NOPSEMA takes interim step in Bass Strait oil sheen investigation

Published 9 May 2017

NOPSEMA continues to investigate the environmental incident reported on 1 February 2017 in which Esso Australia Resources Pty Ltd (Esso) identified an oil sheen in close proximity to its West Tuna platform, located 45km off the Gippsland coast in Victoria.

Prior to and during the incident, the platform and oil export pipeline were shut down. By the following morning (2 February 2017) the oil sheen had dissipated. This was confirmed by aerial and onshore observations which detected no oil on the surface of the water or along the Victorian coastline. No affected wildlife has been detected by Esso or reported to NOPSEMA.

The incident has been the subject of an investigation headed by NOPSEMA’s dedicated team of internationally sourced oil spill response and pipeline integrity experts. While the investigation remains active, the authority has already taken enforcement action as an interim step.

On 19 April 2017, NOPSEMA’s issued Esso an Environmental Improvement Notice for failing to follow the procedures for obtaining a representative sample of spilt oil in accordance with their accepted environment plan.

In relation to this matter, NOPSEMA has also published an Environment Alert to share with all of industry the lessons learned and promote compliance with the commitments made in accepted environment plans and Commonwealth environmental law. 

The notice requires Esso to undertake within 60 days a review of their training for oil spill response sampling, ensure sampling equipment is appropriately located and maintained, and ensure personnel are appropriately trained and qualified to be deployed as soon as possible in the event of an oil spill.

NOPSEMA is currently considering if additional enforcement action will be taken and this be determined at the conclusion of the investigation. NOPSEMA cannot comment on any specific aspect of the investigation while it is ongoing.