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Leaking oil well plugged, fire contained

An oil well that has been leaking into the Timor Sea for 10 weeks has been plugged and a fire raging on the oil rig is almost out, the operator says.

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PTTEP Australasia finally suceeded in blocking the leaking oil well on its fifth attempt on Tuesday afternoon.

The company says it has also brought the main blaze on the Montara wellhead platform – which broke out at the weekend – under control.

Oil began leaking from the Montara oilfield near the West Atlas oil rig, more than 200km northwest of Western Australia’s Kimberley coastline, on August 21.

During an attempt to plug the oil well with heavy mud on Sunday a fire broke out at the wellhead platform and the West Atlas oil rig.

Fuel source ‘burning out’

“Some material on the topside of the West Atlas rig might still be on fire but it is expected to be extinguished as the fuel source burns out,” the company said in a statement.

Well control experts on the nearby West Triton relief rig reported they had pumped approximately 3,400 barrels of heavy mud down the same relief well that had successfully intercepted the leaking well on Sunday morning.

The operation began at 2.20pm (CST) and the main fire was contained at 3.48pm (CST), the company said, adding that the well kill was completed about 5.15pm (CST).

PTTEP said the online well data indicated the situation was stable and the well pressure was being maintained.

“The well continues to be monitored and a mixture of light mud and brine is continuing to be pumped into the relief well to maintain a stable situation,” it said.

‘Lots more work to do’

“The next phase of securing the well head platform will now be undertaken subject to strict safety considerations.”

Once the well platform has been secured the owners of the West Atlas drill rig, Atlas Drilling, a subsidiary of Sea Drill, may make an attempt to reboard the rig to assess the damage caused by the fire, PTTEP said.

“We are relieved and thankful that we have killed the well and stopped the fire,” PTTEP Australasia chief financial officer Jose Martins said.

“We still have a lot more work to do and our priorities are now to determine the best method of plugging the No1 well bore.

“We do not underestimate the significantly increased technical complexity, logistical challenges and hazards of the work now required in the wake of the damage caused by the fire to the well head platform, and the West Atlas Rig,” he said.