4 Nov 2009

Impact of leaking Timor well could last for years

6:07 pm on 4 November 2009

The company responsible for a massive oil leak in the Timor Sea says it could take up to seven years to deal with the environmental impact.

The rig's operator PTTEP Australasia has plugged a leak and finally extinguished a fire on the West Atlas oil rig.

Oil and gas had been leaking from the West Atlas rig, about 700km west of Darwin, since 21 August at an estimated rate of 400 barrels of oil a day.

PTTEP Australasia intercepted the leaking well on Sunday morning but the platform caught fire, hampering further efforts to cap the leak, the ABC reports.

The company says tens of thousands of litres of heavy mud was used in the fourth and successful attempt to stop the leak, but the well is yet to be plugged and permanently secured.

Spokesperson Jose Martin told the ABC the clean up should be carried out quickly.

"I suspect a couple of months is what we are sort of anticipating. The environmental plan really could take up to seven years."

The Australian government has announced an inquiry into the spill.