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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 30 October 2009
ABC shrink 2,000 barrels a day oil blow out down to 400 via corporate spin
Mood:  sharp
Topic: big media

 Picture: Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens MP from Western Australia leading accountability on the West Atlas/Montara oil well blowout estimated at 5,880,000 US gallons so far after 70 days, based on Federal Environment Dept and Geo Science Australia evidence to the Australian Senate.

Well it's been a battle of corporate spin this last 24 hours news cycle in the south east Australian news audience, that is, where the weight of democratic power resides in this country.




The best estimates from independent evidence we have of West Atlas/Montara oil blowout on the north west shelf is that the flow rate is 'up to 2,000 barrels a day' which puts it in the infamous Exxon Valdez category. Even at 400 barrels and $150 million reportedly in trying to stop the gusher so far, we are still talking 1/10 Exxon Valdez but the upper figure of 2,000 is to be preferred as per this critical exchange in Federal Parliament, bold added:

Preface: This is the transcript of Hansard 21 October Senate Estimates Economics committee (note Mr Squire is from the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism officials). The relevant Estimates Economics Committee 21 October 2009 page E84 is at http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S12500.pdf It seems to download for me best on explorer not firefox.


Senator SIEWERT—In terms of the amount of oil that was previously and is now coming out of the well,
have you had any discussions with the company about what that rate is? They have said publicly what it is, or
speculated in fact. Have you had a discussion with them about that?

Mr Squire - There is a figure in the media of 300 to 400 barrels a day. The view of the department is that it
is difficult without access to the rig to quantify what that rate of flow is.

Senator SIEWERT—That is significantly different from the production figures that the company itself had
said would be coming from that well when it was in production.

Mr Squire—That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT—I presume through the regulatory process you have been provided with flow data
from that well and similar wells in the area.

Mr Squire—You are correct to say that the estimated rate of flow is far less than what the well would be
producing if it were in production. We certainly do have information about potential flow rates when those
wells were drilled as production wells.

Senator SIEWERT—Did you do any calculations yourself on the potential flow rates? Initially there was
an absence of company advice on what the potential flow rates were. Did you do any calculations yourselves
to estimate what the flow rates could be?

Mr Squire—Yes, we did.

Senator SIEWERT—And what were they?

Mr Squire—The information that we sought from Geoscience Australia was an estimation of what the rate
of flow would be if that well was entirely unsealed, for want of a better expression.

Senator SIEWERT—And what were they? What was that rate?

Mr Squire—The maximum leakage rate from that well could be as much as 2,000 barrels of oil a day, with
condensate as well.

Senator SIEWERT—That is in addition?

Mr Squire—In addition to oil.

Senator SIEWERT—Is it possible for you to table the basis on which those figures were calculated?

Mr Squire—We should be able to provide you information concerning the testing of that well when it was
drilled as a production well.

Senator SIEWERT—That would be much appreciated, if you could. In terms of the Timor Sea in general
and oil and gas exploration and production in the Timor Sea, it has been suggested to me in the past that there
have been several other potential incidents that never in fact eventuated because there was good contingency
planning in place. Have those sorts of incidents ever been reported to the department? …….

However as explained in recent SAM posts the corporation and government have been desperate to sell a line of 400 barrels a day. It's almost certainly a lie. Even on their own terms driller PTTEP say words to the effect of 'there is no scientific basis for determining the flow rate' while sticking to their own (scientific?) 400 barrels figure.

Indeed go figure. In Geo Science Australia public servants before Parliament we trust thankyou very much.

Which brings us to the ABC record this last 24 hours news service. We tracked them last night on PM national radio, 7 pm abc tv news, update on 9.30 pm tv news, then 7.45 am prime time radio bulletin earlier today. All at '400 barrels a day' as per corporate spin, slightly mitigated by insertion of "an estimated 400 barrels" later on as criticism arrived.

We've pressed them all the way with calls and emails on the Estimates Committe evidence, as well as on the relevant Crikey.com.au and Unleashed websites of Monday/Thursday and Tuesday respectively. We've had a chat to the office of the director of news.

This oil flow rate reportage stinks. It's much worse than 400 barrels a day according to best evidence so far, that's clear. Indeed even local ABC radio reported as much here:

Here is the abc radio news story of Oct 22 too. So how can SE Australia ABC start quoting the company’s spin unchallenged?:


and News Corp here

Perth Now web news story Oct 22 based on Geo Science Australia referred to in evidence to Senate Estimates the day before - 2,000 barrels a day, NOT 400 barrels:



Posted by editor at 2:53 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 2 November 2009 9:59 AM EADT

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