On 10 October 2008, the Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister, Norman Moore, released the final report into the Varanus Island pipeline explosion. Sadly due to legislative restrictions the report is not being made available in an electronic edition accessible through the internet. However, hard copies can be requested from the government.
Recent media statements indicate that “the immediate physical cause of the gas explosion at the island’s gas production facility operated by Apache Energy Ltd was the rupture of the 12-inch gas sales pipeline.”
Varanus Island explosion were premature and based on an incomplete investigation
Contrary to most incident investigation techniques known to SafetyAtWorkBlog, Apache Energy says that it will continue to investigate in order to determine the “root cause”.
Since the incident, there has been a change to a conservative State government so the statements contain a political edge. The current Minister says that the terms of reference were too narrow and did not allow for investigation into “regulatory oversight” however deficiencies in this area were illustrated through media reports in the weeks following the incident.
The Minister has not ruled out ordering a “a full and independent investigation into this issue… at a later date” but I suspect only if there were political benefits rather than safety benefits. There are a considerable number of voices supporting a broader inquiry from unions and industry groups
The report is said to identify the following three contributing factors:
- ineffective anti-corrosion coating at the beach crossing section of a 12-inch sales gas pipeline, due to damage and/or dis-bondment from the pipeline;
- ineffective cathodic protection of the wet-dry transition zone of the beach crossing section of a 12-inch sales gas pipeline on Varanus Island; and
- ineffective inspection and monitoring by Apache Energy of the beach crossing and shallow water section of the pipeline.
Mr Moore stated that
“Under the safety case regime, the operator is required to identify hazards and assess risks to health and safety and to implement control measures to reduce those risks. The ongoing inspection, monitoring and maintenance of control measures are associated with those risks and the management regime. The report has indicated that Apache and its co-licensees may have committed offences under two pipeline Acts.”
A Senate inquiry is looking into the economic impact of the Western Australian gas crisis and the State Government’s response to the incident.