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Petroleum - Royal Commission - Royal Commissions - Exploratory and production drilling for petroleum in the area of the Great Barrier Reef - Report - Volume 1-Introduction and references 1 and 2

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REPORT— VOLUME 1 Principal Introduction

Term of Reference No. 1

Term of Reference No. 2

Presented by Command I I February 1975

Ordered to be printed 6 March 1975



(C) Commonwealth ot Australia 1971

ISBN 0 642 00863 9

Printed by Watson Ferguson & Company, 221 Stanley Street, Brisbane












Assistant Secretary



There were two Royal Commissions

one appointed by the Australian Government and the other by the Government of the State of Queensland.

Each Commission had the same

three Commissioners, and the same Terms

of Reference appeared in the two Letters

Patent which were issued to each of the Commissioners by their Excellencies The

Governor-General of Australia and the

Governor of Queensland respectively. There

was only one hearing and the two Commissions sat in parallel.

The two Governments considered it would be more convenient if one report only

were compiled, instead of two separate, but

identical reports. This has accordingly been done and such report will be presented concurrently to their Excellencies.

The Terms of Reference as contained in the Letters Patent appear in the Principal

Introduction paragraph PI.1.6 at pages 2 - 3 of the Report.



104 Hunter Street Sydney N.S.W.

30 October, 1974

Your Excellency,

In accordance with Letters

Patent dated Fifth day of May 1970, I have

the honour to present to you on behalf of

the Commissioners the Report of the Royal Commission into exploratory and production

drilling for petroleum in the Area of the

Great Barrier Reef.

The Letters Patent issued to your Commissioners are returned herewith.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Wallace CHAIRMAN

His Excellency the Honourable Sir John Kerr, K.C.M.G., K.St.J., Government House, YARRALUMLA '



104 Hunter Street


30 October 1974

Your Excellency,

In accordance with Letters

Patent dated Fifth day of May 1970, I have

the honour to present to you on behalf of

the Commissioners the Report of the Royal

Commission into exploratory and production drilling for petroleum In the Area of the

Great Barrier Reef.

The Letters Patent Issued to your Commissioners are returned herewith.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Wallace CHAIRMAN

His Excellency Sir Colin Hannah K.C.M.G., K.B.E., C.B., Governor of Queensland, Government House, BRISBANE.




5 6 7 8






12 12



19 20







Appointment of the Commissions The Terms of Reference

Counsel Assisting and the Secretariat

Appearances before the Commissions

Proceedings of the Commissions

Witnesses and Exhibits

Inspections by Commissioners

Chairman's ruling on evidence





Necessity for long-term experiments Correspondence between the Chairman and the Prime Minister

Mr Tranter's evidence Witnesses who advocated or assented to the holding of long-term experiments Views of Senate Select Committee on the need

for research Professor Clark's view

FAO Rome recommendation of 1970 Nature and priorities of long-term experiments Commission members not unanimous throughout

The Commission's approach to TR2, TR3 and TR5


PI.1.1 PI.1.6


PI.1.11 PI.1.12



PI.1.25 PI.1.26




P I .2.7

PI.2.9 PI.2.11 PI.2.12





Page Paragraph

21 TR4 PI.2.17


22 General PI.3.1

23 TR1 PI.3-3

24 TR2 PI.3.4

27 TR3 PI.3.5

28 TR4 PI.3 .6

29 TR5 PI.3-7



31 The answer to TR1 (Risk of oil leaks) PI.3 .8

32 The answer to TR2 (Probable effects of oil and gas leaks and of remedial measures) PI.3.9 33 The answer to TR3 (Permitted drilling localities) PI.3.10

33 The answer to TR4 (Safety Precautions) PI.3.11

35 The answer to TR5 (Probable benefits from petroleum drilling) PI.3.12


38 Definition PI.4.1

39 Geography

39 Length and boundaries PI.4.5

41 Goldie Reef and Mr D.F. Jackson's

submissions PI.4.13

42 Area of the GBRP PI.4.14

42 Reefs and cays PI.4.15

42 Reef Zone PI.4.17

43 The 100 fathom line PI.4.22

44 Reef channels PI.4.23

44 Depth at which coral grows PI.4.25

45 Continental islands PI.4.27

45 The GBR coastline PI.4.29

46 The three regions PI.4.32


49 50


51 52

53 54


57 60






64 64


65 67


68 69 70



73 74


Fringing reefs PI.4.33

Water depths PI.4.34

Meteorology and Hydrology

Climatic zones PI.4.35

Prevailing winds PI.4.36

Gales PI.4.42

Cyclones PI.4.43

Tides and currents PI.4.47

Ocean currents PI.4.50

Wind induced currents PI.4.51

Water movements generally PI.4.52

Migration of oil PI.4.57

Rainfall PI.4.62

Air temperatures PI.4.63

Sea temperatures PI.4.64

Visibility PI.4.65



Origin and accumulation of oil PI.5-1

Oil basins PI.5.2

Rock types PI.5.3

The geology of the reef area PI.5.4

Inadequacy of geological knowledge PI.5.5

Basins and highs PI.5·7

The sedimentary basins and petroleum potential of the GBRP PI.5.8

Existing exploration permits PI.5.9

Names of permittees and licencees PI.5-10

Seismic stability PI.5.11

Likely oil types PI.5.12




General description of reefs

xi ii



Page Paragraph

76 Reef Zones PI.6.9

83 Soft coral PI.6.27

83 Distribution of flora and fauna PI.6.28

85 Calcareous algae and the rate of reef growth PI.6.33

86 The Great Barrier Reef and how It compares with other coral reefs PI.6.35

88 The best known corals PI.6.43

88 Feeding habits of corals and reproduction PI.6.45

89 Feeding PI.6.46

90 Two methods of reproduction

90 (a) Asexual budding off PI.6 .51

95 (b) Sexual reproduction Involv­

ing fertilisation and planula larvae PI.6.65

98 Zooxanthellae PI.6.76

100 The source of colour In corals PI.6.79

100 Dr Isobel Bennett's view PI.6.80

101 Expulsion of zooxanthellae by corals PI.6.82

102 Mucus PI.6 .83

103 Effects of adverse conditions PI.6.84

103 (a) Lack of oxygen PI.6.85

104 (b) Lack of light PI.6.88

105 (c) Reduced or excessive

salinity PI.6.92

106 (d) Low and high water

temperatures PI.6.95

107 (e) Low tides PI.6.97

107 (f) Cyclones PI.6.99

108 (g) Sedimentation PI.6.100

109 (h) Construction work, dredging

and explosives PI.6.101

109 (1) Predators especially crown-

of-thorns starfish PI.6.102

112 Regeneration of coral

112 Methods of regeneration PI.6 .110

114 Sequence of recovery PI.6.115

115 Rate of regeneration PI.6.119

119 Other fauna and flora of the GBRP



119 120











136 138 138


139 140




143 143 144 145


145 146








Fish and fisheries Plankton

Zooplankton and phytoplankton

Effects of oil on plankton - Mironov and Kasymov

Foraminifera and reef formation Complexities and dependencies of GBR marine life

A stability theory

Algae Mangroves

Birds - Dr Kikkawa

A theory relating to stability

The Margelef theory and Sir Maurice Yonge's contrary view

Dr Talbot's view

Professor Stephenson's view

Professor Johannes' view

Dr Grassle says Margelef has been wrongly interpreted

Further view of Sir Maurice Yonge Dr Stoddart's view

Dr Halstead's view Dr Endean's view

Dr Mather's view

Summary of views and the necessity for research Oxygen usage in the GBRP

How oxygen is provided Seaward slopes of reefs Sir Maurice Yonge's view Dr Talbot's view

Other forms of animal life in the GBRP

Low level of biological knowledge of the GBRP



PI.6.133 PI.6.134




PI.6.158 PI.6.162






PI.6.185 PI.6.187 PI.6.188



PI.6.192 PI.6.194 PI.6.196 PI.6.197

PI. 6·. 201


PI.6.205 PI.6.207 PI.6.208 PI.6.210 PI.6.212


Page Paragraph

149 Generally PI.6.214

149 Professor Stephenson's view PI.6.215

150 Dr Cheat's view PI.6.216

150 Dr Stoddart's view PI.6.219

151 Dr Grassle's view PI.6.221

151 Sir Maurice Yonge's view PI.6.222

151 Lack of adequate laboratories PI.6.223

152 Reef fish PI.6.224

152 Senate Select Committee Report PI.6.225

152 Marine national parks and reserves

152 Paramountcy of the Petroleum

(Submerged Lands) Act of 196? over the Forestry Act PI.6.226

153 Section 46 of the Queensland

Mining Act PI.6 .227

153 Dr Mather's view PI.6.228

154 Mr Harrison on reserves PI.6.229

155 Mr Plesse on national parks PI.6.232

157 Concluding notes - Mr Cantley's suggestions PI.6.237

159 Appendix (see paragraph PI.2.14 supra) Appendix 159 Experiments and research recommended



l6l l6l


Suggested answers 1.1.1


165 Types of spills 1.2.1

165 Blowouts 1.2.2

166 Chronic and random spills 1.2.5


Paragraph Page

168 PART 3 - STATISTICS 168 The approach to statistics 1.3.1

169 Australian spills 1.3.5

170 Overseas spills 1.3.7

170 Outer Continental Shelf of U.S.A. 1.3.8

172 The North Sea 1.3.11

172 Generally 1.3.12

173 Conclusions from blowout statistics 1.3.14

173 Changes in modern technology 1.3.15


177 Types of off-shore rigs 1.4.1

177 (I) The fixed platform 1.4.3

177 (ii) The platform and tender 1.4.4

178 (iii) The semi-submersible rig 1.4.5

178 (iv) The submersible 1.4.6

179 (v) The jack-up 1.4.7

180 (vi) The ship-shape rig


- = d " 1 —1 180 Directional drilling 1 .4.9

181 The drilling process 1.4.11

183 Casing the hole 1.4.16


187 Nature and functions of the drilling fluid 1.5.1

191 Importance of mud levels 1.5.10

192 The control of drilling 1.5.14

193 Some aspects of deep sea drilling 1.5.15

196 Detection of petroleum 1.5.18


198 Kicks 1.6.1

199 Causes of loss of primary control 1.6.4


Paragraph Page


203 Making a round trip 1.7.2

204 Maintenance work 1.7.5

204 Thief zones 1.7.6

205 A drilling break 1.7.7

205 Kicks 1.7.9


209 Nature of secondary control 1.8.1

209 Types of BOPs 1.8.4

210 (i) Ram type 1.8.7

210 (ii) Annular or bag type 1.8.7

211 (iii) Shear type blind rams 1.8.7

211 Marine Riser 1.8.9

212 Generally 1.8.11

213 The "Christmas tree", the lubricator and wirelining 1.8.12

216 Workover 1.8.19


217 Causes of loss of secondary control 1.9.1

217 (i) Inability to close BOPs 1.9.3

218 (ii) Inability to insert internal

BOPs 1.9.4

218 (iii) Failure of BOPs 1.9.5

219 (iv) Failure of well head or

casing 1.9.7

219 Formation failure outside the well 1.9.8

220 (i) An inadequate casing

programme 1.9.10

220 (ii) Inefficient casing setting 1.9.11

220 (iii) Too close proximity of wells 1.9.12

221 (iv) Excessive well pressures 1.9.13


Paragraph Page


223 224


227 228


Petroleum production Production wells

Secondary recovery

Underwater completions

Production control

1 . 10.1


1 .10.6

1 .10.8


228 Processing 1.10.10

228 (i) Gas-liquid separation 1.10.11

229 (ii) Stepwise gas removal 1.10.12

230 (iii) Free-water removal 1.10.13

230 (iv) Dehydration 1.10.14

230 (v) Desalting i.10.15

231 (vi) Hydrogen sulphide removal 1.10.16

231 (vii) Storage 1.10.17

231 Sub-surface safety devices 1.10.18

232 Shut-down procedures 1.10.23

234 Emergency situations during production 1.10.28

235 (i) Flow line rupture 1.10.29

235 (ii) Plow line plugging 1.10.29

235 (iii) Production manifold rupture 1.10.29

236 (iv) Manifold choke failure 1.10.29

236 (v) Separator oil dump valve

failure 1.10.29

236 (vi) Separator gas valve

failure 1.10.29

236 (vii) Instrument air failure 1.10.29

236 (viii) Improper manual valve

manipulation 1.10.29

236 (ix) Failure of the safety shut-

in valve 1.10.29

237 Eire prevention and control 1.10.31

239 Workovers 1 .10.36

239 Well pulling 1.10.38


243 Nature of chronic pollution 1.11.1


Page Paragraph

244 (a) Oilfield brines 1.11.8

247 tb) Gases 1.11.13

250 ( O Sand and sludge 1.11.20

252 (d) Oil and chemicals 1.11.23

252 O ) Fresh water 1.11.24

252 (f) Garbage and industrial

wastes 1.11.25

254 (g) Drilling mud 1.11.26

255 (h) Storage failure 1.11.29

261 C D Pipelines 1.11.48

272 Maintenance 1.11.68

272 Reparation 1.11.69

274 CD Tankers, barges and

flexible hoses 1.11.74

275 Mooring 1.11.78

277 Flexible hoses 1 .11.80

278 Inspection, testing and

maintenance of hoses 1 .11.82

279 0 0 Prevention of spill from

hoses 1 ,11.83


284 (a) Wind and currents 1.12.1

284 (b) Cyclones 1.12.2

287 (c) Design of structures 1.12,9

289 (d) Vessels colliding with a

platform 1.12.11

291 (e) Fire risk 1 .12.17

296 PART 13 - SUMMARY OF THE CAUSES OF OIL SPILLS AND BLOWOUTS 296 Human error and mechanical failure 1.13.1

297 A. The Drilling Stage 297 (a) Loss of primary control

(Parts 5, 6 and 7)

297 (i) Formation pressures 1.13.5


Paragraph Page 300 (11) Hole not kept full

of mud

302 (111) Inadequate mixture

weight of mud

302 (Iv) Kicks

303 (b) Loss of secondary control

304 (c) Formation failure outside


304 (d) External forces and fire

304 (e) Chronic pollution

305 (f) Human error

305 B. Production Stage 305 (a) Failure of production

processing and safety controls

311 (b) Failure of sub-surface

safety devices

312 (c) Wirelining

313 (d) Workovers

313 (e) External forces and fire

313 (f) Chronic pollution

314 (g) Storage failure

314 (h) Tankers, barges and

flexible hoses

315 (1) Pipeline failure

315 U ) Human error

316 PART 14 - THE ANSWER TO TR1 316 Introduction to the answer 323 The answer to TR1



325 Preface precedes


1.13.17 1.13.18



1.13.25 1.13.26



1.13.37 1.13.40 1.13.41


1.13.43 1.13.44

1.13.45 1.13.48





Paragraph. Page

326 Part 1



326 (a) Chemical composition 2,1.1

329 (b) Physical properties 2.1,4

329 Ci) Specific gravity

330 (ii) Viscosity

330 (iii) Pour point

332 Part 2


PROPERTIES OF SPILLED OILS 332 (a) Evaporation 2.2.1

335 (b) Solution 2.2.4

337 (c) Emulsification and droplet dispersion 2.2.7

3 4 0 (a) Water^in-oil emulsions 2.2.13

341 (e) Photochemical transformation: Oxidation 2,2.16

342 (f) Biodegradation 342 (i) General 2,2.19

343 (ii) Evidence of biodegradation 2.2.20

343 (iii) Biodegradation and molecular

structure 2.2.21

345 Civ) Biodegradation and

temperature 2.2,24

346 (v) Biodegradation and

nutrient materials 2 .2.26

346 (Vi) Biodegradation and

oxygen availability 2.2.27

347 (vii) Biodegradation and the

physical state of oil 2 .2 . 2 8

348 (viii) Pathways of biodegradation 2 . 2 . 2 9

348 (ix) Role of bacteria and

other organisms 2.2.30

348 (X) Aromatics 2.2.31


Paragraph Page

350 Part 3


350 (a) Introduction 2.3.1

350 0 0 Wind generated surface currents 2.3.2

352 .(c) The determination of local winds and of local wind changes 2.3.4

355 (d) Tidal currents 2.3.7

356 (e) Oil movements determined by both wind and tidal surface currents 2.3.9

358 Part 4


358 (a) General 2.4.1

359 (b) The toxicity of different types of hydrocarbons 2.4.5

360 (c) Oil composition and toxicity. The Ottway experiments 2.4.7

364 (d) Toxicity of weathered oil 2.4.17

365 (e) Toxicity and the manner of oil presentation

365 (i) Intertidal animals 2.4.18

365 (ii) Plankton 2.4.19

36? (f) The differential sensitivity of different types, of organisms to oil 2.4.23 368 (i) Plants - including salt

marsh plants and mangroves 2.4.27

371 (ii) Animals - including

coelenterates echinoderms and crustaceans 2.4,33

376 (g) Conclusion 2.4.40

377 Part 5


377 (a) Types of oil spills: Acute and chronic spills and effects 2.5.1

378 (b) Introduction 2.5.3

378 (c) Incidents reported 2.5.4

378 (i) !Torrey Canyon' and

Santa Barbara 2.5.5


Paragraph Page

380 (d) Oil on the sea surface 380 (i) General 2.5.9

380 (ii) Effects on birds 2.5.10

382 (ill) Effects on mammals 2.5.15

382 (e) Oil in solution and droplet suspension 382 (i) Effects on plankton 2.5.16

385 (ii) Summary and conclusions 2.5.21

385 (Hi) Nekton 2.5.22

386 (f) Oil on shores: Effects on organisms 386 (i) Rocky shores 2.5.23

391 (ii) Sandy beaches 2.5.33

391 (ill) Post-spill changes and the

processes of recovery 2.5.34

393 (iv) Distance of spill from shore

a relevant factor 2.5.38

393 (v) Summary and conclusions 2.5.39

395 (g) Oil on or in sea floor sediments: Effects on benthic organisms

395 CD Sediment deposition and

transport 2.5.43

397 (ii) Effects on benthic organisms 2.5.47

398 (iii) Conclusions 2.5.50

399 Part 6



399 (a) Introduction 2.6.1

399 (b) Persistent oil: Effects on benthic organisms 2.6.2

400 (c) Recognition and analysis of oils 2.6.3

400 CD Gravimetric analysis 2.6.4

400 (ID Gas chromatography 2,6.5

401 (iii) Mass spectrometry 2.6.6

402 (d) Biologically manufactured hydrocarbons and pollutant hydrocarbons 2.6.7

403 (e) The 1 1 Florida spill

(D Sources of information 2.6.8


Page Paragraph

403 Cli) General account 2.6.9

405 Ciii) Character and distribution

of the pollutant oil 2.6.13

406 (iv) Toxicity of persistent

oil 2.6.15

407 (v) Biological surveys 2.6.18

409 (vi) Summary and conclusions 2.6.19

410 (f) Continuous ecological pollution and its effects: Case histories 2.6.20 410 (1) Caspian Sea 2.6.21

