The West Atlas rig has now been leaking for nearly eight weeks. Now there'll have to be a third attempt to stop the flow, but the date for that won't be set until today.
Environmentalists are calling for the company to reveal how much oil has been spilled, and what caused the leak in the first place.
Presenter: David Weber
Speaker: John Carey, Kimberley Manager of the PEW Environment Group; Associate Professor Monique Gagnon, environmental contamination expert at Curtin University
DAVID WEBER: The company PTTEP Australasia says the probability of success was not in its favour today. Yet it says that with every pass it gets closer to the target - 25 centimetres in diameter; 2.6 kilometres below the seabed.
The Kimberley manager of the Pew Environment Group John Carey says there's still too much mystery about how the leak began.
JOHN CAREY: Look we are deeply concerned. We have been given repeated assurances that the oil spill will be under control. The Australian public has been given repeated assurances and none of those assurances have been met. It's now seven weeks on. Two attempts. We've seen delay after delay. So clearly we are very concerned about when this is actually going to get under control.
DAVID WEBER: It is a fairly technical and complex operation nearly three kilometres under the seabed.
JOHN CAREY: Yes it is a, yes, clearly it is a technical and complex operation. There's no doubt about that. But there are still, what we're calling for is some clarity on what's actually happened. It is still unclear exactly what went wrong. Now surely after seven weeks the company should be able to tell us what happened. What was the scenario that caused this to happen. Was it purely a technical fault? Was it a lapse in practice? But we just don't know. Part of the problem for the environment sector and for a range of other stakeholders is the lack of information from both the company and the Government.
DAVID WEBER: Is there any way of getting a definitive idea on how much oil has been spilled?
JOHN CAREY: Well there have been some suggestions that we look at, you know, near production wells that were already under operation. But again it's based on estimates. We are now, the conservation sector, looking at seeing if we can get in our consultant, industry consultant to try to provide us some better estimate. But this is a ridiculous scenario and it's a really unfortunate scenario. We are all grasping at straws, wanting information, basic information that the company should be able to provide.
DAVID WEBER: There have been reports of Indonesian fishermen finding thousands of dead fish. Last week one man was quoted as saying that he even saw dead dolphins.
But an environmental contamination expert based at Curtin University says she'd be surprised if oil caused a large number of deaths. Associate professor Monique Gagnon:
MONIQUE GAGNON: I would be surprised if the oil spill causes massive fish deaths. It's only when an oil spill causes fish death it's because there is a thick slick that will move over a bay where there is limited water exchange. That is not the case. We are in open sea. Now we are dealing here with fairly light crude oil which will evaporate. We might see an impact over the short-term but it will certainly, the impact will certainly disappear faster than if it was heavier crude oil with larger molecular components.
DAVID WEBER: The company has said in a statement that the drilling team expects to know tomorrow when there might be a second pass to intercept the well.