PTTEP will utilise an unprecedented wealth of information in its defence against a $200 million claim lodged by Indonesian seaweed farmers over alleged damage to their business by the August 2009 Montara incident off the north west coast of Australia.
The Thai-headquartered company’s local subsidiary and Montara operator, PTTEPAA, will present the results of a significant amount of independent research undertaken during and following the incident.
Those studies, which are ongoing, claim that no oil from the Montara well head reached the Australian or Indonesian mainland and that 98 per cent of oil released in the incident remained within Australian waters, most of which was within 23km of the wellhead.
While Indonesian authorities have yet to allow the company to undertake studies in its territorial waters, PTTEP says satellite imagery, aerial survey images and trajectory modelling concluded that only two per cent of the oil left Australian waters, and that none of it reached the Australian or Indonesian coastlines.
The independent research, which includes a number of shoreline ecological assessment aerial and ground surveys, an in-depth study of fish catch in the Timor Sea, surveys to identify and assess any level of impact to the sediment and marine life of submerged marine banks in the region of the oil spill and the effect on sea bird and coral reefs, has shown there was no lasting impact on any marine species or ecosystems in Australian waters, including the reefs and shoals closest to Montara.
The company has also stated previously that it has yet to receive any credible evidence from outside sources that oil from Montara caused damage to the environment in West Timor.
The class action lodged against PTTEP subsidiary PTTEP Australasia (Ashmore Cartier) Pty Ltd (PTTEPAA) is being undertaken by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers supporting Greg Phelps of Darwin firm Ward Keller.
Legal experts suggest the action may drag on for many months, or even years.