PTTEP may cut Montara stake

PTT Exploration and Production Plc said on Friday that it was considering plans to sell some of its interest in the Montara oil field off Australia after several delays and rising costs.

"We are considering several options to dilute our investment in Montara and it depends on how much interest potential buyers have," chief financial officer Penchan Charikasem told reporters.

Ms Penchan gave no details about the plan. Located in the Timor Sea 250 kilometres off Australia's northwestern coast, the Montara project is operated by Australasia (Ashmore Cartier) Pty Ltd, wholly owned by PTTEP, with initial production targeted at 30,000 barrels per day of oil. PTTEP began production in June 2013 but output is still below target.

The startup of the field was delayed several times after development was disrupted by a fire in 2009. The incident led to high costs for cleanup and environmental remediation.

The costs included a budget for the Australian government to conduct the environmental monitoring programme to scrutinise the impact of the oil spill that resulted from the accident.

The leak in the Timor Sea, from Aug 21 to Nov 3, 2009, was the worst at an offshore oil platform in Australian history.

Like the much larger BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, efforts to contain it dragged on for months as PTTEP tried to plug the flow with a relief well, a process that eventually succeeded.

It also led to calls for tougher regulation of offshore drilling and criticism of the authorities responsible for monitoring the operation.

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