411 (11) Gulf of Mexico 2.6.22

413 (111) Milford Haven 2.6.27

4l6 (iv) Summary and conclusions 2.6.34

417 (g) Oil within organisms and food chains: 417 (1) Introduction 2.6.35

418 (11) Biologically manufactured


418 Plants 2.6.37

419 Animals 2.6.39

419 (ill) Pollutant Hydrocarbons 2.6.40

421 (iv) Persistence of pollutant

hydrocarbons in organisms 2.6,45

422 Shellfish of Buzzards

Bay, Massachusetts

422 (i) General 2.6.47

423 (ii) Scallops 2.6.49

424 (iii) Oysters 2.6.51

425 (a) Incorporation

of oil 2.6.52

427 (b) Persistence

of oil 2.6.55

428 (c) Sites of

_ hydrocarbon .storage 2.6. ""7

429 (h) Transfer of hydrocarbons through the food web 2.6.60

432 (i) Health hazards 2.6.66


Paragraph Page

435 Part 7


435 Statistics 2.7.1

435 Nature of gas leaks 2.7.2

436 Their effects 2.7.3

438 Part 8

438 REMEDIAL MEASURES 438 (a) Introduction 2.8.1

438 (b) Oil dispersants: Toxicity 438 (1) General 2.8.2

439 (ii) Toxicity tests and

toxicity grading 2.8.3

440 (ill) Toxicity of dispersants

under field conditions

440 General 2.8.4

442 Use in open sea 2.8.5

442 Use on shores and in

near-shore waters 2.8.6

443 (iv) Toxicity of dispersants

to corals 2.8.7

446 (c) Oil/dispersant mixtures: toxicity 2.8.15

447 (d) Conclusion 2 .8.16

447 (e) Other remedial measures 2.8.17

447 (i) Absorbents 2.8.18

448 (ii) Gelling agents 2.8.19

448 (iii) Sinking agents 2.8,20

451 Part 9


451 (a) Introduction - Both Australian and overseas experiments and incidents are included 2.9.1

452 (b) Probable types of GBRP oils 2.9.2

453 (c) Australian oils: Physical properties and behaviour at sea 2.9.3


Page Paragraph

455 (d) Evaporation of oils at sea 2.9.5

458 (e) Exposure to oil of reefs, islands and coastlines 2.9.15

459 CD Emergent and submerged

reefs 2.9.16

460 Ui) Shelf edge reefs 2.9.18

461 (ill) Reefs of the GBRP shelf 2.9.20

462 Reef slope 2.9.21

463 Reef rim 2.9.22

463 Reef flat 2,9.23

463 Civ) Fringing reefs 2.9.24

464 (f) Exposure of reefs at low tides 2.9.25

466 (g) Sea floor sediments: Benthic organisms 466 (i) Sediments 2.9.28

468 Cii) Benthos 2.9.33

468 (h) The fauna and flora of the reef zones 468 (i) General 2.9.34

471 (ii) Reef slope 2.9.42

4?2 (iii) Reef rim 2.9.43

473 Civ) Reef flat 2.9.44

473 U ) Oil and the marine life of the GBRP 473 CD Oil on the sea surface

473 Birds (and see paragraphs

PI.6.176 - 184) 2.9.45

476 Turtles and sea snakes (see

also paragraphs PI.6,212-3) 2.9.51

476 Cii) Oil in the sea

476 Plankton (and see paragraphs

PI.6.151-161) 2.9.52

477 Phytoplankton 2.9.53

477 Zooplankton 2.9.54

479 (iii) Oil on shores and reefs

479 (A) Experiments both Australian

and overseas with fresh and weathered crude oils

479 Section (1) Corals

479 Introduction 2.9.57

480 The Australian experiments

Mr Grant 2.9.59






485 491


495 495 498

498 501 502




507 508 508

511 511

511 519 524

525 531


Possible damage short of death not recorded 2.9.63

Change of colour after the experiments 2.9.64

Mr Haysom 2.9.66

Summary and appraisal of the Australian experiments 2.9.81

Other experiments Mr Shinn 2.9.82

Singapore experiments Professor Chuang 2.9.83

The Grant experiments on Fungia 2,9.84

The Johannes experiments 2.9.85 The Lewis experiments 2.9.86

Section (2) Organisms other than corals 2.9.87 Conclusions 2.9.93

(B) Oil spills including over­ seas spills in coral reef areas

Section (1) Massive spills - effects on corals 2.9.94

'Argea Prima' 2.9.95

'Witwater' 2.9.96

Oceanic Grandeur' 2.9.97

Conclusion 2.9.100

Section (2) Chronic spills : Effects on corals overseas Singapore 2.9.101

Red Sea: Gulf of Aqaba 2.9.116 Red Sea: Gulf of Suez 2.9.124

The Persian Gulf 2.9.127

(k) The ecosystem, diversity, stability and balance 2.9.137

(1) The of toxicity of freshly spilled and weathered crude oils 2.9.148


Paragraph Page



539 540



Part 10


(A) Introduction

Probable types of GBRP oils

Toxicity of freshly spilled crude oils

Exposure and vulnerability to oil of different ecological situations and habitats

2 .10.1



2 .10.10

542 (B) The answer

542 Section (a) Probable effects

of freshly spilled crude oils on the marine life of the GBRP

542 (D Coral reefs 2.10.11

544 (2) Shore line communities of

plants and animals 2.10.17

545 (3) Organisms inhabiting other

marine situations within the GBRP

545 The sea surface - birds,

mammals, reptiles, etc. 2.10.20

545 Organisms of the plankton

and nekton 2.10.21

546 Benthic organisms 2.10,23

547 Section (b) Probable effects of weathered oil 2.10.24

548 Section (c) Probable effects of gas leaks 2.10.25 548 Section (d) Probable effects of remedial measures 2,10.26




549 The construction of TR3 3.1.1

549 The answers to other Terms of Reference are relevant when answering TR3 xx ix

3 .1,2

Page Paragraph

550 Meaning of "oil and gas leak" 3.1.4

55-1 "Effects" and "so little detriment" 3.1.5

554 PART 2 - FACTORS FOR CONSIDERATION 554 Introduction 3.2.1

554 Migration of oil spills 3.2.2

556 Contingency planning and remedial measures 3.2.3

556 The size and nature of the spill 3.2.4

557 Temperature and winds affect the rate of evaporation 3.2.5

557 The probable effects of oil on the corals and ecosystems of the GBRP 3.2.6

557 Emergent and non-emergent reefs 3.2.7

558 Vulnerability of non-emergent reefs 3.2.8

558 Sinking of oil 3.2.9

558 The spread of oil on the sea bed 3.2.10

559 Persistence of spilt oil 3.2.11

559 Plankton and planula larvae 3.2.12

559 Different types of crude oils 3.2.13

559 Weathered oil 3.2.14

559 Interference with oxygen and light 3.2.15

560 To what extent do unoccupied and remotely situated cays, reefs and islands need protection 3.2.16

560 Regeneration 3.2.17

561 Fishing and Tourist industries 3 .2.18

561 Mangroves and the shoreline 3.2.19

561 Birds 3.2.20

562 East of the outer Barrier reef 3.2.21

563 The joint Australian and Queensland Governmental submission to IMCO in 1971 regarding ships discharging oil at sea 3.2.22

565 The new IMCO boundary for discharging oil 3.2.24 565 The views of the Senate Select Committee in 1971 contrasted with the views of the Queensland Minister for Mines 3.2.25

567 Resorts, national parks, military areas, navigational channels and marine national parks when declared 3.2.26


Page Paragraph

568 The Capricorn Channel 3,2.27

568 The Papuan Basin 3.2.28

568 No drilling on any island, cay or reef (whether emergent or non-emergent) 3.2.29

568 Probabilities 3.2.30


569 Tributes to the GBRP (Mrs Wright McKinney, Miss Ashworth, Sir Maurice Yonge, Professors Woodhead and Johannes, Doctors Coombs, Kikkawa, Maxwell, Grassle, Talbot and

Stoddart and Mr Piesse) 3.3.1

570 Migration of oil and the Grafton Passage spill 3.3.2

573 The probable effects of oil on the corals and ecosystems of the GBRP 3.3.3

573 The kind of oil which might be expected to occur in the GBRP 3.3.4

574 Location of continental islands reefs and cays. 3.3.5

574 The shelf edge reefs. Water depths. Mangrove areas. Variety of reef fishes 3.3.6

576 The size of reefs surrounding cays - fringing reefs at continental islands 3.3.7 576 The experiments of Messrs Grant, Haysom, Professor Chuang and others 3.3.8

577 Detection of spilt oil 3.3.9

578 Buffer zones or "safe distances" 3.3.10

579 Massive and chronic spills 3.3.11

579 Transportation of oil from production source to shore 3.3.12

580 A conservationist view 3.3.13

580 Dr Coombs' view 3-3.14


582 Some divergence of view amongst members of the Commission 3.4.1

582 Matters affecting the answer on which all members are in agreement 3.4.2

583 The "localities" and "geographical limits" 3-4.3 583 No drilling on islands, cays, etc. 3.4.4


Page Paragraph

583 Majority view on the answer to TR3 3.4.5

584 Majority view recommendations on permitted drilling areas 3.4.6

585 Majority view recommendations on areas where drilling should not be permitted ("excluded" areas) 3.4.7

586 Buffer zones for permitted drilling localities as recommended by the majority 3.4.8

588 Experiments on the evaporation rates and residual toxicities of Australian oils - majority view 3.4.9

588 The minority views of the Chairman 3.4.10

590 Reasons for the Chairman's minority views 3.4.11

590 (a) - (b) Introduction

591 (c) - (d) Fresh oil - short­

term effects

591 (e) - (f) Fresh oil - long-term

and indirect effects

592 (g) - (m) Weathered oil -

composition and toxic qualities

594 (n) A review of the evidence

which related to weathered oil

601 (0 ) Is the degree of risk

of an oil spill relevant when answering TR3?

601 (P) Plankton and chronic


602 (q) Submerged and emergent


603 (r) Unoccupied islands and







605 No existing "safety precautions"

605 Existing draft regulations (Exhibit 68) should be amended

607 "Safety precautions" and "locality"

607 The scheme of our answer to TR4

607 Part 9 deals with Exhibit 68 and drilling technique

608 Part 2 deals with the "mirror" legislation of 1967 608 Parts 3 to 8 deal successively with activities related to drilling and


609 The Commission has concentrated throughout on the special conditions and characteristics of the GBRP

609 Part 10 contains a summary of all recommendations, suggestions and conclusions appearing in this answer to TR4 ,


1967 AND ACT NO. 36 OF 1967 (QLD)

610 The 1967 Agreement and the Queensland Act No. 36 of 1967 - Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 610 The Geneva Convention of 1958 611 Natural resources

611 Sections 124 and 159

613 Clause 15 of the Agreement 613 Clause 21 and S101 613 Outline of the Queensland Act

614 Security sums in Sll4 too small 614 Permits and licences

615 Sections 97 and 124 615 "Good oil-field practice" and S99 617 S101 should be amended

618 Sections 97 and 98 and "operator" - Chairman's views

620 Views of Mr Moroney and Dr J.E. Smith

621 Section 18



4.1.3 4.1.4








4.2.3 4.2.4


4.2.9 4.2.10

4.2.11 4.2.12

4.2.15 4.2.18 4.2.21


4.2.27 4.2.28


Page Paragraph

622 Comments on S99 4.2.30


623 Necessity for co-ordinated contingency planning on different levels - Australian, State and Industry 4.3.1

624 The American National Contingency Plan 4-3-5 626 Planning for the GBRP - three plans necessary 4.3.8

627 Special factors affecting the GBRP 4.3.9

629 Requirements before drilling commences 4.3.13 630 The Australian National Plan 4.3.16

632 State contingency planning (and regional planning) 4.3.19

634 Industry contingency planning - Esso-Hematite and P.I.E.C.E. 4.3.24

636 The Industry's responsibilities - American views 4.3.28


638 Introduction 4.4.1

638 (a) Dispersants

639 Mr Haskell's view 4.4.4

640 Method of application 4.4.5

641 Toxic dispersants more efficient than the less toxic dispersants 4.4.8

643 Dr St Amant's view 4.4.13

644 Other views on Corexit 4.4.14

645 Dr Grassle's view on dispersants 4.4.19

646 Professor Clark's view 4.4.20

646 Some miscellaneous views 4.4.21

647 Case histories 4.4.22

648 (1) 'Torrey Canyon' 4.4.24

649 (2) Santa Barbara 4.4.25

650 (3) 'Esso Essen' 4.4.26

651 (4) 'World Glory' 4.4.27

653 (5) 'Oceanic Grandeur' 4.4.28

655 Protection of amenities 4.4.33



658 660 661

663 664


666 666 667

667 668 668 668

669 669

669 670 671


673 674

675 676


677 678




683 683



High cost of dispersants 4.4.35

Rocky shores 4.4.39

Sandy beaches 4.4,41

The English approach to dispersants 4.4.45

The views of Mr Grant and Professor Chuang 4.4.48

English and American official views on dispersants contrasted 4.4,50

The Queensland official view 4.4.54

Recommendation (dispersants) 4.4.55

(b) Sinking agents

The American view and Dr Connell's view 4.4.56

Special conditions of the GBRP 4.4.57

Dr Blumer's view 4.4.58

Dr Nelson-Smith's view 4.4.59

Recommendation (sinking agents) 4.4.61

(c) Other Remedial Measures

No action 4.4.62

Monitoring a spill - modern devices 4.4.63

Booms 4.4.64

Tents 4.4.69

Oil Herder 4.4.70

Pumps and skimmers 4.4.73

Absorbents 4.4.75

Gelling agents .4.4.79

"Adapts" 4.4.80

Burning 4.4.81

Beaches and coastlines 4.4.82


Twelve recommendations tabulated 4.5.1


Introduction 4.6.1

The human factor 4.6.2

The mechanical factor 4.6.3


Page Paragraph

683 External causes 4.6.4

683 Reduction of human error and equipment failure 4.6.5

684 Four Australian blowouts were all gas blowouts 4.6.7

684 Marlin A7 4.6.8

685 Marlin A4 4.6.9

686 Petrel No. 1 4.6.10

688 Barracouta 4.6.11

689 American oil blowouts

689 Santa Barbara 4.6.12

691 Chevron 4.6.13

691 Shell 4.6.14

692 Other blowouts 4.6.15

692 B.P. well 44/23-1 (North Sea) 4.6.16

692 Phillips well 53/5-A5 (North Sea) 4.6.17

693 Shell wells (North Sea) 4.6.18

693 Unnamed well "A" 4.6.19

693 Unnamed well "B" 4.6.20

694 Unnamed well "C" 4.6.21

694 Summary of causes of blowouts 4.6.22

695 Recommendations 4.6.23


697 Some subjects discussed in other answers but for different purposes 4.7.1

698 Tanker spills 4.7.2

698 Pipeline failure

698 Whether pipelines should be permitted in GBRP is debatable 4.7.3

700 In recent years large quantities of oil have occasionally escaped from pipelines 4.7.6 701 The burial of pipelines in the GBRP 4.7.9

702 Dr St Amant on corridors 4.7.11

702 Spoil from trenches 4.7.13

703 High-low pressure sensors 4.7.15

703 Aircraft monitoring 4.7.16

xxxv i







705 706 707 708 708 709






715 716 717




722 722


723 724 724




Sea transportation from production site to shore depot or refinery

Sea transportation also not free from hazards 4.7,18

Mr Crane's view 4.7.19

Buoy moorings for tankers 4.7.20

Flexible hoses 4.7.21

Hazards of loading 4.7.22

Load on top 4.7.23

Spillage risk 4.7.25

Hoses left full of oil 4.7.26

Navigation hazards 4.7.27

Size of tankers must be controlled 4.7.28

Summary of necessary precautions if tankers used 4.7.29

Seismic surveys, explosives and blasting Seismic surveys - their purpose 4.7.31

Special factors relating to GBRP and Dr St Amant's view re Gulf of Mexico 4,7.34

Explosives 4.7.35

Modern energy sources 4.7.37

Mr Ericson' s evidence 11,7.39

The views of APEA 4 .7,40

Mr Courtenay-Peto and the Persian Gulf 4.7.41

Report on seismic surveys in Gippsland Lakes area 4.7.42

Exhibits 523 to 525 4,7.45

Recommendations 4,7.49

Dredging, sands and sediments Damaging effects 4,7.50

Construction of airfield on island caused destruction of coral in bay 4.7,51

Deposit of sediments on sea bed damaging 4.7.54

General precautions against chronic or random spills

Kerbs, gutters and drains on platforms 4.7.55


Paragraph Page

725 Chemicals, drilling mud, sand, cuttings, garbage, oilfield brines and oily waters 4.7.56

725 Our recommendation 4.7.57


727 The need for such supervision 4.8.1

727 Mr Gusey's view 4.8.2

727 Dr St Amant's view 4.8.3

729 Mr Coulter's view 4.8.4

729 Government inspectors and S125 4.8.6

729 Delegations 4.8.8

730 Section 101 4.8.9

731 Reporting oil spills 4.8.11

731 The American attitude 4.8.12

731 Reporting generally 4.8.13

732 Whether regulations imposing safety precautions should be of a general or specific nature 4.8.14

732 The Commission's view 4.8.15

732 Views of American and Australian witnesses 4.8.16

733 Professor Thompson's view 4.8.20

734 Mr Coulter's view on "field orders" 4.8.21

734 Regulations should be constructed especially for GBRP conditions O J CXI



735 Summary 4.8.23

735 Mr Coulter's view should be applied here 4.8.24


736 Section 1 - Preliminary

(Paragraphs 4.9.1 to 4.9.19 inclusive)

736 Exhibit 68 requires amendments 4.9.1

736 Section 157 of the Australian Act and Section 159 of the Queensland Act 4.9.2

737 The Commission's suggested amendments designed for GBRP 4.9.4



737 Latest American OCS orders relating to the Pacific Region are very useful 4.9,7

738 The Agreement of 16 October 1967 and the Victorian conditions imposed on Esso^-BHP 4.9.9

738 Importance of (a) proper casing programme, (b) BOP equipment and (c) mud programme 4,9.10

739 Precautions not dealt with in Exhibit 68 4.9.11

740 Disposal of wastes 4.9.13

740 Pipelines 4.9.15

741 Shear rams 4.9.16

741 Casing programme 4.9,17

741 Visual and audio warning devices 4.9.18

742 Section 2 - Exhibit 68

(Paragraphs 4.9.20 to 4.9.136 inclusive) 4.9.20

742 A summary of recommendations and suggestions relating to Exhibit 68 (as contained in " paragraphs 4.9.22 to 4.9,136) appears in Part 10 paragraphs 4,10,68 to 4.10.140 4.9.21

