PTTEP faces $1.7bn suit over 2009 spill

PTTEP faces $1.7bn suit over 2009 spill

Indonesia to pursue more damages beyond what Thai oil firm has already paid out

A photo provided by PTTEP Australasia shows fire on the West Atlas drilling rig (right) and the Montara wellhead platform (left) about 250 kilometres off the northwest coast of Australia on Nov 2, 2009. (PTTEP Australasia via AFP)
A photo provided by PTTEP Australasia shows fire on the West Atlas drilling rig (right) and the Montara wellhead platform (left) about 250 kilometres off the northwest coast of Australia on Nov 2, 2009. (PTTEP Australasia via AFP)

JAKARTA: Indonesia is seeking at least 27.4 trillion rupiah (US$1.7 billion) in damages from PTT Exploration & Production Plc (PTTEP) in a planned lawsuit next year over the Montara oil spill, even after the Thai company reached an initial settlement with farmers in the area.

The lawsuit plan follows an agreement by the exploration arm of the majority state-owned oil company PTT Plc to pay A$192.5 million to a group of Indonesian seaweed farmers to settle a class action suit brought by them after the 2009 spill in the Montara oil field in the Timor Sea. 

The Jakarta government is seeking additional compensation from PTTEP for the damages it caused to coral reefs, mangroves and marine life, including 4.4 trillion rupiah to fund restoration efforts, Environment and Forestry Deputy Minister Alue Dohong said on Thursday.

Experts are still calculating the total damage costs that “may be bigger” than initial estimates, Dohong said in a press briefing in Jakarta. The calculation process had been held up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The way we see it, we’re getting a little something first, rather than nothing, then we will chase a bigger one,” said Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, who chairs the government’s Montara oil spill taskforce.

PTTEP Australasia, a wholly owned subsidiary based in Australia, operated the Montara wellhead in 2009, when it caught fire and leaked hundreds of thousands of litres into the Timor Sea off the northern coast of Western Australia. The company was fined A$510,000 (12.6 million baht) by a court in Darwin at the time.

The company also funded a long-term independent environmental monitoring programme in the Timor Sea. Independent scientific studies showed that no oil from Montara reached the Australian mainland or Indonesian coastlines, the company said.

PTTEP in 2018 sold its entire stake in the Montara field, saying at the time that it aimed to focus on operations and projects in other strategic locations.

That same year, PTTEP said the Indonesian government had withdrawn a case against PTTEP Australasia, which Jakarta had been suing for $2.1 billion for damage to the environment.

PTTEP shares closed down 3.50 baht (1.8%) on Thursday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 190 baht, in trade worth 1.44 billion baht.


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