Apache pipeline fire - Varanus Island, Western Australia

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A pipeline rupture and fire at Apache Corporation's Varanus Island facility in Western Australia has reduced the supply of natural gas to Western Australia by 30%. 153 employees have been evacuated and 13 employees remain on the island to monitor the situation.

Steven Farris, Apache's president and CEO said "No one was injured, all personnel are safe, and the rupture and fire appear to be contained on the island...At this time, we cannot estimate when throughput will be resumed." The facility was producing approximately 330 million cubic feet(MMcf) of natural gas and 8,000 barrels of crude oil per day, this has been reduced to 200 MMcf and 5,000 barrels per day.

Western Australian Minister for Energy Fran Logan said that residential supplies were unlikely to be affected but has called on Western Australians to conserve the use of natural gas. Minister Logan said that Apache supplies primarily large volume users like Alinta Gas and Alcoa, and the major industrial users will be hit the hardest. The aluminum refineries owned by Alcoa, which are dependent on natural gas, have switched to diesel to maintain production.

Apache representatives, including its managing director Tim Wall and fire experts from Singapore, are heading to the site to extinguish the fire and assess the damage. Wall said during a news conference in Perth today that a small fire on a vent had already been extinguished. Apache has invoked a clause in its supply contracts to remove liability for unavoidable catastrophes that prevent them from fulfilling obligations under the contract.