Oil gushing from pipeline leak off Thailand threatens to hit popular beaches in next 48 hours

Up to 160,000 litres of oil may have spilled from an undersea pipeline

Stuti Mishra
Wednesday 26 January 2022 13:39
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<p>An aerial view from a navy plane shows a large oil spill off the coast of Rayong, eastern Thailand</p>

An aerial view from a navy plane shows a large oil spill off the coast of Rayong, eastern Thailand

Efforts are underway to contain a vast oil spill in the Gulf of Thailand, with the country’s navy now joining the race to prevent thousands of tonnes of crude oil from reaching the shore.

A slick containing up to 160,000 litres of oil has leaked from an undersea pipeline near an industrial area in Rayong province since Tuesday, and could hit areas of the shoreline including popular beaches by Friday if not dealt with before then, said Attapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Thai Navy spokesman Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin told the Associated Press that the navy sent a surveillance plane, two ships and a helicopter to help with the clean-up.

He said the helicopter would survey the area and spray a chemical to help disperse the oil slick.

The pipeline belongs to Star Petroleum Refining Public Company Limited (SPRC) which estimated that about 20,000 litres of oil was floating on the surface and needs to be cleaned up. It said it was difficult to estimate how much oil spilled in total during the incident.

The leak occurred at about 9pm local time on Tuesday at a mooring station around 20km southeast of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, south of Bangkok.

The company said the leak had been sealed at 12.18am on Wednesday and dispersants sprayed on the oil spill. It said it will continue to assess the situation.

“We received good support from relevant government agencies and the private sector, including manpower, working boats and dispersant supplies to support the operation to complete clean the oil from the sea’s surface,” a company statement said.

SPRC’s stock price plunged as much as 8.57 per cent at the end of the trade on Wednesday following the news. However, the company said that the leakage had not impacted refinery operation.

Attapol warned fishermen to steer clear of the area but said the spill should be contained before it reaches the coast.

He earlier said Koh Samet, a resort island off Rayong province popular with foreign tourists, could be impacted by Friday, but has since revised the threat level.

Sophon Thongdee, Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resource, told ThaiPBS the cleanup should conclude on Thursday and there was no major damage to marine life or habitat.

However, experts would be dispatched to carry out further assessment, he said.

Thailand has had a number of large oil spills over the past two decades, including a massive spill of 50,000 litres of crude oil from an offshore chemical pipeline into the Gulf of Thailand in 2013.

Additional reporting by agencies

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