British Gas in trouble with coast guard over Panna leak

Vol 13, PW 6 (27 Aug 09) Exploration & Production

British Gas is in trouble with the Indian coast guard over marine pollution allegedly caused by last month’s leak from the Panna oilfield.

PETROWATCH learns the Mumbai office of the coast guard wrote to BG on August 19 drawing its attention to the leak and some oil slicks and tar balls that washed ashore at Valsad town on the Gujarat coast, and on the neighbouring north Maharashtra coast. “We believe BG is the likely culprit,â€‌ says a coast guard source.

“Newspapers reported a leak in the Panna pipeline between July 25 and July 29. We conducted aerial surveys and noticed patches of oil.

But because the sea is almost as black as crude oil during the monsoon we couldn’t get a clear picture of the actual size of the spill.â€‌ BG replied on August 21, denying any link between the oil slick and the Panna oil leak.

Unconvinced, the coast guard has asked the Mumbai-based Directorate General of Shipping to investigate. “BG says it isn’t their oil,â€‌ adds our coast guard source.

“But then where did the oil that leaked from Panna over four days go And why didn’t they inform the authorities when the leak happened We have a National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan but they probably thought that during monsoon rains nobody would notice the spill.â€‌ If further investigation pins responsibility on the Panna, Mukta and Tapti (PMT) consortium, BG and partners ONGC and Reliance will have to pay for the clean up already carried out by local authorities and compensate fishermen for losses.

Contacted by this report, a PMT source vehemently denies responsibility. “Judging by the number of tar balls washed ashore it seems to have been a big spill, about five to seven tonnes of oil,â€‌ he says, “but the Panna leak was much less.

â€‌ We are also told the entire Panna platform, which produces 40,000 b/d from 27 wells, was shut down within 36 hours of the leak being reported.