09/01/2009 - 15:30

Varanus inquiry costs capped at $1m

09/01/2009 - 15:30


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Spending in the latest inquiry into the Varanus Island gas explosion has been capped at $1 million as former Woodside executive Dave Agostini and federal government appointee Kim Bills join the expert panel.

Varanus inquiry costs capped at $1m

Spending in the latest inquiry into the Varanus Island gas explosion has been capped at $1 million as former Woodside executive Dave Agostini and federal government appointee Kim Bills join the expert panel.



The announcement is below:



Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore today announced the expert panel and terms of reference for the joint State Government-Commonwealth inquiry into the Varanus Island gas pipeline explosion.

Mr Moore appointed former Woodside Petroleum executive Dave Agostini while Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson appointed Kym Bills, of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, to the expert panel.

"I welcome the depth of experience, qualifications and skills these two individuals will bring to the inquiry," he said.

"The panel will start work this month and has three months to report..

"The gas pipeline explosion at Varanus Island on June 3, 2008 raised questions about the effectiveness of the current regulatory system and the implications this may have for occupational health and safety.

"We are keen to identify any problems with the existing regulatory system, including the performance of the regulators, and make improvements."

The Minister said that a joint State-Commonwealth inquiry was required due to the complex jurisdictional and contractual responsibilities of the Department of Industry and Resources (now the Department of Mines and Petroleum) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) in regulating the Varanus Island facility.

The inquiry run by Mr Agostini and Mr Bills would be capped at $1million.

Project management, office accommodation and corporate services for the expert panel and executive and secretarial support staff would be provided by the State Government's Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Commonwealth Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Mr Moore said the inquiry's terms of reference were:

- Review safety-related documentation that existed in the lead-up to the incident including that related to activity undertaken by the operator in accordance with 'safety case' commitments and requirements outlined in the relevant licences for operation.
- Examine the effectiveness of NOPSA and DoIR and the arrangements underpinning the operating regime.

- Assess the adequacy of the responses from the owners/operators of the operations and facilities including an assessment of the adequacy of pipeline licence (PL12) safety obligations, safety case documentation and implementation.

- Consider options and make recommendations (if required) to improve the regulatory regime and the safety and integrity of petroleum operations and facilities, particularly integrated onshore/offshore operations and facilities in Commonwealth and Western Australian jurisdictions.

In outlining the scope of the independent, expert inquiry, the Minister also announced that the inquiry would pursue an additional line of investigation into two recent maritime incidents.

The separate incidents involved emergencies during Cyclone Billy (December 15-24, 2008) and involved maritime petroleum activities on different vessels - the
Karratha Spirit (which resulted in a fatality) and the Castorro Otto.

"Both of these cyclone-related incidents also relate to aspects of the respective regulatory regimes administered by State and Federal agencies," Mr Moore said.

"Once the inquiry is completed, Mr Ferguson and I will jointly refer the final report to the Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources (MCMPR) for implementation of any relevant recommendations."

At the same time, the Department of Mines and Petroleum is continuing its investigation of whether the licensee's of the Varanus facilities have committed offences under WA legislation and its pipeline licences.


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