Oil spill sparks evacuation off Australian coast

SYDNEY Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:12am EDT

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - An oil leak off Australia's western coast has sparked the evacuation of dozens of workers from a rig, the operator PTTEP Australasia said Friday.

The size of the spill is not known, but about 40 barrels of oil were discharged from the wellhead in an incident, rig operator PTTEP Australasia, a unit of Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production PCL, said in a statement.

The spill occurred at a mobile offshore drilling unit West Atlas in the Timor Sea, which is owned by Norway's SeaDrill Ltd , it said. The leak includes condensate, an extra light grade of crude oil.

Weather and sea conditions in the area remained calm and the spill was likely to be carried away from the Australian coast, the statement added.

A national clean-up plan has been activated to deal with the incident on the offshore drilling rig at the Montara development, about 250 km (155 miles) off the far north Kimberley coast and 150 km south-east of the Ashmore Reef, the statement said.

"PTTEP is continuing planning to determine how the leak can be brought under control so the West Atlas can be safely re-boarded and begun to be restored to working order," it added.

None of the 69 people on board the rig was injured in the incident and all were evacuated, the statement added.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; editing by James Jukwey)

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