743 Exhibit 68 - Part I - Preliminary (p.l)

743 Clause 2 - Interpretation ^

Relevant Authority" (p.l) 4.9.22

743 Clause 3 - Arrangement (p.2) 4.9.23

743 Clause 5 - Definitions (pp.3-12) 4.9.24


743 Drill stem test

743 Good oilfield practice

7'43 Operator

744 Pipelines

744 Plant

744 Part II - Division I - General (p.13) 744 Clause I - Responsibility of

title holder and operator (p.13) 4.9.25 745 Sections 97, 98, 99 and 102 of

the 1967 Act 4.9.26

746 Liability to third parties 4.9.28

746 Clause 6 - Hazard not otherwise

specified (p.14) 4.9.29

748 Clause 7 - Waste or contamination

(p·15) 4.9.30

749 Suggested new clause 7 4.9.31

xxx ix




752 Clause 13 - Compensation (p.18)

752 Clause 14 - Pollution of the sea

(p.18) 4.9.33

752 Part II -Division 2 - Safety (p.19)

752 Clause 1(1) - Responsibility of

supervisors (p .19) 4.9.34

754 Clause 7 - Ventilation of confined

areas (p.21) 4,9.35

755 Clause 8 (2) and (3) - Contaminated

atmosphere (p.22) 4.9.37

756 Clauses 10 and 11 (untitled) (p.23) 4.9-38

756 Clause 14 (1) Special reports

(sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) (p.25) 4.9.39 756 Clause 22 - Debris to be removed

(p.28) 4.9.40

756 Clause 23 - Welding (p.29) 4.9.41

757 Clause 26 - Internal combustion ’

engine, exhaust, treatment of (p.29) 4.9.42

757 Clause 27(2) Fuel Tanks (p.29) 4.9.43

757 Clause 33(2) (p-32) 35 (p-33)

39 (c) (p.35) and 50(1) (p.40) 4.9.44 Miscellaneous typographical errors

757 Part III - Geophysical and geological 4.9.45 regulations (p.48 and

757 Part IV - Explosives (p.54) 758 PART V - Exploration appraisal and development drilling and related operations - Division I General -

(Notification conditions, reports) (p.70) 4.9.46

758 PART V - Division 2 - Exploration appraisal, and development drilling, practices and requirements (p.74)

758 General 4.9.47

759 Clause 1 - Tubulars (p.74) 4.9.48

759 Clause 2 - Drilling fluid and tank

gauges (p.74) 4.9.49

759 Clause 3(1) Casing programmes,

Casing cementations and tests thereof (p.74) 4.9-50

759 Clause 3(2) Drive or structural

casing (p.75) 4.9.51


Paragraph Page







763 763 764




768 769 770



771 774

775 776

776 778






Clause 3(3) - Conductor casing (.first string) (p, 75) 4.9-52

Clause 3(4) - Surface casing -General principles (p.76) 4.9.54

Clause 3(5) - Casing cementing (p.7 6) 4.9.56

- All casing below

surface casing 4.9.57

Clause 3(6) - Intermediate and protective casing Cp-77) 4.9.58

Clause 3(7) - Production casing (p.7 7) 4.9.59

Clause 3(8) (p.78) 4.9.60

Clause 3(9) (p.78) 4.9-61

Clause 5(2) - Disposal of oil or gas (p.8l) 4.9-62

Clauses 6(1) and (2) - Mud and mud testing (p.8l) 4.9.63

Part V - Division 3 - Safety in drilling and associated operations (p,82)

Clause 1(1) (a) - Blowout prevention (p . 8 2) 4,9-65

Clause 1(1) .(b) - Shear rams (p .82) 4.9.67

Clause 1(2) - (p . 82) 4.9.69

Clause 1(3) - (p.82) 4.9-71

Clause 1(5) - (p.83) 4.9.73

Clause 1(6) - (p.83) 4.9.76

Clause 1(7) (a) - (p.83) 4.9.78

Clause 1(7) (b) - (p.83) 4.9.80

Clause 1(8) - (p . 84) 4.9.82

Clause 2 - Kelly cock (p.84) 4.9-84

- Other equipment (p.84)4.9-87

Clause 3(1) - Drillstem tests, conditions for (p .84) 4.9-89

- Penetration rate

recorder (p.86) 4.9.90

Part VI - Production and conservation (p.99) Division 1 Equipment and facilities

General note on pages 99 and 100 4.9-91 Some miscellaneous recommendations 4.9.92



780 78.1 781 783



787 788 789

789 789 789 790


793 794 794 795


795 795


Clause 5 - CP.101) 4-9-97

Clause 8 - (p.101) 4.9-101

Clause 10(2)(a) - (p.102) 4.9.102

Clause 11(1) - (p.103) 4.9.106

Some recommendations relating to OCS Order No. 8 4.9.107

Clause 11 (2)(a) - (p.103) 4.9.109

Clause 11(2)(b) - (p.104) 4.9.115

Clause 11(2)(c) - fp.104) 4.9*116

Division 2 - Measurement (p.105) 4.9-117

Division 3 - Procedures (p,111) Clauses 15(p.117) and 19(p.ll8) 4-9.118 Part VII - Electrical (p.119) 4.9.120

Part VIII - Pipelines (pp.128-131A) 4.9.121

- Recommendation 4.9.125

- Hose connections 4.9*128

Part IX (p.132) 4.9.129

Clause 10(c) (viii) - (p.134) 4.9.130

Clause 11 (p.135) 4.9.132

Clause 27(1) (p.140) 4.9-133

Clause 28 (p.l4l) 4.9.134

Clause 33 (p.142-3) 4.9.135

Clauses 34 to 37 (pp.l43 to 147) 4.9,136


796 PART 10 - SUMMARY OF ANSWER TO TR4 796 Part 1 (Outline of the Answer)

796 Part 2 - The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967 - Act No. 36 of 1967 (Q)

797 Part 3 - Contingency Planning

797 Part 4 - Remedial Measures

799 Summary of Part 5 - Summary of Recommendations on Contingency Planning and Remedial Measures 800 Part 6 - Recent Blowouts and Their


4.10.1 to 4.10.4

4.10.5 to 4.10.10

4.10.11 to 4.10.14

4.10.15 to 4.10.34

4.10.35 4.10.36 to 4.10.48


Page Paragraph

801 Part 7 - Miscellaneous Hazards of Petroleum Exploration Drilling and Production in the GBRP

4,10,49 to 4.10,60

802 Part 8 - Governmental Supervision 4.10.61 to


803 Part 9 - Exhibit 68 and Regulations to be Made under the Mirror Legislation (S159) 4.10.68 to 4.10.140 811 Some other recommendations relating to

safety precautions

4,10.141 to 4.10.143


(TR'5 5


813 Addendum 5.1.1

814 Assumptions 5.1,2

814 Net benefits 5.1.3

815 Effect of foreign capital 5.1.5

816 Probabilities 5.1.7

817 Policy matters involved 5.1.10

817 Displacement effect 5.1.11

819 Other miscellaneous background matters

819 (a) Double counting 5.1.17

820 (b) Discounting 5.1.17

822 (c) Natural and creative wealth 5.1.17

823 (d) Efficiency of the oil industry 5.1.17

824 Plan of the answer 5.1.18

825 PART 2 - POTENTIAL GROSS BENEFITS 825 (a) Increase in national


825 Uncertainty of success in petroleum drilling 5.2.1

825 Mr Cochrane's capital expenditure method 5.2.2

826 Dr Coombs' comment thereon 5.2.3


Paragraph Page

827 Mr Cochrane's comment on Tables and hypotheses 5.2.5

828 Mr Cochrane's Exhibits 344 and 341 5.2.6

829 Mr Cochrane's estimate of $24m or $2 per head 5.2.7

830 Mr Cochrane's other views 830 (a) Australia, excluding the Reef 5.2.8

830 (b) Barrier Reef production 5.2.8

831 (c) Critique of Mr McCay's

submission 5.2.8

832 Mr McAlister's view on Mr Cochrane's evidence- 5.2.9

834 Dr Hunter's cost benefit analysis 5.2.10

834 Mr Foster's recalculation of $979.3 millions 5.2.11

834 An efficient industry 5.2.12

835 Special position of the GBRP 5.2.13

836 Government rewards of successful exploration 5.2.14

836 Royalties only a contra 5.2.15

837 Subsidies a set-off to royalties 5.2.17

838 Success In the GBRP would mean some addition tp national wealth 5.2.18

838 Addendum preceding 5.2.19

839 Exploration without production - storage 5.2.19

840 Alternative course of exploring and development as policy requires 5.2.21

840 Fiduciary duties of present generation 5.2.22 840 Dr -Coombs ' view on the meaning of national wealth 5.2.23

841 Dr Coombs' view on the economic functions of natural and creative wealth 5.2.24

844 The special position of the GBRP 5.2.25

844 The A.P.E.A. view 5.2.27


844 (b) Possible decrease in local

price of petroleum products

845 Addendum preceding 5.2.29

845 Definition 5.2.29



846 Factors involved in such a decrease Paragraph 5.2.30

847 Dr Coombs * view 5.2.31

848 Mr McCrossin's view 5.2.32

848 A.P.E.A. view 5.2.33

848 Mr Woodward's submission 5.2.34

849 Excise duties 5.2.35

849 World crude oil demand and supply - the world-wide situation 5.2.36

849 Mr Foster's view on world supply and the reserve ratio 5.2.37

850 A.P.E.A. submission on future world prices 5.2.38

851 Other views on future world prices 5.2.39

851 Professor Adelman's view 5.2.40

852 Dr Coombs' view on future overseas prices 5.2.41 853 Mr Cochrane's view 5.2.42

853 The Teheran Agreement and its implications 5.2.43

853 The Commission's view 5.2.44

854 Mr Foster's view 5.2.45

854 Curtailing production 5.2.46

854 Freight rates 5.2.47

855 Other factors 5.2.48

855 Mr Foster's estimates on future shortfalls 5.2.49

856 Mr Greenwood's submission on Mr Foster's estimates 5.2.50

857 A.P.E.A. reply to Mr Greenwood 5.2.51

858 How and why $2.06 price was fixed 5.2.52

859 Earlier incentive provision modified 5.2.54 859 Present margin favouring Australian refineries 5.2.55

860 Projected future margin 5.2.56

860 Dr Coombs' view on Australian refineries and the Australian consuming public 5.2.57

862 Mr McAlister's and Mr McCay's views 5.2.60



Page Paragraph

864 (c) Income Tax

864 Addendum Preceding 5.2.62

869 The producing company 5.2.62

869 The various Tables put In evidence 5.2.63

870 How profits of Australian Investors should be calculated 5.2.64

870 Mr McAlister's view on costs and benefits figures 5.2.65

871 Mr McCay's Table IV Exhibit 323 - net social benefit Table 5-2.67

873 Mr McAlister's comments on Table IV 5.2.68

873 An earlier Table by Mr McCay - Table I 5.2.69

874 Comparison of Table IV with Table I 5.2.70

874 Some assumptions 5.2.71

875 Mr McAlister's new Tables III and IIIA 5.2.72

880 Mr Poster's calculation 5.2.73

881 Dr Hunter's original figures 5.2.74

881 Mr Brown's figures for a field of 500 m. barrels 5.2.77

882 And for 1000 m. 5.2.78

882 And for 100 m. 5.2.79

882 Proportion of total expenditures retained in Queensland 5.2.80

883 Mr Poster recalculated Dr Hunter's Table 6 5.2.81

884 Comment on the $2.82 figure 5.2.82

884 Mr Foster's figures 5.2.83

884 Assumption set forth in paragraph 5.2,97 5.2.84

885 Mr Fitzgibbons' approach on royalties 5.2.85 885 Factors affecting quantum of taxation 5.2.86 886 Percentage of foreign ownership of permit areas 5.2.87

887 Resident and non-resident companies and shareholders 5.2.88

887 Double taxation agreements 5.2.89

888 Validity of section 6AA and withholding tax 5.2.90

888 Unrecouped capital expenditure -S124DF 5.2.91

889 Section 77D 5.2.93



894 898 898 898





901 901

907 907 908 908


909 910









914 914



Section 124DE 5.2.94

Mr McCay's assumptions when the Tables were compiled 5,2.96

Comments on these assumptions 5.2.98

Finding costs 5.2.99

Subsidies 5.2.102

Some benefits from foreign capital 5.2.103

Future pricing and pro-rationing policy 5.2.104

Retail prices of petroleum products in Australia 5.2.105

Mr Cochrane's view 5.2.106

Mr Foster's view on prices overseas 5.2.107

Factors affecting the low USA retail prices 5.2.108

Australia's excise duties 5.2.109


(d) Royalties

Rates payable 5-2.111

Value at wellhead 5.2.112

Illustrative calculations 5.2.113

Nominal State "take" from royalties may not be significant if Queensland a "claimant" State Fees

Royalty a tax deduction

CONCLUSION ON ROYALTIES (e) Possible benefits to our balance of payments situation

Reduction of imports Export effect The future of our balance of payments position

The high cost of offshore exploration Foreign exchange savings not so important under present conditions Dr Coombs' view on greater flexibility of

economic policy Summary

Net import savings - Mr Cohen's figures

Further on Mr Cohen's Tables


5.2.115 5.2.116


5 .2.118


5 .2.120

5 .2.121

5 . 2.122

5.2.123 5.2.124

5.2.125 5 .2.126


Paragraph Page

917 Unsuccessful exploration - possible effects of 5.2.127

918 The large capital inflow 5.2.128

918 The actual amount of capital inflow 5.2.129

919 Dr Coombs' view 5.2.130

919 A.P.E.A. view 5.2.131

919 Estimated LPG exports 5.2.132

920 Double counting 5.2.133


922 (f) Self sufficiency

922 Self sufficiency is desirable 5.2.135

922 But there is an important qualification 5.2.136

923 Dr Hunter's and Mr Brown's views 5.2.137

924 Dr Coombs' view on storage 5.2.140

925 Dr Coombs' view on large monopolistic enterprises 5.2.141

926 Mr Fltzgibbons' view on storage 5.2.142

926 Insulation from overseas price increases 5.2.143

927 Addendum preceding 5.2.144

927 Possible curtailments of overseas production 5.2.144

927 Defence 5.2.145


932 (g) Industrial and labour

development and natural gas benefits

932 Increased industrial development - but local refining unlikely 5.2.149

933 Natural gas - possible benefits 5.2.152

934 Decentralisation 5.2.153

934 But long distances and high cost of distribution involved 5.2.154

935 Industries under development in Queensland 5.2.155

935 LNG and LPG - characteristics 5.2.156

936 Mr McAlister's view on markets for natural gas in North and Central Queensland 5.2.157

936 Cost per inch mile of gas pipelines 5.2.158



938 938




939 940




943 944

944 944

945 946

947 948


950 952 952


Mr McAlister's view on pipeline costs

Export markets may be needed

Brisbane not yet a potential market for GBRP gas

Brisbane natural gas statistics - cost to householders and industry respectively

Dr Hunter's view on natural gas

Future natural gas prices Coal gas in Queensland

Employment and decentralisation

Oil industry not labour intensive

Victorian experience

Opportunities for technicians and skilled men

An opposing view A.P.E.A. view

Whether local industries will benefit

Labour multiplier effect

Linkages to other industries

Structural unemployment A.P.E.A. view

Dr Coombs' view (h) Increased technological and scientific knowledge Increased scientific knowledge




5.2.159 5 . 2.160

5 .2.161

5 . 2.162

5.2.163 5.2.164





5.2.169 5.2.170

5.2.171 5.2.172

5.2.173 5.2.174

5.2.175 5. 2.176




(a) Introduction 5.3.1

Human values 5-3-3

The aesthetic importance of the GBRP 5.3.4 (i) Mrs Judith Arundell Wright McKinney's comments

(ii) Miss Ashworth's description and comments


Page Paragraph

955 (ill) Dr Coombs' view on the


Views of -

955 (iv) Mrs Matves

955 (v) Sir Maurice Yonge

955 (vi) Dr Isobel Bennett 5.3.4

957 Scientific value of the GBRP 5.3.5

Views of -

957 (i) Dr 0.A. Jones

957 (ii) Dr J. Kikkawa

957 (iii) Other scientific witnesses

958 Marine park areas and national parks 5.3.6

960 A joint statutory committee suggested by APEA 5.3.9

961 The Conservationists' view 5-3.10

961 The views of Dr Coombs and Dr Mather 5.3.11

962 The Commission's view 5.3.12

962 Some miscellaneous comments 5.3.13

963 (b) Consumption of irreplaceable natural resources - Addendum 5-3.14

964 (c) Potential peril to reefs and ecological systems in the GBRP 5.3.15

965 (d) Interference with a unique environ­ ment and with its enjoyment by the present and succeeding generations

965 The Commission's view 5-3.16

965 Examples of witnesses' views 5.3.17

966 The quantum of such interference 5.3.18

967 (e) Hazards to the tourist industry

967 Outline of the tourist industry

in the GBRP 5.3.19

967 Report of Messrs Pannell, Kerr

and Forster 5-3.20

968 Tourism "multiplier" 5.3.21

968 Incentives necessary 5-3.22

969 Discounted value of future

tourism 5.3.23

969 Many new potential tourist

localities 5-3.24


Paragraph Page

970 Much damage can be done by

tourists 5.3.25

970 Various features - beaches 5.3.26

970 Monetary worth of tourism -

Mr Washington's view 5.3.27

972 Cost of travel 5.3.28

972 The future of tourism in the

GBRP 5-3.29

972 The hazards of tankers and

shipping 5.3.30

973 Mr Piesse's view on oil hazards

to tourism 5.3.31

973 The existence of drilling rigs 5-3.32

974 An English view - Dr Nelson-

Smith 5.3.33

975 Generally

975 (i) Tourism reacts to adverse

publicity 5.3.34

976 (ii) Oil drilling causes

improved fishing 5.3.35

977 (ill) Multiplicity of production

plat forms



977 (iv) USA experience 5.3.37

980 (v) Effect of oil on beaches

- Photo No. 29 of Exhibit 69 5.3.38


986 PART 4 - ANSWER: to TR5 986 Introduction

rH - = r

LT\ 987 Section A - Gross benefits

987 (a) National monetary wealth 5.4.6

987 (b) Lower prices for Australian

consumers 5.4.7

988 (c) Income tax 5.4.8

989 (d) Royalties 5.4.9

990 (e) Balance of payments

position 5.4.10

991 (f) Self sufficiency 5.4.11

992 (g) Industrial development,

decentralisation and


Page Paragraph

benefits from natural gas 5.4.12

993 994

993 (h) Increased technological and

scientific knowledge

Section B - Potential disadvantages


5.4.13 5.4.14



997 to 1028 Appendix A - List of Exhibits

1029 to 1040 Appendix B - List of Witnesses

1041 to 1049 Appendix C - List of Films and Photographs

1051 to 1052 Appendix D - Names of Permittees in the GBRP and extent of Australian and Overseas ownership as appears in Exhibit 509

Map showing 100 fathom line, OCS line, and relevant features of the GBRP

Map showing Queensland off-shore drilling areas and sedimentary basins. (Exhibit 197)






Appointment of the Commissions

PI.1.1 Two Royal Commissions were established on 5th May

1970, one by His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia

and the other by His Excellency the Governor of the State of Queensland.

PI.1.2 The Commissioners and the Terms of Reference were

identical for each Royal Commission. The two Commissions

sat "in parallel" throughout the one hearing. At governmental

request, only one report will be made and it will be

presented to each of Their Excellencies concurrently.

PI.1.3 The appointments were gazetted by the Commonwealth

on 7th May 1970 and by the State of Queensland on 5th May


PI.1.4 The Australian Royal Commission was established under the Royal- Commissions Act 1902 - 1966 and the Queensland

Royal Commission under T he·Commissions of Inquiry Acts 1950 to


PI.1.5 The Commissioners are:-Sir Gordon Wallace of Sydney, New South Wales -

Chairman Dr James Eric Smith CBE, ScD, FRS of Plymouth,


Mr Vincent John Moroney of Calgary, Canada


The Terms of Reference

PI.1.6 The Terms of Reference for each of the Royal

Commissions appear in the following announcement made by the

then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable J.G. Gorton, MP in

his statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 5

May 1970. The Letters Patent were worded accordingly: -"(1) Taking into account existing world technology in relation to drilling for petroleum and

safety precautions relating thereto, what risk is there of an oil or gas leak in explorat­

ory and production drilling for petroleum

in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef.

(2) What would be the probable effects of such

an oil or gas leak and of the subsequent

remedial measures on -(A) The coral reefs themselves;

(B) The coastline;

(C) The ecological and biological

aspects of life in the area

(3) Are there localities within the Area of the

Great Barrier Reef and, if so, what are

their geographical limits, wherein the effects

of an oil or gas leak would cause so little

detriment that drilling there for petroleum

might be permitted.

(4) If exploration or drilling for petroleum in

any locality within the Area of the Great

Barrier Reef is permitted, are existing safety

precautions already prescribed or otherwise

laid down for that locality regarded as adequate

and, if not, what conditions should be imposed before such exploration or drilling could take


(5) What are the probable benefits accruing to the


State of Queensland and other parts of

the Commonwealth from exploration or

drilling for petroleum in the Area of the

Great Barrier Reef and the extent of those


"The Area of the Great Barrier Reef referred to in

the above Terms of Reference includes the entire area

from low-water mark on the mainland of Queensland to the

outer line of the Reef and includes also the area out­

side and adjacent to the outer line of reefs.

"These agreed Terms of Reference incorporate some

improvements and changes of a drafting nature from the

agreed terms announced on 29th January following the

conference on that date between the Premier and myself.

"Sir Gordon Wallace recently retired as President

of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales. He had

previously been a Judge of the Supreme Court of that State. While at the Bar he held office as President of

the New South Wales Bar Association (1957-58) and Vice­

President of the Law Council of Australia (1957).

"Dr Smith is a Doctor of Science, a Fellow of the

Royal Society, Director of the Plymouth Laboratory of

the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom,

Chairman of Trustees of the British Museum of Natural

History, and Chairman of the Indian Ocean Biological Centre Consultative Committee. He has held teaching

appointments at the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield

and Cambridge, and for some years was Professor of

Zoology at the University of London. As Director of the

Plymouth Laboratory, he organised the research undertaken

by the Plymouth staff on the effects of the 'Torrey

Canyon' oil pollution on marine life.

"Mr Moroney is a consultant petroleum engineer with

experience in problems of off-shore operations. He has

had over 40 years experience with oil companies in

engineering and managerial positions throughout North


and South America. He graduated from the Georgetown

University, and is a member of the Canadian Institute

of Mining and Metallurgy and of the American Institute

of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.

"The Enquiry would be an open one and the Royal

Commissions have sufficient authority to collect any

evidence required. All interested parties could appear

before the Commissions and state their views and adduce

evidence to support these views. The Commissions will

make announcements on arrangements for the hearing of


"Counsel assisting the Royal Commissions will be

Mr A.E. Woodward, QBE, QC, of the Victorian Bar and

Mr C.E.K. Hampson of the Queensland Bar."

PI.1.7 By the terms of the Royal Commissions it was provided

that two Commissioners should be sufficient to constitute a

quorum and might proceed with the enquiry under the Letters


Counsel Assisting and the Secretariat

PI.1.8 Counsel assisting the Commissions were Mr A.E.

Woodward QC (who in June 1972 became the Honourable Mr Justice

Woodward), Mr C.E.K. Hampson (later Mr Hampson QC) and later

Mr M.P. Moynihan Of the Queensland. Bar.

The Commission wishes to acknowledge the great help it received from these gentlemen throughout the proceedings.

PI.1.9 The Secretary of the Commissions was Mr P.C. Whitman

of the Deputy Commonwealth Crown Solicitor's Office, Brisbane

and the Assistant Secretary was Mr E.R.G. White of the

Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. The Commission

wishes to acknowledge the valuable assistance it received from

these gentlemen throughout the hearing and in the preparation

of the report.


PI.1.10 The solicitors instructing Counsel assisting the

Commissions were Mr B.F.L. Crommelin of the Deputy Common­

wealth Crown Solicitor's Office, Brisbane and Mr W.J. White

of the State Crown Solicitor's Office, Brisbane. The

Commission wishes to acknowledge the help it received from

each of these gentlemen throughout the proceedings.

Appearances before the Commissions

PI.1.11 A preliminary hearing of the Commissions took place

at Brisbane on 22nd May 1970 when the Secretary read the terms

of the Commissions and the following appearances were announced: -Mr A.E. Woodward QC and Mr C.E.K. Hampson as

Counsel assisting the Commissions;

Mr A.L. Bennett QC and Mr J.W.B. Helman of the

Queensland Bar on behalf of the Minister for

Mines for the State of Queensland;

Mr P.D. Connolly QC with Mr Brennan QC, Mr J.W.

Greenwood and Mr J.B. Thomas all of the Queensland

Bar for the Australian Conservation Foundation Inc.

and four Queensland bodies namely the Great

Barrier Reef Committee,the Queensland Littoral’

Society, the Queensland Wild Life Preservation

Society and the Citizens "Save the Barrier Reef"

Committee; Mr P.G. Jeffrey QC and Mr T.W. Waddell and later Mr G.G. Masterman and Mr R.D. Giles all of the

New South Wales Bar for the Australian Petroleum

Exploration Association Limited ("APEA"). Mrs S. Thompson also appeared for the APEA towards the

close of the hearing of evidence and prepared

three of the various "Synopses" of final addresses

produced to the Commissions on behalf of APEA; Mr D.F. Jackson of the Queensland Bar for Planet

Exploration Company Pty Limited and Occidental of

Australia Inc.;


Mr D. K. Derrington and Mr L, F. Wyvill for the

Australian Labor Party. However shortly there­

after Mr B. Toohey appeared for the Australian

Labor Party.

Proceedings of the Commissions PI.1.12 Shortly after the preliminary hearing Dr Smith

returned to England and Mr Moroney returned to Canada. The

hearing of evidence which took place at Brisbane throughout

began on l4th July 1970 and was adjourned on 27th August when

Dr Smith returned to England and Mr Moroney returned to Canada.

On 30th November 1970 a fortnight's hearing began. On this occasion the Chairman and Mr V.J. Moroney sat. The hearing

recommenced on 9th February 1971 all three members sitting,

and adjourned on 1st July 1971. The hearing recommenced on

26th July 1971 all three members again sitting. Dr Smith was absent from 30th August 1971 to 2nd September 1971 during which period the Chairman and Mr Moroney sat. All three mem­

bers then sat until 25th September 1971 when Dr Smith returned

to England.

PI.1.13 The Chairman and Mr V.J. Moroney sat on until 14th December when the hearing was adjourned and Mr Moroney

returned to Canada.

PI.1.14 The hearing recommenced on 15th February 1972 with

the Chairman and Mr V.J. Moroney sitting Dr Smith being

unable to attend. The hearing of evidence and the final

addresses of counsel ended on 30th June 1972. On 3rd July 1972 the Chairman by request sat alone to hear submissions by Counsel which are recorded at pages T18200 to T18256.

PI.1.15 During his absences from the hearings Dr Smith was progressively supplied with copies of the transcript and



PI.1.16 In all the Commission sat on 26? days and the

transcripts of evidence and of counsels' addresses occupy

18256 pages comprised within 66 volumes. In addition the

final address of counsel assisting the Commissions which was

of outstanding help in the preparation of this report, was

set forth in four volumes occupying 977 pages and a number of

separate "Synopses" prepared by various other counsel were

also submitted. In all nine counsel and also Mrs Thompson

and Mr Toohey, appearing before the Commission, made final

addresses which were of much help.

PI.1.17 After the hearing ended the Commissioners conferred in Brisbane and Sydney on a number of occasions during the

period July 1972 to February 197^.

Witnesses and Exhibits

PI.I.l8 The Exhibits many of a lengthy nature numbered 5^7·

A list of all exhibits is set forth in Appendix "A" to the


PI.1.19 The witnesses some of whom were recalled on one or

more occasions numbered 95·

PI.1.20 A list of all witnesses with their qualifications is

set forth in Appendix "B" to the Report.

PI.1.21 The witnesses came from the U.S.A., the U.K., Canada

Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. Amongst these were some

laymen but most were experts of much eminence in their respec­

tive fields. They gave written statements which were verified by oral evidence. This included examination and cross­

examination by various counsel. The Commission wishes to

place on record its sincere thanks to all who gave evidence and also to those who prepared or produced diagrams, maps,

pamphlets and books for the use of the Commission.


The Commission realises the care with which witnesses prepared

their statements and the amount of effort and time thereby


Inspections by Commissioners

PI.1.22 Members of the Commission made visits to Green

Island, Heron Island, Magnetic Island and several of the

islands of the Whitsunday group. They flew at low heights (a)

from Cairns to Princess Charlotte Bay returning by a route

close to but east of the outer Barrier Reef, (b)- from Towns­

ville to Gladstone by a route some miles east of the coast and

(c) from Gladstone to Mackay.

PI.1.23 In August 1970 the Commission through the courtesy of

APEA visited the semi-submersible 1 Ocean Digger' which was

engaged in exploratory drilling at Pelican No. 2 north of Burnie, Tasmania and the production platform Barracouta in

Bass Strait, also the Gippsland gas processing and crude

stabilisation plant near Sale, Victoria.

PI.1.24 During the hearing of evidence the Commissions were

shown a substantial number of coloured 35 mm slides and cine films relating to or illustrating various aspects of the

evidence both technical and topographical and including certain

experiments. A list of such films and photographs and their respective subject matters appear in Appendix "C" to the


Chairman's ruling on evidence PI.1.25 At an early stage of the hearing the Chairman ruled with an expression of regret that scientific writings by Dr

J. E. Smith and oral evidence by a scientist closely associated with him at the Plymouth Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom should not be received in

evidence. He advised the then Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland of this ruling because senior counsel appearing


for the Queensland Minister for Mines (Mr Bennett QC) submit­

ted that such ruling was wrong.


PI.1.26 Throughout this report the letters GBRP will signify

"The Great Barrier Reef Province" which is the "area" as

defined in the Terms of Reference above. The Terms of Refer­

ence will be referred to as "TR" followed by the appropriate

number. Thus "TR2", "TR4". The evidence will be identified

by the letter "T" followed by the transcript page - thus

"T408", "T15632".

In order to facilitate identification of subject

matter and an understanding of the many references and cross­

references to various paragraphs made throughout the report,

the paragraphs have been numbered within each separate answer

and each paragraph has been given three figures. The first figure indicates the Term of Reference (or Principal Introduc­

tion) to which the paragraph relates, the second to the Part

of the answer in which the paragraph appears and the third

figure is the number of the paragraph. Thus "PI.4.57"

indicates that the paragraph appears in the Principal Introduction, that it is in Part 4 thereof, and is numbered

57. Similarly "3.4.10" signifies that the paragraph is in

the answer to TR3, and is in Part 4 of such answer, and is

the tenth paragraph therein.

As one joint report only is required (see

paragraph PI.1.2) future references will generally be made to

"the Commission" rather than to "the Commissions".





Necessity for long-term experiments

PI.2.1 Not long after the hearings began it became apparent

that little information was available from anywhere in the

world on the effects of crude oil on coral organisms at any

stage of their life histories and on their food chains and

reproductive systems or on any of the many kinds of floating,

swimming and bottom-living plants and animals that make up

respectively the complex and what was described by Sir Maurice

Yonge (see PI.6.165) as delicately balanced communities of the planktonic, nektonic and benthic communities associated not

only with coral reefs themselves but also with the open seas,

sea-floor sediments, and coastlines of coral reef areas. The

virtual absence of reliable information on these matters made it clear that the answer to be given to TR2 would greatly

benefit from documented field observations and appropriately

designed and controlled scientific experiments. Such experi­ ments would need to be both of a short-term and a long-term

nature, the former to assess the more immediate and obvious

effects of oil on individual species of organisms, the latter

to determine the nature and extent of any later emerging

effects on the GBRP as a whole. Long-term experiments are also

of crucial importance for elucidation of the effects of con­

tinuing chronic low-level pollution in which the concentration

of oil and the length of time and period of exposure are of

equal relevance.

Correspondence between the Chairman and the Prime Minister PI.2.2 Accordingly, in August 1970 the Commission requested

a Committee of scientists to meet in Brisbane and advise on the


holding of experiments and later a report therefrom was

received by the Commission. The Chairman then wrote to the

then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable J.G. Gorton, and to

the Premier of Queensland, The Honourable J. Bjelke-Petersen,

namely on 15 October 1970 requesting experiments to be carried

out by or under the supervision of the CSIRO.

PI.2.3 Such request was refused by the then Prime Minister,

The Right Honourable W. McMahon and the Premier of Queensland

The Honourable J. Bjelke-Petersen early in June 1971 and not­

withstanding later requests written by the Chairman in July

1971 and February 1972 for a reconsideration of such decision

made in elaborate and pressing terms the decision of the Prime

Minister and Premier remained. The reasons given in the June

1971 letter for such refusal seemed to indicate that a serious

misunderstanding of the Chairman's requests had taken place

because the given reason was that the CSIRO had advised the

Prime Minister that the expense involved would not be justi­

fied by the modest help which was all that could be expected

from "short-term experiments" and that it was unlikely that

"general conclusions" could be drawn from them. But this was

and had long been the Chairman's view of short-term experi­

ments - a feature stressed in the correspondence.

A little later however Mr Bennett QC, appearing for

the Queensland Minister for Mines pressed (T885I) for the

tendering of evidence of short-term experiments which had been

recently made by two Queensland governmental officials and to

this evidence reference will be made in the answer to TR2.

PI.2.4 The Chairman's request for the carrying out of

experiments by or under the supervision of the CSIRO was known

to all the parties appearing.

PI.2.5 At pages 11423 and 11424 of the transcript (21

October 1971) the following took place:

"The Chairman: If we had the long-term


experiments which I asked for just over a

year ago we might now have been in a better

position than we are today. They were denied


Mr Masterman (for APEA): Your Honour will

remember that the oil industry for whom I

appear gladly welcomed those experiments and

offered all assistance."

Mr Tranter's evidence

PI.2.6 On 2H June 1971 Mr D.J. Tranter, Principal Research

Scientist, Division of Fisheries and Oceanography, CSIRO gave

the following evidence (T7533 et seq): -"As a result of this, in early December (1970)

a proposal was put before our Executive and

subsequently to the Prime Minister's Department

for a research programme to be carried out on

the general lines suggested by the Commissions.

I regret to say that from that date, early in

December, to this we have had no answer of any

kind to our proposal in spite of our request that

we be given an urgent answer before the end of

the year. The situation then is that the proposal

has not eventuated."

Witnesses who advocated or assented to the holding of

long-term experiments PI.2.7 Experiments including long-term experiments were

advocated or their desirability assented to by various witnesses

including English and American scientists. In three cases

experiments extending over 10 years were advised.

PI.2.8 The witnesses who advised experiments included: -

W.W. Mansfield (T7256 et seq) (Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO) - "You think

long-term experiments are desirable - Yes."


Dr St Amant (T4112)

(Assistant Director, Louisiana Wildlife and

Fisheries Commission) - "I think that some­

where in your reef area you should have a small portion of the reef that could be

sacrificed if necessary to see what effect

oil or slicks might have on it - I think a research programme could be set up."

D.J. Tranter (T7533-7538)

"... It seems to me that in a system such as

a coral reef system which is very complex

and one about which we know very little that

we ought not to consider a short-term study.

It seems to me that the nature of the system

demands a long-term investigation or an

investigation dealing with long-term effects.

The system is a complex one.

... These simulated field experiments ought to

be carried out in conjunction with experiments

in the field of a more direct nature and

experiments in a laboratory of a more detailed

nature. Now, the emphasis as I see it, in this sort of work ought to be on examining the

contact effects of oil on corals, the toxic effects and the de-oxygenation effects.

... So in summary I think that the investigation

which ought to be carried out should be of a

long-term nature. This strategy should be three­ fold: carried out in the field, in the laboratory

and with simulated field experiments and it should

give emphasis to contact effects, toxic effects

and de-oxygenation effects.

... there is a great danger that by carrying out

initially a short-term investigation one might

find at the end of 12 months that it was largely

wasted and one would have to start again on the


more appropriate line of investigation."

Dr Halstead (T7328, T7334, Τ7·4θ6)

(Director of World Life Research Institute,

California, U.S.A.) -"We would try to establish a battery of select

organisms that we would use as pulse indicators

of the health of the reef - an initial baseline

of data." - "... with more precise, long-term,

analytical chronic toxicological studies."

