* Origin stops work at 12 Queensland sites
* Tainted material to be removed in days - Imdex
* Imdex may have one other customer using tainted product
(Adds Imdex chief comments)
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, March 13 Origin Energy, in
charge of coal seam gas drilling for the Australia Pacific
liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, has stopped work at 12
sites in Queensland state after asbestos was found in drilling
fluids it was using.
Origin said the supplier of some of its drilling fluids,
Australian Mud Company (AMC), owned by Imdex Ltd, had
found that its imported walnut-shell based product Nutplug
The asbestos-contaminated material is being quarantined and
disposed of by a contractor so that drilling operations can
return to normal "within days", Imdex Managing Director Bernie
Ridgeway told Reuters.
The asbestos scare could add to concerns over coal seam gas
drilling, although the Nutplug product is used to help seal
wells, and not used in "fracking".
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a drilling technique
that farmers and landowners fear may contaminate water supplies
as it uses high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to extract
gas trapped in rock.
Origin said it was providing support to anyone who may have
been exposed to the asbestos-tainted drilling fluids and is
investigating how many people may have been affected.
"It's very, very unlikely that anybody's been affected by
this," Imdex's Ridgeway said, adding the asbestos was in very
Origin has found another product to replace Nutplug.
Imdex is withdrawing the product, which it gets from a
Chinese manufacturer. Imdex may have one other customer in
Australia who uses the product, Ridgeway said, declining to name
Origin is a 37.5 percent owner of the Australia Pacific LNG
project, alongside ConocoPhillips with 37.5 percent and
China's Sinopec with 25 percent. Australia Pacific
LNG is one of three LNG projects in Queensland, which are the
first in the world to use coal seam gas for LNG.
Origin stock fell 1.2 percent to A$14.39, while Imdex's
shares fell 5.2 percent to A$0.645 in a broader market
that finished up 0.5 percent.
(Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin)