature there have been delays caused by a range of factors outside of PTTEP AA’s control such as tropical cyclones,” Mr Fitzpatrick said. “We had two cyclones, Narelle and Rusty, during the 2012 to 2013 season.” The Montara incident in 2009 saw 4750t of oil spill into the ocean due to the company’s failure to maintain and verify two well barriers; poor management of change control and a lack of staff competence were also found to be contributing factors.
Since 2009, PTTEP has undergone a number of steps to rectify company processes and prevent any future spills under the Montara Action Plan, which focusses on short, medium and long-term actions to embed the lessons learned from the incident.
The Montara oil field was discovered by BHP Petroleum in March 1988 and was initially deemed too small and remote for commercial development.