Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Australia oil well leak 'plugged'

Handout photo provided by PTTEP Australasia shows fire on the West Atlas drilling rig
Engineers tried to stop the leak for 10 weeks before succeeding

An oil rig which has leaked thousands of barrels of oil into the Timor Sea over the last 10 weeks has been plugged, the rig's operators have said.

A massive fire burning on the West Atlas rig has also largely been put out, said PTTEP Australia.

Experts plugged the leak on their fifth attempt by injecting thousands of barrels of mud into the well.

The oil leak, in the Timor Sea between Australia and Indonesia, has endangered marine life, environmentalists said.

PTTEP Australasia, said the fire broke out on Sunday as it made another attempt to plug a leak deep underwater at the West Atlas rig.

Government inquiry

The company said it pumped nearly 3,500 barrels of mud into a relief well to plug the leak.

The fire on the platform which had been impeding efforts to plug the leak is now dying down, the company said.

"Some material on the topside of the West Atlas rig might still be on fire but it is expected to be extinguished as the fuel source burns out," the Australian Associated Press quoted PTTEP as saying in a statement.

Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson earlier said the accident, the first on such a scale in 25 years of offshore drilling, had "clearly had an impact on the standing of the oil and gas industry in Australia".

The government has ordered an inquiry into the emergency while environmentalists have expressed concerns about the waters off the north-west coast, which are home to whales and dolphins.

Engineers had been trying for more than 10 weeks to stop the leak which was spewing out natural gas and oil at an estimated 400 barrels a day.

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