Oil slick: Bigger than it looks (Updated)

Satellite shows big oil film of 15 sq kms moving towards coral reefs & coastal fish farms.

One slick-fighting ship sails on an almost unbroken sea of black oil. The oil has already reached the mainland in Rayong province.

Update: A satellite photo taken at 6am on Thursday shows the surface area of the oil spill off the eastern province of Rayong has shrunk from 9 to 5 square kilometres.

The reduction in the size of the oil slick means that leaked oil will not reach Koh Kangkao, Koh Kham, and Koh Kuti islands but there does appear to be some oil along the coast near Ao Pe and Laem Ya cape. 

Oil in the water off the Ao Phrao tourist beach on Koh Samet has diluted, with almost 80% of the oil on the beach reportedly sponged out. [See photos with comparison below]


Oil spill bigger than it looks, expert warns


Post Reporters

Satellite photo showing larger oil slick moving towards coral reefs and coastal farms.

An expert yesterday warned of the possible health impacts of the PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) oil spill on aquaculture and swimmers, as he said the slick is bigger than it looks.

Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) director Anond Snidvongs said that aside from the thick black oil slick seen widely in media coverage, his agency has found from satellite photos that a less visible film of oil is covering a broader area of about 15 square kilometres near Koh Samet.

The film is travelling in a northeastward direction towards Koh Pla Teen, Koh Kudee and Koh Kham where there are important coral reefs, and it may affect sensitive marine life there. The film reached the estuary of the Klaeng canal on Sunday.

If it enters coastal farms, it can affect animals because the oil slick may contain hydrocarbons or heavy metals. Mr Anond warned against the use of the tainted seawater in coastal farms and swimming in the water.

Satellite photos show the oil spill drifting northeast, away from Koh Samet and towards the mainland.

The oily film can decay when exposed to bacteria and sunlight but it will then turn into non-degradable tar balls in the next few months.

Supeerapat Jongpanich, deputy governor of Rayong, said the oily film had reached the Rayong mainland.

Officials in Rayong are gathering the names of affected people and evidence to prepare for compensation demands.

Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt said he would convene a committee on oil-based water pollution tomorrow to revise response measures. The meeting will consider risk areas, oil slick removal equipment and private participation. It will also recruit more experts including those in the petroleum, insurance and energy sectors, he said.

Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn said PTTGC will pay compensation to businesses that have been damaged or affected. They would have to register with the Rayong Administration Office.

He said some regulations that hinder efficient tackling of petroleum-related accidents might be revamped.

Emergency response drills in the event of an oil leak are held every three years and this should increase to once a year. "We have to be more careful from now on to prevent another accident," Mr Pongsak said.

According to the Department of Mineral Fuels, as at the end of 2012, there have been  29 oil spills in the Gulf of Thailand with the total amount of 1,284 litres leaked into the sea.

Anon Siriseangtaksin, PTTGC chief executive, said restoration of the affected areas and payments for damage to affected parties will start once the clean-up is complete.

If the compensation is more than its insurance coverage of US$50 million, PTTGC will still honour the payment.

Regarding damage to the environment, Mr Anon said third parties are welcome to investigate any damage caused to the environment. These could include environmental experts from universities and the Petroleum Institute of Thailand.

Nattachat Charuchinda, chief operating officer of the downstream petroleum business at the parent firm PTT Plc, said an oil spill of 50,000 litres on the first day was curbed by booms while 35,000 litres of Slickgone, a dispersant that disperses oil slicks supplied by Dasic International Co, were used.


A comparison of satellite images shows how the concentration of the oil slick has decreased. (GISTDA images)

About the author

Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer