RAYONG – Thai naval vessels joined efforts Sunday to stop hundreds of barrels of oil from a pipeline leak in the Gulf of Thailand reaching the kingdom’s beaches.
Roughly 50,000 litres of crude oil spilled into the sea on Saturday about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of the eastern province of Rayong, operator PTT Global Chemical said.
The oil leaked from PTT Global Chemical Plc’s pipeline at 6.50am. It was possible some of the oil could reach Mae Ramphung Beach, a famous tourist site in Muang Rayong district, a PTTGC spokesman said on Saturday.
Choppers and ships are deployed to spray dispersants to clean up an oil slick on the sea surface after a spill occurred about 20 kilometres from Map Ta Phut.
The company, part of state-owned giant PTT, said 10 ships were involved in an urgent clean-up and it was confident of containing the leak.
“The aerial photos taken early morning Sunday show that the area of the spill was reduced,” the company said in a statement, estimating that up to about 20,000 litres had been cleaned up.
At the same time there were fears about the effect of the chemicals used to disperse the crude oil.
“We still have some concern about the chemical being used, even though it is clear that the oil leak will not reach the beaches or coral,” said Phuchong Saritsadeechaikol, director of the government’s Marine and Coastal Resource Conservation Center in Rayong.
Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat, an expert in marine ecology, called for a quick clean-up of the oil spill in the sea, in order to prevent adverse impacts on the environment, which in turn could harm the local tourism industry.
“Oil spill should not be allowed to spread to the shores, or the coastal tourist destinations will be affected. It is more difficult to clean up and there will be more problems when slicks reach the shores,” he said.
Puchong Sarittichaikul, director of a local marine resources preservation centre, said that with the winds coming towards Rayong’s shores, he was concerned that the floating oil slick could reach the beaches. He said local fishing boats were asked to be on the lookout and inform the authorities when they see oil slick near the shores.
Another PTT subsidiary was involved in a huge oil spill off northwestern Australia in 2009 that was the country’s worst ever offshore drilling accident.
The slick from the Montara oil field spread as far as Indonesian waters and environmentalists said it grew to almost 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles).
An Australian government inquiry blamed widespread and systematic shortcomings at the oil company for the spill.