New PTTEP Australasia boss Ken Fitzpatrick is keen to restore the sullied reputation of the company responsible for the August 2009 offshore oil spill – Australia’s worst – and put the disturbing images of marine pollution behind it.
But while the oil slick in the Timor Sea from the crippled Montara rig has dispersed, the damage to the company’s image is much harder to shake.
“The imagery (people have) is of the burning rig – I need to change that, I want to change that,” Fitzpatrick told reporters at a lunch yesterday.
“When I started, the Bangkok parent company and PTTEP Australasia had accepted full responsibility for that incident, we all deeply regret what had happened and mistakes were made that should never be repeated.”
A former Woodside executive who started his career as a drilling engineer, Fitzpatrick was appointed chief executive of the Thai government-controlled oil and gas producer in May last year, nearly two years after the spill.
Fitzpatrick said the company was already transforming its governance and culture when he arrived.
“That process of transformation continues today and it must be sustainable if we’re going to fulfil our goal of being a trusted developer and operator in Australia.”
He said his role since starting at PTTEP had been to drive the company’s Montara action plan, which aims to address the causes of the spill and embed and sustain the lessons learnt.
“We’ve developed a new drilling management system to capture industry best practice and we’ve significantly enhanced our safety culture and systems,” Fitzpatrick said.
Admitting the oil spill was not a benign event, Fitzpatrick insisted it wasn’t the environmental disaster it had been made out to be either.
He said independent research had shown no oil reached Australian or Indonesian coastlines and so far, there had been little or no impact on the health of species affected by the spill or the habitat.
Fitzpatrick acknowledges the fallout from Montara continues today, with the possibility of legal action from Australia’s Federal DPP, unresolved compensation discussions with the Indonesian government and claims from two subcontractor workers, who were among the last to be evacuated from the damaged rig.
The company is now subject to an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority and other government authorities.
And with PTTEP hoping to resume production from Montara by the end of the year, Fitzpatrick admits the company and the wider offshore oil and gas industry cannot afford another major incident.