PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit

THAILAND’s national oil company PTTEP has lost a massive class action lawsuit over the Montara oil spill offshore West Australia dating back to 2009.
PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit PTTEP loses high profile Montara oil spill lawsuit

Paul Hunt

Senior Journalist: Energy & Commodities

Paul Hunt

 

On August 21, 2009, the Montara-H1 well blew out on the wellhead platform. An explosion and uncontrollable oil spill continued spewing between 400-2,000 barrels of oil per day into the Timor Sea until November 3, 2009 after a relief well was drilled and the leak stopped. 

It was the biggest oil spill in Australian history.

A class action of 15,000 seaweed farmers took PTTEP to court several years ago, seeking roughly $200 million in damages to their seaweed crops, with the case taking more than five years to conclude.

On Friday afternoon, the Federal Court of Australia in New South Wales ruled that oil from the Montara H1 production well had reached seaweed crops of Indonesia.

PTTEP has officially lost the case a decade after the oil spill.

PTTEP had argued that oil from the spill did not reach Indonesian waters. Federal Court justice Yates, however, ruled otherwise.  

"I am satisfied that oil spilled from the H1 Well blowout reached certain areas of Indonesia," justice Yates said when handing down his verdict this afternoon.

PTTEP then argued that even if oil had travelled from the Montara oil spill to Indonesia, that by the time the crude floated there, it would have disintegrated and not caused damage.

"I am satisfied that this oil caused or materially contributed to the death and loss of [the plaintiff's] crop," justice Yates ruled. 

This claim too, was dismissed by the Court. 

Justice Yates also found that PTTEP had been negligent in its operations of the Montara oil field, a fact PTTEP did not dispute, and awarded damages of about Rp252 million (A$22,500) to the lead plaintiff of the class action.

Given there are 15,000 class action members, the cost of damages could reach well over $300 million.

 A spokesperson for Maurice Blackburn told Energy News they were "happy with the result."

Justice Yates said he calculated the damaged as "the difference between the net income earned and the net income but for the respondents negligence."

It has been a long wait for both the class action plaintiffs, represented by Maurice Blackburn, and the defendant PTTEP, represented by Allens.

The Federal Court sat on the ruling for more than 12 months since the trial ended to reach its determination.

PTTEP does have the right to appeal the judgment.