Dr Grassle (T6287)

(Assistant Scientist Woods Hole Oceanographic

Institute, Massachusetts, U.S.A.) -

"a ten years effort necessary." (cfT6l03)

Mr K.E. Biglane (T6782) (Director of the Division of Oil and Hazardous

Materials, U.S.A. Environmental Protection Agency) -

"not more than two or three years."

Professor Johannes (T4239) (Associate Professor of Zoology, University of Athens,

Georgia, U.S.A.) -"Up to ten years research necessary" - "Several

years duration" - Exhibit 239 p .20.

Professor Stephenson (T2077) (Professor of Zoology, University of Queensland) -

"the possibilities for effective study widen out

frighteningly - say ten man years - fifty marine


Dr Straughan (T5654) (Assistant Professor Biology Department, University

of Southern California, U.S.A. who compiled Volume

1 of the Survey of the Santa Barbara oil spill) - "I would recommend (1) laboratory and field work

using oil as close as possible in composition to

that predicted for any field, and species that would be exposed to this.oil. (2) A study of wind

and water movements in the area so that spill move-

merits can be predicted accurately. (3) A labora­

tory and field study using both possible treatment

substances (e.g. straw, dispersants) and oil as

close as possible in composition to that predicted

for any field, on species that would be exposed to

these substances. I believe some of this work is

under way and I am ignorant as to its scope or the

availability of the results. I strongly urge that

such data should be available to the Commission

before it makes its recommendations."

Dr Choat (T13203A)

(Lecturer, University of Auckland, N.Z.) -

"A team of 18-20 workers over a period of five years."

Sir Maurice Yonge (T9228 et seq, T9248, T9275A)

(President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, U.K. and leader of the 1928 Research Expedition to Low

Isles GBRP) -"You would have to have experiments to find out

but they would obviously have to be experiments that would take a very long time to give you any

sort of answer."

Mr R.C. Coulter (T6952)

(Department of Interior, Washington D.C.) -

"Need for baseline studies."

Dr Maxwell (T15652)

(Formerly Associate Professor of Geology,

University of Sydney) -Q. "I believe I am only putting to you a concept

which has come from the CSIRO and that is: how

can these small experiments in little tiny areas

of coral itself tell you the true picture as to

the effect of oil or any other pollutant over a term of years in relation to reproduction for one

thing, in relation to the various links in the food

chain and so on? How can it give you the complete picture? A. I do not believe they can give us


a complete picture. I believe they provide

indications and nothing more."

Mr Cowell (T11099) (Co-ordinator of Ecology and Environment Control

Centre in the U.K. for British Petroleum Ltd) -

"Would you also agree with this: short-term

experiments are unlikely to produce results from

which general conclusions can be drawn? -- Yes,

I agree entirely."

Dr Kikkawa (T1910)

(Reader in Zoology, University of Queensland in

respect of bird life) -"I would stress the need for investigation by

ornithologists ... in the Great Barrier Reef."

Further illustrations of the scientific approach

to the significance of oil pollution on the larval stage of

corals are as follows: -(a) Dr Grassle said "Since adults of most marine

organisms are far more tolerant to changed

conditions than the larvae, effects on long-

lived species are likely to go unnoticed until long after irreversible damage has been done"


(b) At T3973 Dr St Amant said that the microbio­

logical and sublethal effects of oil on the

micro-fauna, larval forms and the lower elements

of the food chain were not well known.

(c) At T12163 Professor Connell discussing planulae

or the planktonic stage of coral said that the

planulae wiggle out of the polyps and swim

around. On being asked whether they drift

distances he replied "Nobody knows ... we

really do not know what is happening." At

T12223 he said that little work had been done

towards understanding the population dynamics


of reef-building corals. He added "Most

of the best work was done before 1940."

(d) At T3724 Professor Clark said: -"Poisoning of surface waters would therefore

have repercussions in many directions: the

basic food source for most marine animals

would be reduced if not eliminated, and the

environment in which the generally very

sensitive young stages of many animals spend some time would become uninhabitable.

For these reasons, there must be considerable

anxiety about the possibility of damaging this

crucial environment, but while the importance

of the environment and its role in the economy

of the sea and shore is understood in con­

siderable detail, the hazards presented by oil

pollution are all suppositional."

(e) Sir Maurice Yonge who led the 1928-9 research

expedition to Low Isles and whose writings and

opinions were treated with respect by other scientists, when expressing a strong view on

the dangers of oil pollution to "the complex

and delicately balanced coral and eco-systems

in the reef," stressed that it was only his

personal opinion, and that he could not give

scientific reasons for it. Under questioning from Mr Bennett QC he said he based his opinion

"on 45 years experience in marine biology"

(T9271)· He also stressed that the weak link in the life of many animals is at the larval

stage (T9275).

Views of Senate Select Committee on the need for research

PI.2.9 The 1971 Report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources, a copy of which the Commission

received at a late stage of the hearing and which became


Exhibit 450, should also be quoted. (The Chairmen were

successively Senator R.C. Wright, Senator R.C. Cotton,

Senator I.J. Greenwood QC and Senator H.W. Young.)

PI.2.10 At paragraph 13.185 the following appears: -

"Lack of Knowledge of the Reef

13.185 There was wide agreement among all witnesses

that present knowledge of the Reef was extremely

inadequate whether in terms of charting, geology,

marine biology or any other of the marine sciences.

It was clear that, to understand possible effects

of oil pollution on the Reef, a significantly greater

research effort would be needed. This must, by its

nature, be cross-disciplinary as the possibilities

and effects of oil pollution involve the structure

of the Re'ef, the riature of Reef tides and currents,

the pollutants in crude oil, the effects of such

pollutants on marine organisms and the ecology of

these organisms, as well as the possible effects of

agents likely to be used in clean-up operations.

Information will need to be gathered in the disci­

plines of hydrology, bathymetry, marine biology,

geology, ecology, chemistry and generally in the

marine sciences. " We wish to express our complete agreement with these


Professor Clark's view PI.2.11 In the "Marine Pollution Bulletin" in April 1972 - Vol. 3 No. 4 at p.64 Professor Clark of England, who gave

evidence to the Commission in 1971 which is frequently referred

to in our answer to TR2, wrote: -"It is difficult to conceive of a subject which has

aroused so much public concern and agitation, but

about which so little useful hard information exists

as the ecological effects of oil pollution."


FAQ Rome Recommendation of 1970

PI.2.12 A recommendation from a technical conference on

"Marine Pollution and its Effects on Living Resources and

Fishing" held at Rome in December 1970 by the Food and

Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)

(Exhibit 291) should also be quoted: -"Oil Pollution. The Conference realised that

petroleum and its products will continue to be

transported over and under by ships and pipelines,

and will be exploited from the sea bed, recognised

that there will be continuing accidental and possi­

bly deliberate releases into the ocean from these

sources, as well as from land-based installations

and from the atmosphere, noted with concern: the

damage already done to water fowl and to some

aquatic organisms; the potential hazards of oil

through accumulation of dangerous chlorinated

hydrocarbons, such as DDT and polychlorinated

biphenyls in oil films, and through toxicity and

carcinogenicity of different oil fractions to

aquatic life and man; and potential damage by oil

to sensitive eco-systems, such as those of coral reefs and the Arctic Ocean, and, therefore

recommended an immediate increase in research at national and international laboratories, to examine

more closely the scientific problems associated with

oil pollution effects on the marine environment and

its living organisms, so that action can be taken to

avoid dangers that could arise, and furthermore, that FAO together with IOC, in consultation with their

advisory bodies, including GESAMP, co-ordinate such


PI.2.13 Perhaps full scientific research including short and

long-term experiments will soon be commenced by the Australian

Institute of Marine Science at Townsville, which was heavily


endowed by the Australian Government in 1972.

Nature and priorities of long-term experiments

PI.2.14 The result for purposes of this report however is

that the only oral evidence of experimental research before

the Commission was of short-term experiments conducted by

Queensland Government officials and by a Singapore professor

(the latter in some conflict with one of the former) and two

or three others. Although of some value these experiments

were unsatisfactory evidence on which to base general conclu­

sions of the kind necessary to give reliable answers to TR2

and indeed in his last letter to the Chairman, the then Prime Minister, The Right Honourable W. McMahon, suggested that the

Commission might state in its report the nature and order of

priority of experiments it saw fit to recommend.

The Commission believes that the need for further

experiments and their general nature have been indicated in

the body of the report as occasion arose.

However the Commission does not consider it

desirable to provide in detail the necessary experiments for

that will be for determination by an independent consultative

body of scientists by or under whose supervision the experi­

ments will be carried out.

But in an Appendix to this Principal Introduction

we have set forth under two headings namely (a) Immediate and

(b) Long-term, the general subject matters for experiments

which we think attract attention.

Commission members not unanimous throughout

PI.2.15 Some differences of opinion between members have

occurred in relation to one or two aspects of the answers

given to TR4 and in relation to the answer to TR3 and part of

TR2 on which the answer to TR3 is substantially based. These

differences are stated in those respective answers.


The Commission's approach to TR2, TR3 and TR5

PI.2.16 The members of the Commission have answered TR2,

TR3 and TR5 to the extent that the available evidence in their

respective opinions permits. The approach to the difficult

phrase "probable effects" as appearing in TR2 is shown in

Part 3 hereof paragraph PI.3·4 (infra).


PI.2.17 In regard to TR4 (which relates to safety precau­

tions) we consider, that the highly expert evidence from

American and local witnesses which we were privileged to hear

and the excellent assistance we received from all counsel who

appeared before us have enabled us to give an answer which

will be helpful both to those in authority and to the industry

itself should drilling be permitted within the GBRP.






PI.3-1 The construction of the five Terms of Reference

which follows has not been based on strict rules of legal

interpretation such as would be applied in the construction of

an Act of Parliament. The Commission considers that the spirit

of the inquiry is of more importance than the letter if the two appear at any stage to diverge. In any case of doubt the

Commission has regarded a particular matter as being within its

charter. For example, it was at one stage suggested that the

Terms of Reference do not specifically ask the Commission the

question whether petroleum drilling should be permitted within

the GBRP, and if so, where and on what conditions, but it seems

to the Commission to be implicit in the wording of the Terms of

Reference particularly No. 3 that such questions are within the

ambit of the tasks given to the Commission.

PI.3-2 Another illustration is the question of tanker and

other sea transport within the GBRP. The Commission's request

made at an early stage that its Terms of Reference should be

widened so as to include the hazards of through tanker traffic

in the GBRP was refused but the Commission has nevertheless

formed the view that the Terms of Reference Nos. 1, 3 and 4

includes matters relating to the collection and transportation

of oil from a production well to a receiving depot on shore whilst such sea transport is within the confines of the GBRP.

This is largely because it is universally accepted within the

industry that "production" (the phrase used in TR1 is "produc­

tion drilling") includes the collection and separation of the

oil on the production site and its receipt into a barge or


tanker situated in the neighbourhood or into a pipeline and

its conveyance to the nearest receiving depot on shore.

Term of Reference No.l

PI.3-3 "Taking into account existing world technology

in relation to drilling for petroleum and safety

precautions relating thereto, what risk is there

of an oil or gas leak in exploratory and production

drilling for petroleum in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef?"

"drilling for petroleum" - "exploratory and

production drilling for petroleum"

The distinction generally made is between the

"drilling" stage and the "production" stage as the answer to TR1 will show.

However, whilst in the present context "exploratory"

drilling is clear and unambiguous the phrase "production

drilling" must be deemed to include not only drilling a number

or production wells from the same platform as is commonly done

after exploration has been successful but also the separation

on the production platform of water from the oil, the receipt

of the oil into the neighbouring tanker or barge or if pipe­

lines are used, into the pipeline and its conveyance to the

shore depot by tanker (or towed barge) or by the pipeline.

Throughout the industry all these activities are deemed part

of the production stage and some measure of risk of a spill or

leak however small is associated with all these activities.

"oil or gas leak"

This phrase is deemed to include not only major

blowouts but chronic and random spills large and small and

the release of oil-contaminated mud, cuttings, brines and wastes into the sea. The escape of oil from the means of

storage and during transportation to shore depot would also be

included. A chronic leak means one which is repetitious or even continuous. This type is not usually associated with

large quant! les of oil but as will appear later in the answers


its toxic·or deleterious effects can sometimes be more

dangerous than a single massive spill. There can also be

occasional or "random" leaks which can be of a massive nature.

The wording of this Term of Reference indicates that

the Commission is dealing essentially with crude oils but

references will be made to spills of processed oils where

deemed necessary or helpful, e.g. the * Tampico Maru' and

'Florida' spills (see answer to TR2).

"existing world technology"

This expanding subject can of course be dealt with

only on a current basis.

"safety precautions"

We propose to include for consideration the recom­

mendations relating to safety precautions made by us in the

answer to TR4.

"what risk" This difficult phrase cannot be answered merely in

terms of statistics and experiences elsewhere because con­

ditions and hazards vary from place to place, e.g. the presence

or absence of tectonic faults and risks of subsidence, cyclones

and storms, currents, water temperatures and abnormal pressures

and formations. The answer will endeavour to incorporate and

combine experiences and records elsewhere with an estimate and

judgment of the effect of special conditions appertaining to the GBRP. It involves and evaluation of the various hazards

including human frailty, and contingencies associated with

exploratory drilling and production including transportation

from platform to shore whilst such transportation of whatever

type is within the confines of the GBRP. The answer cannot be

given in precise or mathematical terms.

PI.3·4 Term of Reference No. 2 "What would be the probable effects of such an oil

or gas leak and of the subsequent remedial measures

on -(a) the coral reefs themselves;

2 4

(b) the coastline;

(c) the ecological and biological aspects

of life in the area?"

The difficulty in answering this question in the

absence of proper scientific investigation including long­

term experiments has been referred to earlier.

"probable effects"

One suggestion made by Mr Woodward QC was that we

might construe the phrase as meaning "what would be the possi­

ble effects and what would be their degree of probability" but

this does not solve the difficulty of assessing "probable

effects" in many cases.

Mr Jeffrey QC (for APEA) in his final address

("Synopsis on TR2 pp.1-2) submitted that we should not state

effects which on the evidence are "possible" but which had not

been shown to be "probable". He stressed also that we should

not report "we do not know" or "we do not yet know". If these

submissions mean that we should assess and state "probabilities"

on evidence which we adjudge to be scientifically insufficient

to assess probabilities then we cannot accept them.

In the result we will state probabilities only in cases where we feel the evidence justifies us in so doing -

e.g. in relation to TR2(b) "the coastline" and in relation to

some aspects of weathered oil and gas leaks - but we will dis­

cuss and analyse all the scientific evidence in detail showing possibilities where we feel it would be helpful to do so. As

Mr Woodward said in his final address "A small risk of major

damage may be just as important as a great risk of small damage."

"remedial measures"

The most controversial of these especially in the waters of the GBRP would be dispersants and sinking agents

described and discussed in the answers to TR4 and TR2 whilst

containment skimmers, herders, absorbents, gelling agents and burning will also be considered.

"(a) the coral reefs themselves"


We propose to apply the definition of "coral reefs"

given by Dr Maxwell at T114 namely

"The term "coral reef" or, more accurately, "organic

reef'refers to a bathymetric elevation -- covered

by a veneer of living organisms and organic debris,

of which calcareous (lime-secreting) algae, coral,

molluscs and foraminifera are the dominant constitu­

ents ."

The degree of submergence of the coral reef (the

majority in the outer Barrier zone are permanently submerged)

will appear as an important variable probably affecting the

nature and extent of the hazard from oil. When dealing with

coral, sources of food and the nature of its dependencies will

be considered.

"(b) the coastline" The dictionary and geological definitions of such

terms as "coast", "shore", ’ ’shore-line" are somewhat varied

and vague. In the Oxford English Dictionary coastline is

defined as the border of land near the sea or sea shore. We

think that an appropriate definition of "coastline" in this

context is :-The area along the coast between low water mark

and high water mark and also such part of the

hinterland as can be reached or affected in the

heaviest weather by oil which is on or within

the sea water.

Hence the splash zone as known to biologists will be

deemed part of the coastline but in some localities the "coast­

line" will extend a little further inland - for example,

mangrove swamps, wetlands and lakes connected with the sea will be included.

"(c) The ecological and biological aspects of

life in the area." Under this title we will consider all forms .of

marine life within the Province.


"the area"

In the mirror legislation of 1967 relating to

Submerged Lands "the adjacent area" there under consideration

is defined as extending easterly from the low water mark along

the Queensland coast. (See Second Schedule to Act No. 36 of

1967). But the reason for this limitation is inapposite when

the Terms of these two Royal Commissions are under review,

and indeed a consideration of the Terms - perhaps particularly

of TR2 - becomes difficult if the Area is so limited.

Furthermore, it is essential that we spell into the

definition of "Area" the third dimension of depth, that is to

say "the space below", as is done by Section 6 of Act No. 36 of 1967 (The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act.)

Term of Reference No. 3

PI.3·5 "Are there localities within the Area of the

Great Barrier Reef and, if so, what are their

geographical limits, wherein the effects of an

oil or gas leak would cause so little detriment

that drilling there for petroleum might be per­

mitted. "

As in the case of TR1 an oil leak will be deemed to

include both massive and chronic spills.

The word "wherein" must be given a wide ambit. Oil

may drift or go ashore long distances from the source of an

oil spill or from the drilling locality. Again leaks some­

times occur in pipelines many miles distant from the production


Accordingly, such factors as the speed and efficiency

of contingency planning (remedial measures), the strength and

direction of winds and currents and the volume and nature of the spill must be taken into consideration when estimating

possible "effects" of an oil or gas leak. Such factors may

conceivably lead to effects occurring at distances remote from

the drilling locality albeit within the GBRP but changes in

composition during migration occur and these are dealt with in


the answers to TR2 and TR3. The extended construction assigned

to TR3 is given in paragraph 3.1.1 (see answer to TR3).

When considering "detriment" it seems necessary to

consider not only existing usage of the Reef area but also

potential usage within the forseeable future of say 15 to 20

years and also one must keep in mind that commercially

successful exploration would probably lead to a multiplicity of


The word "detriment" will be considered in relation

to such matters as coral and the eco-systems, tourism,

fisheries, science and the environment generally.

Term of Reference No. 4

PI.3.6 "If exploration or drilling for petroleum in any

locality within the Area of the Great Barrier

Reef is permitted, are existing safety precautions

already prescribed or otherwise laid down for that

locality regarded as adequate and, if not, what conditions should be imposed before such explora­

tion or drilling could take place?"

"existing safety precautions ... for that locality" There are no existing safety precautions for any

locality of the GBRP - unless some of the provisions of the

"mirror" legislation of 196? .itself (identical legislation

passed by the Commonwealth and the States in pursuance of an

earlier Agreement between them and known as the Petroleum

(Submerged Lands) Acts of 1967) can be described as containing

such safety precautions.

However the draft of Instructions to Parliamentary

Counsel for Safety Regulations made by Commonwealth and State

Authorities in 1969 became Exhibit 68 and was carefully

analysed in evidence by expert witnesses and is the subject of

many suggestions for amendment in the Commission's answer to


The phrase "safety precautions" must be given a wide

ambit and is not to be confined to "safety precautions against


oil or gas leaks". If it were otherwise many different real

hazards to the GBRP would have to be ignored by the Commis­

sions - a situation contrary to the intention of the Govern­ ments when establishing them.

Such hazards to coral and the eco-Systems of the

GBRP include the use of explosives, seismic surveys, dredging,

the disposal into the sea of cuttings, wastes of various kinds, mud and oiled liquids and substances.

"any locality within the Area"

This phrase might be thought puzzling if all safety

precautions relating to off-shore drilling were in fact laid

down on a national or state basis or if it were anticipated

that it were intended that they should be.

However, even if no particular significance was

intended to be attached to the phrases "in any locality" and

"for that locality" the Commission considers that in addition to particular directions which may be given under SlOl of

the Queensland Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967 - a

provision which as appears hereafter in the answer to TR4 in

the opinion of the Commission should be amended so as to make

it wider in its operation - the safety regulations when

finally drawn up and promulgated should be compiled with the

special conditions and circumstances of the GBRP in mind.

They should not necessarily be of general application to the

outer Continental Shelf of Australia.

In other words there should be (a) general regula­

tions after the style of Exhibit 68 as amended, (b) special

orders in the nature of the American "Field Order" issued under SlOl or some wider amending provision, and (c) a parti­

cular or special order issued under SlOl as amended to meet

some local emergency situation.

Term of Reference No. 5 PI.3.7 "What are the probable benefits accruing to the State of Queensland and other parts of the

Commonwealth from exploration or drilling


for petroleum In the Area of the Great Barrier

Reef and the extent of those benefits?"

"probable benefits" - "extent of those benefits"

The word "benefits" will be construed as "net bene­

fits" because some envisagable benefits are associated with

debits, such as foregone benefits (by way of example) and

there will be potential disadvantages such as peril to the eco­

systems. Not all benefits are capable of being computed or

valued in terms of money - and the same comment applies to the

disadvantages. The question cannot be answered in precise

terms or in the way which its actual wording seems to seek.

No one can forecast whether commercial success (and

if so its extent) will follow exploration for petroleum within

the GBRP, more especially perhaps as the existing prospectivity

ratings of the basins in the GBRP range from "fair" to "poor"

(with the one exception of the Papuan Basin in the extreme

North). Such ratings of course derive from a limited amount of

geological research and minimal wild-cat drilling but the posi­

tion remains that the "probable" nature and extent of benefits

cannot be forecast.

Accordingly, we will assume success and base our

answer on various hypotheses and assumptions relating inter alia to location, time, nature and quantum of such assumed

success. This procedure is necessary because no substantial

economic benefit can be envisaged from unsuccessful exploration

in the GBRP.

The subjects under "benefits" which the Commission

will discuss include inter alia national production, balance of

payments, royalties, income tax, effect on tourism and on the

environment and- decentralisation. Conflicting views between

various expert witnesses were given and will be canvassed in

the hope that a reliable broad picture of the possible and

occasionally probable pros and cons of drilling in the GBRP

will be presented. Owing to recent events in the economic

field in Australia and elsewhere there will be occasions when

our answer may require some adjustment to meet current





Answer to TR1 (Risk of oil leaks)

As to blowouts

PI.3.8 If petroleum drilling be permitted within the

GBRP there will be and remain a real but small to very small risk of blowouts. (paragraph 1.14.24) As to chronic pollution

If petroleum drilling be permitted within the GBRP it is almost certain that some measure of

chronic spills would occur ranging from small to

substantial. (paragraph 1.14.24)

Answer to TR2 (Probable effects of oil and gas

leaks and of remedial measures) * 1

PI.3·9 In the answer to TR2 a full treatment has been given of the lengthy scientific evidence presented

to the Commission on such subjects as the composi­

tion and properties of crude oils, their toxicities

and the important changes both in composition and toxicity which occur as the result of migration and

weathering, (paragraphs 2.1.1 to 2.4.40 in Parts 1 to 4) Detailed attention has also been given to field

studies of overseas spills both massive and chronic (Parts 5 and 6) to gas leaks (Part 7) and remedial

measures (Part 8) whilst in Part 9 (paragraphs 2.9.1 to 2.9.148) analyses are given of the evidence relat­ ing to the probable effects of oil on marine life in the GBRP including detailed references to certain

experiments of a general short-term nature which have

recently been carried out. Benthic organisms and birds, turtles, plankton and shoreline communities

including mangroves are also discussed and the evi-


dence thereon analysed. The answer In Part 10

separates the effects of freshly spilt crude oil

and weathered oil respectively.

As to freshly spilled crude oil

But the effects of freshly spilled crude oils

on corals and on the many different kinds of organ­

isms living on or associated with coral reefs have

not been sufficiently studied for the direct conse­

quences of massive and chronic spills to be predic­ ted with any degree of confidence or for the

indirect consequences to be predicted at all.

(paragraph 2.10.11) As to weathered oil The majority of the Commission (Dr Smith and

Mr Moroney) are of the view that oil which has been

at sea in the area of the GBRP and subject to

weathering for some 1-lh days will probably be depleted of the toxic components originally present

in the freshly spilt crude oil to the point where it

is virtually non-toxic to marine organisms,

(paragraph 2.10.24) The Chairman's Divergent views appear in paragraph


As to gas leaks These present little hazard to the marine life

of the GBRP save for possible limited and strictly

localised effects, (paragraph 2.10.25)

As to remedial measures Only two are considered to pose significant

hazards to organisms of the GBRP namely dispersants

and sinking agents. These should not be used except in a few special circumstances defined in paragraphs

4.4.55 and 4.4.61 respectively. (paragraph 2.10.26)


Answer to TR3 (Permitted drilling; localities)

PI.3.10 The majority (Dr Smith and Mr Moroney) are of

opinion that with certain designated buffer zones and subject

to the adoption of the safety precautions (including contin­

gency planning) recommended in the answer to TR4 drilling

could be permitted in the areas designated in general terms

in paragraph 3-4.7 and which include defined portions of the

GBRP ranging from Torres Strait N. of 10°S to the southern

end of the GBRP which is about 24°S. Dr Smith considers

that areas at least fifteen miles east of the outer Barrier

would also be permitted areas. Mr Moroney considers that

permitted areas outside or seawards of the outer Barrier

should be governed by relevant buffer zones as listed in

paragraph 3-4.8. Areas where drilling should be excluded

are also designated (paragraphs 3-4.5 to 3.4.8).

The Chairman's view is that all drilling throughout the GBRP including the area east of and adjacent to the outer Barrier should be postponed and be planned and permitted only

after the results are known of both the short and the long­

term research recommended in the Appendix to the Principal Introduction (paragraph 3.4.10). He has added, that whilst

recognising the force of his colleagues' views, he considers

that of the various permitted drilling localities recommended

by the majority, the Capricorn Channel by reason of its size and freedom from reefs , islands and cays would present the

least risk of detriment to shores and ecosystems if an oil

leak occurred therein provided a buffer zone of 30 miles

were adopted (paragraph 3-4.10).

Answer to TR4 (Safety precautions) PI.3·11 Many recommendations, suggestions and conclu-


slons are made in the answer to TR4. These have been

summarised in Part 10 of that answer namely in para­

graphs 4.10.1 to 4.10.143.

The recommendations have been designed for the

special conditions of the GBRP and are not in all

cases intended to apply to the whole of the Austra­

lian Outer Continental Shelf. (paragraph 4.10.4)

The recommendations include amendments to the

"Mirror" Legislation both Australian and Queensland

of 1967 known as the Petroleum (Submerged Lands)

Acts. (paragraphs 4.10.5 to 4.10.10)

Recommendations relating to contingency planning

and remedial measures are included. (paragraph

4.10.35 refers) Overseas and Australian blowouts are described

and their causes analysed. It is stressed that human

error has been invariably the sole or a major contri­ buting cause of all blowouts. (paragraphs 4.10.36 to

4.10.48) Miscellaneous hazards associated with

petroleum drilling and production cover a wide field

of activities and include the reception of crude oil at the production platform and its storage and trans­

portation to a shore depot either by submarine pipe­

lines or by barges or tankers.

The drafting instructions for a common code of

regulations compiled by Australian Governmental and

State authorities in 1969 (Exhibit 68) are shown to

be inadequate and to require extensive alterations.

Detailed recommendations thereon are given.

(paragraph 4.10.2 and paragraphs 4.10.68 to 4.10.140)

Some miscellaneous recommendations are given.

The ship-shape floating platform is deemed unsuitable

for GBRP conditions. (paragraph 4.10.141) Our

prohibition however applies only to the conventionally anchored vessels and the Commission recognises that

technical advances are being frequently made, for



example in station keeping and stability. No

inflexible view is intended to be recommended.

These qualifying remarks also apply to semi

submersibles - see recommendation number 5 in

paragraph 4.6.23 infra.

to TR5 (Probable benefits from petroleum drilling)

In this Term of Reference the word "benefits"

has been construed as meaning "net benefits."

(paragraph 5·1.3) Any answer must of necessity be based on assumptions or hypotheses - one of the

principal ones being that drilling would be commer­

cially successful, and various degrees of success

were assumed by the economists who contributed to

the expert evidence given to the Commission on this

Term of Reference.

Since hearing of evidence ended (which was

in mid-1972) overseas events such as major increases

made by OPEC countries in the posted prices of crude

oil and changes in local revenue legislation have

materially altered some of the premises on which

economists and other expert witnesses based their

evidence (paragraph 5-1.1).

Where deemed appropriate addenda have been

inserted drawing attention to the relevant changes and how they may be expected to operate (ibid). But

most of the principles and conclusions emerging from

the evidence given to the Commission do not appear

to have been affected (ibid).

Much of the expert evidence relating to

income tax and government "take" was given by

representative tables based on different assumptions and some of these have been reproduced for purposes

of illustration.

There will probably be both gross benefits (of a


financial and industrial nature) and potential dis­

advantages as the result of commercially successful

petroleum drilling in the GBRP.

The gross benefits will include (a) addition to

the national monetary wealth - depending on the size

of the discovered reservoirs, the cost of finding and

the proportion of Australian ownership of the explorer

and producer (paragraph 5-4.6) (b) lower prices to

Australian consumers - but this would depend on a number of contingencies which are listed in paragraph

5.4.7 (c) increased income tax the quantum of which

appears from various tables compiled on different

assumptions (paragraph 5-4.8) (d) royalties (para­ graph 5.4.9) (e) balance of payments position, but

for the reasons given no major impact thereon is

expected (paragraph 5.4.10) (f) self sufficiency

(paragraph 5.4.11) (g) Industrial development decent­

ralisation and benefits from natural gas (paragraph

5.4.12 and (h) increased technological and scientific

knowledge. (paragraph 5-4.13) The potential disadvantages will be: - (a) con­

sumption of irreplaceable resources (paragraph 5.4.14)

(b) interference with the environment and its enjoy­

ment by mankind (ibid,) (c) risk of damage to corals

and other marine organisms and to birds (ibid) and (d)

hazards to the tourist industry (ibid).

Neither the gross benefits nor the potential dis­

advantages can be quantified - in the former case

because of the varying assumptions which must be made

and in the latter because research and experiments as outlined in the Appendix to the Principal Introduc­

tion must be made before scientific knowledge will be

qualified to assess the effects of oil on corals and

other marine life in the GBRP.

Accordingly the answer to TR5 must take the form

of a summary of gross benefits and potential disadvan­

tages as set forth above.

These gross benefits and potential disadvant­

ages are detailed in Part 2 (paragraphs 5.2.1 to

5.2.179) and Part 3 (paragraphs 5.3.1 to 5-3.39) of the answer to TR5.





PI.4.1 The geography, geology, meteorology and hydrography

of the GBRP have been described in detail by Dr Maxwell in his

"Atlas" (Exhibit 2). Dr Isobel Bennett in her magnificently

illustrated "The Great Barrier Reef" (Exhibit 451) and others

deal more fully with the biology of the Province.

PI.4.2 It is proposed to give in summary form some features

which have in more or less degree an association with or bear­

ing on issues and aspects of the Commission's enquiries.

Some of the subjects briefly described in this

Introduction will be more fully discussed in the answer to TR2.

PI.4.3 There can be little certainty about geographical

dimensions and features in some cases owing to the incomplete existing knowledge of this large and complex area and also

because there is scope for differences of opinion in setting

out certain limits and reefal areas. Approximate boundaries

are discussed later and we have largely relied on detailed

strip maps (Exhibit 8) prepared for the Commission's use by the

Survey Office, Department of Lands, Brisbane in consultation with the Commonwealth Division of National Mapping. These

maps, reproduced on a smaller scale have been made an

attachment to the Report.

PI.4.4 A geologist's definition of the Province as given by

Dr Maxwell was:-"The Great Barrier Reef Province may be defined as

that region of shelf which is occupied by organic

reefs and reefal sediment or has come under the

influence of reefs since the end of the Tertiary


1,000,000 years ago; i.e. both existing and

relict reefs and reef deposits are criteria

used in the recognition and delineation of

the province." (T102)


Length and boundaries

PI.4.5 The Province extends from about 9°301 South to about

24°101 South (thus including Lady Elliott Island - T103 - a

difference in latitude of 14°401 - and is approximately 1,200 miles in length, measured roughly along the outer barrier.

If the northern limit of the "adjacent area" as defined in the

"mirror" legislation of 1967 is accepted a somewhat more

northerly and irregular boundary than 9°301 South would exist

reaching almost the southern coast of Papua north of Boigu and

Saibi Islands.

The western boundary is the coastline of Queensland

up to Cape York and thereafter the 142° meridian a little to

the west of Cape York.

The eastern boundary is difficult to define and no

attempt at precision can be made with any confidence.

PI.4.6 The Commission is not concerned with questions of

sovereignty and boundaries under international law and in any

event the definition given in the Terms of Reference to "the

Area" namely, "... to the outer line of the Reef and includes

also the area outside and adjacent to the outer line of reefs"

render any such questions somewhat academic.

PI.4.7 But it is of interest to note the view of the late

Sir Kenneth Bailey as set forth in paragraph 6.77 of the 1971 Report of the Senate Select Committee (Exhibit 450) in regard

to the suggested gap in sovereignty in our Australian consti­ tutional structure. Furthermore the boundaries of the

"continental shelf" according to the current trend of thinking


deriving perhaps from dicta in the International Court of

Justice "North Sea" 1969 judgment can no longer be accepted

as fully satisfied by the 1958 Convention "200 metres" defini­

tion - flexible although it was.

PI.4.8 Today, apart from the width extended by the "North

Sea" judgment questions relating to the continental plain, the

"slope" and other features are commonly discussed in the

writings of jurists and in many countries the delineation of

the continental shelf bristles with difficulties which will

doubtless be associated in the future with deep sea mining and

the Law of the Sea.

PI.4.9 The difficulties of delineating the eastern boundary are exemplified by the situations given to the 100 fathom line

and the edge of the continental shelf respectively in Exhibit

223 which consists of the three strip maps of the Queensland

coastline. On this exhibit are shown (a) the edge of the

continental shelf, (b) the 100 fathom line, (c) the "Imco" line

to which reference will be made in the answer to TR3 and (d)

the boundary of the Queensland "adjacent area" as defined in

the "mirror" legislation of 1967, which however can be disre­ garded for present purposes as it was established for a special

purpose and lies appreciably to the east of the limits of the


The so-called "Imco" line which was created on the

request of the Australian and Queensland Governments in 1971

although a useful and important boundary for the special pur­

pose for which it was designed is, for several reasons, consid­

ered to be less appropriate for our purposes than either the

100 fathom line or the edge of the continental shelf as shown

on Exhibit 223· The 100 fathom line which appears to have been the

boundary adopted by Mr Woods and apparently for the most part

by Dr Maxwell is shown in Exhibit 223 as coincident for a sub­

stantial part of its length with the edge of the continental


shelf, but In many places It diverges widely from It. Off the

central coast of Queensland there are two edges of the conti­

nental shelf shown about 80 miles apart and other Irregular features of the shelf are shown.

It seems to us that In general we may adopt albeit somewhat arbitrarily the 100 fathom line as marking the eastern boundary of the GBRP.

PI.4.10 However, the phrase "outside and adjacent to the outer line of reefs" appearing In the "Area" definition In the

Terms of Reference has Its own measure of vagueness which

attracted some consideration during the hearing.

PI.4.11 Firstly, the "outer line of reefs" Is not as clearly

defined In the extreme north and extreme south as It Is (for

example) east of Cooktown. Secondly, the word "adjacent" has a

measure of flexibility In this context as It has In some fields

of real property law lending Imprecision. But the desirability

of Its presence is clear because depending on the vagaries of

wind and current, oil spills deriving from drilling outside or

to the east of the "outer line of reefs" could conceivably

drift on to the true coral reefs of that area and indeed into

localities within the GBRP.

PI.4.12 Such eastern boundary will accordingly be taken as

including the Portlock (9°30' South and l44°45' East), Boot and Ashmore Reefs in the far north all of which are within the 100

fathom line but as excluding the Saumarez Reefs towards the

south (21°45* South and 153°30' approx. East).

Goldie Reef and Mr D.F. Jackson's submissions

PI.4.13 Some evidence was given on Goldie Reef, for a long

time considered and shown on maps to be situate north of Port-

lock Reef but towards the close of the hearing evidence was

deduced from the RAN (Exhibits 444 and 445) to the effect that

it does not in fact exist and that it will now be expunged from


Admiralty Charts. It is sufficient to add of certain submis­

sions made by Mr Jackson that most of the permit application

.area known as Q/IPA appears to be outside the "Area of the

Great Barrier Reef" as defined in the Terms of Reference.

Area of GBRP

PI.4.14 The total area of the GBRP was given variously by

expert witnesses. The differences in the assessments were sur­

prisingly large. On the evidence it might be said that a very

approximate estimate is 105,000 square miles.

Reefs and cays

PI.4.15 There is a total number of about 2,500 reefs in the


PI.4.16 There are between 60 and 70 sand cays in the Province,

but no atolls. The best known sand cays are Heron Island,

Green Island and Low Isles. Lady Elliott Island in the extreme

south, which is a wooded sand cay is the site of a lighthouse.

