Factsheet: The Timor Sea Oil Spill of 2009 - Oceana USA
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May 13, 2010

Factsheet: The Timor Sea Oil Spill of 2009

For more, read the PDF of this factsheet.

On August 21, 2009 the Montara oil rig suffered a blowout and began spilling oil. The well was located in 250 ft of water, between East Timor and Australia. It took four attempts over ten weeks to block the leak and it was eventually achieved when mud was pumped into a relief well.

The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism estimated up to 2,000 barrels per day (or up to 85,000 gallons) were spilled over that time, five times the estimate the PTT Exploration & Production Public Company Limited gave.

In the end, the Wilderness Society estimated the oil slick to have affected 19,000 square miles of ocean.

After assessing this area, the federal Environmental Minister and WWF Australia released reports confirming that a large number of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles were feeding in these polluted waters and noted the presence of dying birds and dead sea snakes.

Endangered flatback and threatened hawksbill turtles were observed swimming in the slick. Birds were of particular concern as many were breeding in nearby reserves and migrating across the slick, away from the northern winter. The oil sheen also attracted fish, which, in turn, attracted feeding birds. The Australian Government treated a small number of birds, including common noddies and brown boobies.

Fishermen in Indonesia reported that the oil that had reached Indonesian waters was making them ill, killing the fish and damaging thousands of acres of valuable and ready to harvest seaweed. Seaweed is a valuable commodity for food as well as other uses such as cosmetics, fertilizer and biofuel.