Apache's negligence under fire | The Jackal

25 May 2012

Apache's negligence under fire

Yesterday, the West Australian reported:

Investigators examining the catastrophic 2008 Varanus Island gas explosion which crippled the State's gas supply have contradicted claims by plant operator Apache that the disaster was unforseen and unforeseeable.

The long awaited report into the explosion was tabled in State Parliament this morning.

Apache, a subsidiary of American energy giant Apache Corporation, has waged a long legal battle to keep secret the June 2009 report into the explosion.

The company took full advantage of Mines Minister Norman Moore’s undertaking that he would not release the 470-page report until it had responded to it, providing him with 5000 pages of documents which he painstakingly reviewed.

Addressing the legislative council this morning, Mr Moore said it was finally time for the WA public to be fully informed about the disaster.

More than $60 million damage was caused to the plant and $3 billion to the WA economy.

A high-pressure, 30cm gas pipeline critically weakened by external corrosion ruptured and exploded on the beach of Varanus Island, setting off a string of other explosions.

The report, authored by David Agostini and Kym Bills found there was “a range of documentation that should have alerted the operator (Apache) to serious risks involving external corrosion around the shore crossing of the 12 inch (30.5cm)(pipe) where it ruptured”.

A third of WA’s energy supply was cut after the explosions.

What makes this so ridiculous is that Apache has tried to suppress information about the Varanus Island gas explosion because they say releasing it would "aid terrorist attacks on gas infrastructure."

This is obvious complete and utter rubbish and the only reason Apache want to keep it all hush hush is because they're liable for costs associated with the explosion... Well at least you would think so:

A criminal prosecution of Apache for failing to maintain the Varanus Island gas pipeline was abandoned in April because of legal technicalities, including a 20-year-old variation document using the term “pipeworks” rather than “pipeline”.

Dodging the multi-million dollar compensation claims bullet on a technicality must have been a super human feet of legal manipulation indeed.

Such incidents are a clear indication that infrastructure associated with the gas industry is not maintained properly, safeguards are not adhered to and the entire sector needs a good kick up the backside to ensure safety is prioritised.

Unfortunately without any financial penalty being imposed, Apache will continue to put profits before proper maintenance... and as usual the people and the environment are the ones to pay.

Here's the report: http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/salesinfo/varanusinquiry.pdf