04/06/2012 - 11:10

Apache has tactical Varanus win

04/06/2012 - 11:10

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Apache Energy won court approval late Friday to release two documents that support its view that it took reasonable steps to maintain a pipeline at the Varanus Island gas plant prior to a June 2008 explosion.

The court ruling followed the release of an official state government report by Kym Bills and David Agostini, which was critical of Apache.

Apache said the two documents released late Friday support its view that the company acted “reasonably in its inspection and operation” of the crucial gas pipeline.

The two documents – one prepared by a State investigator and another by the State’s corrosion expert – provide “proper context” for the Bills-Agostini report, Apacher said.

In a report on the explosion completed in February 2009, Alic Trpcev, the State’s senior investigator, said the prospects of a successful prosecution of Apache for failing to maintain the Varanus Island pipeline “would be slight.”

In a second document, corrosion expert Prof. Rolf Gubner of Curtin University, concluded in July 2011 that Apache “had reasonable grounds to believe the pipeline was in good repair” prior to the explosion.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has previously criticised Apache for seeking the selective release of the two documents.

He said that other documents support the Bills-Agostini report, which concluded that the accident was "not only foreseeable but to some extent foreseen" by Apache.

The Bills-Agostini report also questioned Apache’s staffing levels, systems and safety culture.

The company said on Friday the accident was the result of unusual, isolated, highly accelerated external corrosion on a sales gas pipeline.

“Prior to the accident, Apache and several consultants and experts concluded – on the basis of its extensive monitoring and inspection activities – that the pipeline was in good condition,” the company said in a statement.

“The independent experts also concluded that the operation was well-run and the risk of external corrosion was very unlikely.”

 

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