Heron Island which is typical of many sand cays is a low (about

15 feet), wooded island of "sand" about half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, completely surrounded by a coral plat­

form varying from a quarter of a mile to.two miles in width (on

the windward side) which is covered at high tide but partially

emergent at low tide. The "sand" is calcareous matter derived

from dead reef animals or plants. Foraminifera, molluscs, coral

and calcareous algae have been the main contributors to this

sand formation. Vegetation on cays can be low succulent creep­ ing vegetation or be heavier forests of Pisonia, Tournefortia

and Casuarina. Some cays totally lack vegetation.

Reef Zone PI.4.17 85% of all reefs within the Province lie within the

"Reef Zone" (Dr Maxwell T105)· This reef zone was said to be about 27,000 square miles in area (Annexure "A" to Exhibit


PI.4.18 This zone along its eastern boundary in some regions

is clo-se to the 100 fathom line, and runs NW - SE and is,

though not regular in outline, approximately 30 to 40 miles

wide in the Central Zone and up to 80 miles in the Southern

Zone of the Province (Dr Maxw'ell T105) . Its width in the

Northern Zone is much less.

PI.4.19 The total area of all reefs within the Province was

said to be between 4,300 and 5,000 square miles (Dr Maxwell


PI.4.20 Many substantial areas within the GBRP do not con­

tain coral reefs.

PI.4.21 The largest single unreefed area within the Province

is at the southern end of the Province, namely the Capricorn

Channel which has a maximum width of 100 miles. It narrows to­

wards its southern end because of the Capricorn and Bunker

groups of islands which lie east and north-east of Gladstone

to a distance of 60 or 70 miles from the coast.

The 100 fathom line PI.4.22 Throughout the length of the Province the 100 fathom

line in general runs outside and adjacent to the outer barrier

reef which is closest to the coastline northwards in the vici­

nity of Cape Flattery and Cape Melville (near Princess Char­

lotte Bay), namely about 17 to 20 miles and is furthest from

the coast at the southern end. The most eastern of the Swain Reefs which lie at the extreme south are nearly 150 miles from

the coast measured by the nearest, that is to say south-wester­

ly, route. If measured from Mackay in a due easterly direction

the most easterly of such reefs would be nearly 250 miles away. (The coast of Queensland in this locality has a general north­

westerly bearing). In the far north near Cape Melville the

100 fathom line begins to swing out to the north-east. Thus

Anchor Cay is nearly 150 miles north-east of Cape York.


Reef channels

PI. 4.23 There are many narrow gaps or channels in the outer

Barrier only three of which however are used as shipping routes,

namely the Grafton, Prince of Wales and Capricorn passages.

The other passages are not thought to be sufficiently accur­

ately defined for navigational purposes and also there are no

landmarks and with the currents that apply, they are not con­

sidered safe for sea-going passage (Capt Hildebrand at T303)·

The number of ships which pass coastwise along the inner GBR

route was about 1,600 annually two or three years ago. Of these

the number of tanker passages was 376. Vessels exceeding 39

feet draught do not use this inner route which in many places

is quite close to the mainland (Exhibit 223).

PI.4.24 To the south the Reef breaks up into many reefal

groups positioned in an east to west direction in depth, e.g.

the Pompey and Swain Reefs - the latter irregularly shaped and

occupying a substantial area some 75 miles in width at its

widest part and along its western edge nearly 100 miles in

length measured from north to south.

Depth at which coral grows

PI. 4.25 Many reefs are partially emergent at low tides - see

paragraphs 2.9.17 et seq. Corals flourish at sub-surface depths

from below the level of lowest spring tides down to about 60

feet and can live at greater depths, though not so profusely.

However no reef building corals occur at depths greater than 90

to 120 feet.

PI.4.26 Corals which are emergent or partially emergent in low

tides are not as luxuriant, diverse in species or colourful as

those which live under the surface. As to soft corals see

paragraph PI.6.27 infra.

Continental islands

PI.4.27 The well known resorts with the exceptions of Green

Island and Heron Island are continental islands which lie

close to the coast, and although some have fringing coral

reefs, they are not part of the Reef Zone. They are rocky

outcrops many of considerable height and are the exposed rem­

nants of now submerged coastal ranges. The Northern Cumber-

lands (the Whitsunday and Lindeman Groups which include such tourist resorts as Hayman, Molle, Daydream, Lindeman and

Brampton Islands) are among the best known and the most beau­

tiful of the continental islands and are among Queensland's

greatest tourist potentials. But other continental islands and resorts of equal beauty include Keppel, Hinchinbrook

(3,600 feet in height), Dunk, Magnetic, Palm and Lizard


PI.4.28 The main body of the coral reefs are in general many

miles distant from such continental islands and from the tour­ ist resorts and in some cases due to navigational difficulties

and the vagaries of wind, waves and current are difficult of


The GBR coastline PI.4.29 The coastline from Cape York to Gladstone consists

of a succession and intermingling of sandy beaches, rocky headlands and mangrove stretches. Approximately 30 per cent

of the total length consists of sandy beaches, about 42 per

cent consists of mangrove coasts and 14 per cent of rocky head­

lands (Mr Davis at T2507). Much of the coastline of Princess Charlotte Bay (Latitude about 14°S) consists of mud flats

(T2 49 8— 99)·

PI.4.30 The total length of the Australian coast is about 11,300 miles, of the Queensland coast 3,236 miles (Mr Davis at

T2496) and of the Barrier Reef as earlier indicated about 1,200

miles (T2497).

PI.4.31 A detailed description of the Queensland coast was

given by Mr Davis, Lecturer in Geography, Queensland University

at T2500 et seq and a map which he compiled largely from aerial

photographs became Exhibit 223· The following are extracts

from his evidence:

"... The coast shows great complexity of form, and in

some areas, headlands, beaches mangroves, estuarine

deposits and reefs occur in close juxtaposition.

... A unique feature of the Queensland coast is the complex of fringing reefs, coral cays and reef

platforms, 1,200 miles in length, which make up the

Great Barrier Reef. North of Cairns, this feature consists of an outer barrier of arcuate reefs convex

to the east, separated from a zone of platform reefs

and cays by a wide channel. Between Cairns and

Mackay, platform reefs are found without an outer

barrier, although the latter reappears south of

Mackay. The accompanying maps indicate that

fringing reefs occur as a major element on the

mainland coast and off-shore islands in north

Queensland." (T2496-7)

The three regions PI.4.32 The GBRP can conveniently be divided into three

regions - Northern, Central and Southern each distinguished by

its bathymetric character, temperature, wind, tide and current

regimes, and the density and kind of reef development. These

were described by Dr Maxwell (T105) as follows: -"The Northern Region between Latitudes 9°20' and 16°S (Papua to Cooktown) narrows southward from approxi­

mately 180 miles in the Gulf of Papua to a minimum

13 miles at Cape Melville, and maintains a constant

width down to Cooktown. Maximum depths south of

Torres Strait are generally less than 16 fathoms,

although some deeper channels do project inwards

from the shelf edge in the far north but with those


exceptions the greater part of that northern reef

has depths less than 16 fathoms. Reefs are uniform­

ly dispersed across the shelf. Near-shore reefs

(fringing) are common and shelf-edge reefs form

a near-continuous, narrow band along the entire

length of the region. Reefs approach right to the

shoreline. These are the fringing reefs. Again

this is a feature we do not see very well develop­

ed to the south.

"The Central Region I have taken between latitude

16°S and 21°S (shoreline) - 20°S (shelf-edge).

This is more or less the line north of Mackay ...

This is where the reef character starts to change,

but that is more or less the boundary ... The

maximum depths, as you go down, range from 16

fathoms in the north, and down here we get into

35 fathoms (indicating), but certainly not much

greater than 35. No true shelf-edge reef system

exists. Fringing reefs occur on many of the

island margins. They occur on the islands north

of Cairns and south down to Palm Island and of

course you have some on Magnetic Island and there

are fringing reefs in the Whitsunday area. Reef den­

sity on the shelf is less than elsewhere in the

province and many are poorly developed. ...

"The Southern Region extends from 21° on the shore­

line to 20° on the inner shelf-edge. It reaches a maximum width of 182 miles and depths in excess of

35 fathoms. Down here (indicating) the depths are of the order of 75 fathoms. It has the widest reef

zone of the three regions and its shelf-edge reef

system represents the largest and most complex

development of the entire province. Fringing reefs

are rare (T106). More than half the region is with­ out reefs. There is some coral growing there but

it is more or less on the slope of the shelf. There


is no positive elevation which I think is the essen­

tial criterion for a reef. It must be something that

stands up. This barren area (indicating) is more

than 40 miles from the shelf edge and is located

mainly on an old sedimentary basin - the Capricorn


"The barren region (Capricorn Channel) is a line

bordered by the inner edge of the marginal reef up

to Sandpiper Reef and the line then goes in shore-

wards to Mackay. In the south it is bounded by the

Capricorn Group." (T107)

Fringing reefs PI.4.33 In the Northern Region fringing reefs are common on

the islands.

In the Central Region fringing reefs occur on the

islands north of Cairns and south to Palm Island and also on

Magnetic Island near Townsville and in the Whitsunday group

near Mackay.

In the Southern Region fringing reefs are rare.

Water depths PI.4.34 The water depth or bathymetry of the GBRP was dealt

with by Dr Maxwell.

He said: -"There is a noticeable bathymetric trend from shallow

to deeper water as one moves southward from the

Torres Strait area to the Capricorn Channel. This trend, over a distance of approximately 900 miles

is reflected in the progressive increase of maxi­ mum depth from 17 to 70 fathoms. In addition to the regional variation in bathymetry, a normal shelf

zonation may also be recognised. This has been

described in the Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef


and briefly is as follows: -(i) Near Shore Zone 0-5 fathoms,

(ii) Inner Shelf 5-20 fathoms,

(ill) Marginal Shelf 20-50 fathoms (divisible

into Eastern and Western segments in the south), and

(iv) Southern Shelf Embayment, arbitrarily

delineated by the 35 fathom contour

and separating the Western and Eastern Marginal Shelves.

"Each Zone has its own distinctive bathymetric

character (described in the Atlas), and the main

reef development occurs on the Marginal Shelf Zone

in the three regions as well as on the Inner Shelf

in the Northern and North-Central Regions. Because

of its generally shallow bathymetry (less than 16

fathoms), the Northern Region has a very narrow Marginal Shelf Zone, but it is on the border of this

zone that the main linear reef development occurs.

On the Inner Shelf, platform reefs are more common.

"Throughout the length of the Province, a number of persistent bathymetric changes have been recognised.

These bathymetric changes were elaborated at T131 et seq and will be referred to later in the answer to TR2.

Meteorology and Hydrology

Climatic zones

PI.4.35 The GBRP is divisible into three climatic zones

which correspond approximately with the three zones delineated

by Dr Maxwell which he said were each distinguished by its bathymetric character and the density and kind of reef develop


These climatic zones are: -(a) the Northern - down to about 15°S. (That

is to say from the Torres Strait down

to Cooktown.)

(b) the Central - 15°S to 22°S (Cooktown to


(c) the Southern - 22°S to 24°S. (Mackay to


Prevailing winds

PI.4.36 The Northern Zone is characterised by its monsoonal

influences. "With the gradual retreat of the intertropic con­

vergence zone during April the south-east monsoon takes over

and blows with gradually increasing strength until about August

when it decreases" (Mr Shields at T328).

PI.4.37 "The Central Zone is the only section which may truly

be called a trade wind area. The south-east trades blowing out

from the northern section of the southern anticyclones centred

about 30°S during winter are at a maximum during this period.

During the spring, autumn and summer months the south-east

trade is weaker but persists in this area during most of the

period, but is occasionally replaced by light east to north­

east winds and occasionally in summer by tropical cyclones"

(Mr Shields T329)· But the Central Zone is the largest of the three

zones (7° of latitude).

PI.4.38 "The Southern Zone comes under the influence of both

tropical and temperate latitude systems and has a more variable wind pattern. Although south-easterly winds predominate

throughout the year in this area, they are far from constant in

the winter months, when the influence of southern troughs and

depressions introduce periods of north-westerly to south­ westerly or southerly flows, the latter of markedly temperate

latitude characteristics" (ibid at T329)·

PI.4.39 It will thus be seen that the south-easterly wind predominates in all three zones but particularly in the Central

Zone. In the Northern and Southern Zones, north-westerlies

occur from January to February, and from September to January


respectively but the winds are variable in those months.

Winds often swing to south-west in the mornings in the Central

Zone and in the summer months tend north-easterly in the

afternoons (Capt Hildebrand T301).

PI.4.40 Wind forces are generally moderate (force 3 or 4)

but in the Central Zone forces of 5 or 6 are quite often

reached. (The wind equivalents of the Beaufort scale numbers

3 to 6 inclusive are 7-10; 11-16; 17-21; and 22-27 respect­

ively) .

PI.4.41 The above generalisations are subject to local vari­

ations particularly within 20 miles of the coast where local topographical features and the land breeze modify ocean winds.

There are few data on the directional persistence of winds.

Gales PI.4.42 Gales are in general somewhat rare but local squalls

reaching gale force are quite common in the GBRP particularly

in the north, whilst winter gales exceeding 60 knots are a

fairly common feature in the zone south of Mackay (T301, 338

and Exhibit 58).


PI.4.43 Cyclones occur off the Queensland coast about twice

or three times a year between November and April but occasion­

ally more frequently, as in 1973-4. Any given part of the

coast is likely to be affected about once every two years the

diameter of the strong wind area being up to 300 miles but

Bowen, Townsville and Cairns were said to experience cyclones twice in three years and Thursday Island once in six years

(Dr Spillane T12531). The general direction of cyclone move­

ment is towards the south-west or south-east but there are


PI.4.44 Major damage to coastal towns has been reported over


the last 100 years on the following number of occasions: -Normanton 3

Cooktown 2

Cairns 5

Townsville 7

Bowen 5

Mackay 4

PI.4.45 Glenn and Associates reported to Gulf Oil Co. that

tropical cyclones -"are the most severe windstorms that occur in

the area and they develop waves of comparable

height to those for which offshore structures

in the Gulf of Mexico are designed". (T1144)

On the other hand Mr Shields said that Queensland

cyclones are more numerous but less intense than those of the

Gulf of Mexico (T359) and Dr Spillane thought they were if any­

thing less numerous and certainly less intense.

PI.4.46 The general effect of a cyclone is to produce "a

circular revolving storm moving in practically any direction

with serious disturbance of the normal ocean currents, tidal

streams and with marked variation in sea surface drifts. In

addition flood rains over adjacent coastal catchments produce tremendous fresh water flows through river estuaries extending

well seaward." (Mr Shields T338) Within recent years cyclones

have caused considerable damage to coral reefs.

Tides and currents PI. 4.47 Tides vary considerably within the GBRP. For example

at Mackay (an area of greatest rise and fall) high water spring

tides are 18.1 feet and low water spring 1.9 feet. At Green

Island (off Cairns) the corresponding figures are 7·3 feet and

1.7 feet respectively whilst at Gladstone they are 12.6 feet

and 2 feet. (At Brisbane the figures are 6.7 feet and 0.5



PI.4.48 "Bathymetric features such as channels, reefs and

banks have also influenced the flow direction. Prom the

hydrographic charts it is evident that tidal currents are

stronger in the northern and southern regions where maxima of

8 and 3 knots respectively have been recorded. In the central

region most velocity records are less than lh knots. The

exception is the Whitsunday Passage where higher velocities

are generated." (Dr Maxwell T139)

PI.4.49 Mr Rochford stressed the difficulty of predicting

the movement of tidal currents in the Reef zone (TI985).

After warning that in the hydrographic charts and the

"Australian Pilot" there were only 59 observations of tide

currents for the whole of the GBRP he said: -"In the near shore area there is a general flow

to the north ... in the region of about 17°

(Cairns). In the region south of 17° on the

other hand the flood tide sets to the south." (T1986)

Mr Ericson said: -"The tides have a strong effect on surface water

flow between reefs and on the open waters of the shelf. ... Where constricted by narrow channels

and passages current flow can exceed 5 knots."


Ocean currents

PI.4.50 Knowledge of non-tidal currents within the GBRP is

limited. Dr Maxwell said: -"The effect of these major oceanic■currents on water

movement within the GBRP has not been determined

satisfactorily ... quantitative data on the velocity and volume of flow of major oceanic currents through

the province is lacking." (TI38)


The main ocean current flows westwards across the

Coral Sea and Capt Hildebrand said it divides at about 15°S

(opposite Cooktown) when it reaches the outer edge of the Reef.

It then flows respectively north westward and southerly along the outer reef with an in-shore tendency. (T299)

Mr Rochford said (T1989) "Inside the Reef the only

source of information of wind driven non-tidal currents is the

Australian Pilot Vol. IV".

Broadly speaking the set is towards the north in the

northern region and towards the south in the southern (Mr

Rochford at T1987).

Wind induced currents PI.4.51 Capt Hildebrand said (T299 and Exhibit 12 p.9

refers): -"Currents between the reef and the coast are produced

(in the area navigated by ships) by the prevailing

winds which are mainly seasonal. From April to

November from approximately Rockhampton to Cape York,

a fairly consistent trade wind blows from the south­ east, producing a current which sets in a northerly

or north-westerly direction from half a knot to two


From December to March the prevailing wind north of

Cooktown is the north-west monsoon which is neither

strong nor constant and variable currents are prod­

uced which are irregular."

Water movements generally PI.4.52 Much other evidence was given to the Commission not

of an entirely consistent nature but which indicated that the

overall pattern of water movement in the GBRP produced by the

combined effects of oceanic currents, winds and tides is a com­

plex one (cf Dr Maxwell TI38, Mr Shields T340, Dr Spillane

T12331 et seq, Professor Woodhead T5267 et seq and Exhibits 12,

13, 31, 54 and 116).


PI.4.53 Additional currents due to tidal streams, strong

flows from river estuaries and currents due to convective

activity (up welling water due to temperatures) further comp­

licates the problem of estimating actual surface currents (cf Mr Shields T34l).

Dr Maxwell at T139 said: -

"The effects of current activity are variously

manifested. In the southern region large gyrals

of turbulent water occur on leeward and ocean

sides of the shelf edge reefs and appear to be

associated with tidal current flow. Similar turbulence is evident in the inter-reef passages

where fast tidal currents are active. ...

Currents of similar magnitude are developed in the

northern region and in the Whitsunday area of the central region ... In addition to turbulence and

aeration, currents (particularly tidal) remove

depleted water and organic waste from the reef

zone and replace it with oceanic water. This,

according to Yonge (1930), is an essential process

in reef growth. ...

