Varanus Island gas explosion report slams Apache

Varanus Island Pipeline ExplosionUS oil-and-gas giant Apache Energy has failed to block a scathing review of the Varanus Island gas explosion, which cut 30 per cent of Western Australia’s supply and cost the economy an estimated $3 billion.

Apache claimed the explosion at its plant off WA’s North-West coast in June 2008 was “unforseen and unforeseeable”.

But a long-awaited WA Government-commissioned report into the disaster, tabled in Parliament, contradicts those claims.

It found the company should have been alerted to the risks by evidence of corrosion of a 30cm pipe that later ruptured and exploded, causing $60 million damage to the plant and cutting industrial gas supplies to the state.

“We believe the risk of this occurring was not only foreseeable but to some extent foreseen,” the report stated.

The report also found Apache did not properly assess risks to the pipe network and did not have enough safety measures in place.

Apache has tried to suppress the report since it was completed in June 2009.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore told the Legislative Council today the report was scathing of Apache’s gas pipeline operations.

“I can inform the House that the report is highly critical of Apache, particularly regarding the company’s technical and operational failings as the operator,” he said.

“The report concluded Apache Northwest had the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the Varanus site in good condition and repair.”

The State Government tried to prosecute Apache over the disaster, but was forced to drop the criminal proceedings in March on a technicality.

It said it could not prove the gas giant failed to adequately maintain its “pipeline”, under the legal definition, as the corroded section of gas piping was described as “pipeworks”.

The tabling of the report in WA’s Upper House may now lead to civil action against the company.


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