PI.4.54 Mr Shields spoke of the sufficiency or otherwise of

presently available meteorological data within the GBRP and

although in the south the situation is improving having regard to the magnitude of the Province, "north of Cooktown networks are limited to widely spaced coastal stations with an absence

of data over the Reef area and the Gulf of Papua. The only

practical way of obtaining additional information is by the installation of automatic weather stations." (T34l)

PI.4.55 Detailed information on currents in the Capricorn Basin (in the south) was available from the work of Professor

Woodhead who released 1,200 drifters over a 12,000 square miles

area (T5255 et seq) but owing to the shape and size of the

drifters and the fact that they were designed to float at a


depth of 1 metre his results would not show the effects of wind.

The drifters were built "to compensate for the wind skimming

effect." (T5270) Consequently although useful for showing the

course of currents the results do not necessarily show the

likely direction of an oil drift except when wind and waves

were slight. Such results however (which relate only to the

southern area of the GBRP) are helpful in that they show the

directions of the important surface circulation factor which

would have to be taken into consideration when endeavouring to

estimate the direction and speed of an oil drift. Exhibits 24, 116 and 262 are referable. See, too, Part 3 of the answer to


Part of Professor Woodhead's conclusions were

(T5264): -"Inside the Capricorn and Bunker groups of reefs

the general movement was to the south and west,

on to the coasts of central Queensland. Off­ shore, there was a strong southerly flow passing

down the coasts of Queensland, forming a part of

the Eastern Australian Current and continuing

down the coast of New South Wales. The eddy south

of Swain Reefs tended to turn inside the Barrier

Reefs into the Capricorn Channel, through which

there probably ran a north-westerly current; there may also have been counter currents at either side

of the Capricorn Channel."

He added (T5266): -"A striking feature of the investigation was the very widespread distribution of the sea surface drifters,

indicating a high degree of horizontal dispersion

throughout the region. The large eddies would gene­ rate dispersal processes, particularly if they peri­

odically broke away from northern reef system, as an

eddy wake. Further, the numbers of individual reefs in the vicinity of many of the release stations also

produce smaller eddies, only a few miles in diameter;


many of these small surface eddies were obvious

on aerial photographs of the reefs, taken during

the charting surveys made by Australian Gulf Oil,"

PI.4.56 A detailed examination of the subject of exchange

of waters across the reef - temperature and salinity gradi­

ents - was given by Dr Maxwell who quoted from the work of

Mr Dale Brandon (Tl43 et seq). It is referred to later in the answer to TR2.

Migration of oil

PI.4.57 The main interest to the Commission of wind, tides

and currents lies in their probable or estimated effect on the

movement of an oil leak or spill in the GBRP. This subject is discussed more fully in the answer to TR2.

In Exhibit 144 Dr Maxwell said that the movement of

oil on the sea surface would be controlled by wind and current. He added: -"In the Queensland Shelf region, the S.E. Trades

which are prevalent from April to November have a

mean velocity of 7 to 10 knots and remain at a fairly constant level, although velocities in excess of 20 knots are not uncommon. The N.W. Monsoon

which is effective in the northern region from

December to March, has an average velocity of 4

knots (measured at Thursday Island) which decreases

southward. Cyclonic disturbances, mainly in the

period January to March, result in wind velocities

in excess of 100 knots. Strong Westerlies develop

over short periods in the winter, particularly in the southern region. Thus, with the exception of cyclonic winds, the surface water movement from

normal Trade Winds should average 0.34 knots, from

the Monsoon 0.14 knots and from the Westerly a com­

parable velocity. With extreme wind speeds of 50


knots, maximum surface drift would be 1.7 knots,

i.e. approximately 41 miles per day. The second

factor influencing water movement is the tidal

current. In the southern and northern regions

these flow mainly from the east and south-east

on the flood tide and from the reverse direction,

on the ebb. In the central region the main flow is

from the north-east and north. Nearer shore in the

southern region (Broadsound) and the northern

region (Princess Charlotte Bay) the flow is south­

ward. In the reef zone of the northern and south­

ern regions maximum velocities of 8 and more than

3 knots have been recorded. Velocity records in

the central region are mostly less than 1% knots.

In the more open shelf areas tidal currents are

generally less than 2 knots.

During the period April to November, the flood

tidal currents would tend to augment the surface drift generated by the S.E. Trade so that surface

velocities during the six hours of flooding tide

on the open shelf could reach values of 3.7 knots

(using a maximum wind velocity of 50 knots); in

the succeeding 6 hours, when ebb tidal current and

wind are opposed, net movement of surface water

could be negligible or even reversed. In the

central region, the ebb tide tends to augment sur­

face drift caused by the S.E. Trade. During the

monsoonal period (December to March) the surface drift southward is augmented by the flood tidal

current and opposed by the ebb tidal flow in the

northern region.

"Under cyclonic conditions the tidal factor becomes less significant and would augment or oppose wind

drift by less than 30% of its velocity.

Only in the constricted reef zones where wind fetch

is decreased and tidal current velocities are maxi-

mal would the tidal effect be more significant

than the wind effect in the movement of surface water.

"The third factor in surface water movement relates

to the oceanic currents (described by Wyrtki). His

maps have shown the penetration of the Queensland

shelf by the East Australian Current and the north­

ern arm of the Trade Wind Drift. Except for the south-eastern corner of the southern region (i.e. the Swains Complex and Capricorn Channel)

where velocities of 0.5 knots are shown on his

maps, the greater part of the province is affected

by currents of less than 0.4 knots."

PI. 4 .58 Details of the directions and rates of drift which

might under fairly normal conditions be predicted in the vari­

ous basins from the Papuan in the north to the Maryborough in

the south were given by Dr Maxwell at TI653 to TI663.

The broad impression which the Commission has

received is that, generally speaking, oil split within the southern and central regions of the GBRP would, as the result

of prevailing south-easterly winds in most months of the year move towards the coast but in irregular fashion due to north­

erly and southerly influences of surface tidal and ocean cur­

rents. In the northern region the migration might generally go in a western or southerly direction. As appears elsewhere

an oil slick could be expected to move with the surface wind

at the rate of about 3% of the velocity of the wind. Currents

moving in the same or contrary direction would appreciably affect the flow of the oil. The general force of such currents

would normally be towards the coast or in a northerly or

southerly direction. The complexities referred to in para­

graph PI.4.57 supra and which were dealt with in much detail by Dr Spillane, Professor Woodhead and Mr Mansfield coupled

with the vagaries of local currents and seasonal winds make

this broad impression subject to many unpredictable exceptions


which exemplify the desirability of having as much local

meteorological and current data as possible when applying

remedial measures in an oil spill contingency. The general

trend of the Queensland coast towards the north-west is of

importance in connection with the above comments.

PI.4.59 There would be occasional climatic circumstances

especially in the northern and eastern areas of the GBRP when

wind or current could tend to move an oil spill towards the


PI.4.60 With a fresh prevailing wind (SE) and whilst tide

and surface current were moving in a similar direction to the

wind an oil spill could be expected to travel in a general

coastwise direction at speeds of up to a mile or even two miles

per hour but these figures could vary appreciably.

PI.4.61 The presence of an untoward set or current or of a

strong wind would appreciably affect the rate of travel of an

oil spill.

Rainfall PI.4.62 Over the whole GBRP there is a relatively dry season

in winter and spring and a wet season in summer and early

autumn. In the south the difference is less marked than in the

north. At Innisfail the wettest month has about 26 inches and

the driest about 3 to 4 inches (total rainfall averages 143 inches.) At Cooktown the dry months have each less than an

inch and the wet months 14 or 15 inches each. The lowest rain­

fall is at Bowen which has only 30 - 40 inches.

Air temperatures PI.4.63 The mean annual temperatures for the GBRP vary from

27°C in the north to 24°C in the south. In January the range

is 26° to 28° and in July 19° to 25°.


Sea Temperatures

PI.4.64 In January and February these range from 28°C in the

north to 26°C in the south.

In August the range is 23° to 20° (Exhibit 12 p .46).


PI.4.65 Visibility less than 1,100 yards is rarely reported

by ships at sea apart from a few reports southward of 15°

South in July, September and December. Poor visibility (less

than 5 miles) is more frequent and largely caused by mist or

haze. .

On the coast, fog is more frequent than at sea.

Rockhampton reports fog on three days a month in three months,

otherwise less than one day per month.

Mackay reports two or three days a month for four-

months , otherwise less than one.

Townsville reports one day a month in October,

otherwise less.

Cairns reports one day a month in two months, other­

wise less (Exhibit 12 pages 43-4).



Origin and accumulation of oil

PI.5-1 Mr Stewart, Senior Petroleum Engineer, Department

of Mines, Queensland gave evidence thereon: -"It is now generally accepted that oil originated

from the decomposition of aquatic, mainly marine,

animals and plants buried under successive layers

of mud and silt perhaps as much as ^ 00-500 million

years ago. An inorganic source of petroleum advo­

cated by some U.S. and Russian scientists remains

an alternative though somewhat speculative hypothe­

sis .

The primary requirement for the genesis of petro­

leum from organic material is an environment of shallow seas, such as the Gulf of Mexico, in which

the water is rich in animal and vegetable life from

microscopic to large. The second requirement is that

organisms, on dying, should sink to the bottom of

the sea and be buried by mud from rivers, in the way

that mud from the Mississippi today buries millions

of organisms daily as it settles on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions on the sea bottom

must be such that no rapid decay of the dead organ­

isms takes place by bacterial action; the oxygen

content of the water must be small.

"In the course of time mud and silt layers deposited

on top of the potential source beds produce pres­ sures and higher temperatures in these beds. At a

burial depth of several thousand feet chemical pro­

cesses, probably not dependent on bacterial activity,

transform the soft parts of the organisms into oil

and gas. Indications are that gas is preferentially

generated at greater depths. ...


"As the overburden pressure tends to compact the

'source rocks', oil and gas, probably together

with some of the associated water, is squeezed out,

provided adjoining formations are sufficiently per­

meable, that is, that they allow the passage of

liquid and gas through the pores of the rock or

through a system of fractures and cracks. So the

rock fluids start to migrate, either upwards or

sidewards or possibly downwards. There is evi­

dence that oil has thus travelled over long dis­

tances, even dozens of miles.

"In the past the path of migration must often have

led to the surface, where the oil was washed away

or its lighter components evaporated into the air.

Seepages in all parts of the world, such as the

Trinidad Pitch Lake and the perpetual fires of

Baku, are evidence of oil and gas still escaping

from the subsoil today.

"Sometimes migration is halted, for instance by a

layer impervious to the passage of fluids. If oil is thus trapped in a porous formation and is no

longer able to move, an oil accumulation forms.

The porous formation provides storage capacity

for the fluid in its pores or interstices, as a

sponge holds water, and is called the 1 reservoir

rock'. The impervious layer that prevents further movements of fluid is the 'sealing formation' usu­

ally referred to as the 'seal' or 'cap rock'. The

seal must be shaped in such a way as to effectively

trap the fluid in the reservoir. Various types of

traps created by different geological phenomena are

described below." (T4310-1) However, fuller geological details of the accumula­

tion of oils and of folds, faults, domes and traps appear to

be unnecessary for our purposes.


Oil basins PI.5.2 "Suitable conditions for the formation and accumula­

tion of oil exist in the downwarped segments of the

earth's crust where layers of sediment have accumu­

lated to great thickness, thickest in the middle and

thinner towards the edges. Such areas are called

1 sedimentary basins', and are considered as potential

'oil basins' worth investigating for the presence of

oil until its absence is definitely proved. Topogra­

phically they are generally low and many occur along

the continental margins and in the foothills and low­ lands bordering mountain chains." (T4311-2) (See

also T1289)

Rock types ,

PI.5.3 "Rocks are divided into three main groups: igneous

rocks which include granite and volcanic rocks, con­

solidated from hot liquid material; sedimentary rocks, either fragments of other rocks deposited on land or

under the sea by wind and water, or chemically deposi­

ted, for instance as evaporation products, or of orga­ nic origin; metamorphic rocks, igneous and sedimentary

rocks whose composition and structure have been pro­

foundly changed by heat and pressure.

"Igneous and metamorphic rocks cover immense areas of

the earth's crust, forming the central nuclei of the continents, called shields, or they occur as smaller

masses (massifs) located all over the world. Many old

shields and massifs were not submerged beneath the sea for considerable periods in their geological history

and are therefore bare of sedimentary rocks and can

bear no oil. In other regions, however, vast areas of igneous and metamorphic rocks subsided below sea

level and became the floor of potential oil basins.

Their nature normally prevents their bearing oil but

if fractured they can act as reservoirs for oil that


has migrated from overlying sedimentary rocks."


The geology of the reef area

PI.5.4 Insufficient exploration has taken place to justify

a definite description of the geology of the off-shore area.

Mr Vine, Geological Branch, Bureau of Mineral Resources said (T1458):

"In essence, the Great Barrier Reef area consists

of a basement of hard rocks, the off-shore

continuation of several mesozoic sedimentary basins

and a cover of tertiary and quaternary sediments,

generally thin, but thicker in downwarps or grabens

The geological sequence has been traced from the

mainland by geophysical methods, supplemented by

information from a very few petroleum exploration wells."

After discussing the broad distribution of rock

units in the Queensland coastal belt and the significance of

basement rocks Mr Vines added:

"However, where magnetic basement is shallow over

large areas the sedimentary cover is probably thin

and petroleum prospects would, therefore, be poor. Such is the situation for a large area off Towns­

ville, where the magnetic surveying has not given

much encouragement in the search for sedimentary

basins in the Great Barrier Reef area." (T1460)

Inadequacy of geological knowledge

PI. 5·5 Several witnesses spoke of the inadequacy of geolo­ gical knowledge of the GBRP but Mr Woods, Chief Government

Geologist, Department of Mines, Queensland, seemed to

summarise the general view when he said (T769):-"Knowledge of the geology of the Great Barrier Reef has been obtained by study of the rocks outcropping on islands and sediments from the sea floor; by

interpretation of the topography, including the use

of aerial photographs; by extrapolation of the on­

shore geology; by Interpretation of various geo­

physical results; and from the study of the cores

and cuttings and other data from the few drill-holes

into the shelf. Mainly because of the small number

of drill-holes, precise knowledge of the sub-surface

geology is lacking over the greater part of the area.

Also, because the data are scanty, there is some

variance in the interpretations by geologists of the

subsurface geology and accordingly the petroleum

prospects. However, the available data attests the

complexity of this province, as may be expected when one considers land areas of similar magnitude."

PI.5.6 Mr Woods said that whilst there are some areas namely

the basins which are more likely to contain petroleum products

than others, there is virtually no part of the GBRP as to which he could say there was no possibility of obtaining petroleum.

He said (T788): -"I would only exclude absolutely the basement areas

which outcrop as continental islands along the

coast. I have used the word 'absolutely' and this

is why I use the terms 'recognised sedimentary

basins' ... because our knowledge of the geology of

the Queensland shelf is in a very preliminary stage

and I think as further studies proceed the picture

will be shown to be rather more complex and undoubt­ edly somewhat different from that which we are pres­

enting at the moment." Other witnesses who spoke to the same general effect

were Mr Ericson T1195 and T1282, Mr Allen T1398 and T1310 and

Mr Vines Tl48l.

Mr Ericson (of Australian Gulf Oil) was not prepared

on data presently available to put discovery of petroleum in

the GBRP as probable: he said it was a possibility.


Basins and highs

PI.5-7 Mr Woods said: -"The basins are relatively the prospective areas.

The highs are relatively unprospective although

in our present state of knowledge it is impossible

to say that some highs are not covered by a suffi­

cient thickness of cainozoic marine sediment to be

worthy of test, one such high has been tested at

Wreck Island ... The high area is one which bounds

a basin and presumably has featured in the struct­

ural history of that basin and has presumably con­

tributed sediment which has filled that basin to a

greater or lesser extent." (T787)

The sedimentary basins and petroleum potential of GBRP

PI.5-8 A number of witnesses spoke on these and three maps

define them namely Exhibits 48, 101 and 223 and Exhibit 135 tabulates them.

There are seven sedimentary basins in the GBRP and with one exception their official classification as petroleum potentials vary between "fair" and "poor". The exception is

the Papuan Basin in the far north which is classified "good".

The seven basins with their respective classifications as

given by Mr Allen of the Queensland Geological Survey Branch of the Mines Department and by Mr Vine (B to D - see infra)

are (from north to south): -Papuan (North and East of Cape York ) Good or B

Laura (Princess Charlotte Bay area) Fair or C

Halifax (North of Townsville) Unknown

Proserpine (or Hillsborough) (Between

Bowen and Mackay)

Styx (Broadsound)

Capricorn (East of Heron Island) Maryborough (East of Bundaberg)

Poor to

Fair or C Poor or D

Fair or C Fair or C


Mr Allen's classification of the basins into "good"

(Papuan Basin), "fair", "poor" and "unknown" is far from being

a precise method of classification as his evidence showed and he

does not appear to have given these words their normal or

dictionary meanings. Much seemed to turn on the number of ex­

ploratory wells sunk and he stressed the component of "persis­

tence" of exploration (T1400). For example, he said that "poor"

means "possible but it could be a very difficult and very

expensive business to find it." (T1403)

Mr Vine (Tl48l et seq) used a different classification

(A to D) of which "B" would roughly correspond with Mr Allen's

"good" but his suggested categories did not seem to lead to any

material difference in the petroleum prospects as given by Mr

Allen and at T1479 he gave the lithology at various depths of

the unsuccessful Anchor Cay well sunk by Tenneco-Signal in 1969.

He added "Miocene reefs have not yet been positively

identified in Queensland waters, but the Anchor Cay well is im­

portant in that it established the presence of a pliocene reef."

(T1479) Both the miocene and pliocene epochs are in the

tertiary period of the Cainozoic era but the miocene is con­

siderably older. A geological time scale was attached to Mr

Woods' statement (Exhibit 42).

PI.5.9 Existing exploration permits granted under the Petro­

leum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967.

Permits relating to these basins are as follows:-

Papuan Basin Q/1P, Q/2P, Q/3P, Q/10P and Q/11P.

Applications have been sought by 20

and 10 applicants respectively for Q/1PA and Q/2PA. The positions of

these permit areas are shown on Ex­

hibit 197 which also shows the loca­

tions of the basins.

Laura Basin The southern section Q/8P is held under permit and part of the central section

is within Q/9P. For the northern tip


Hallfix Basin

Prosperlne Basin

Styx Basin

Capricorn Basin

Maryborough Basin


Q/3PA there were no applications.

Most of the basin in accessible

water depth is in Q/7P. Only

a narrow strip runs between this

permit area and the edge of the

Continental Shelf.

This is entirely contained with­ in Q/12P.

This also is within Q/12P.

Part is in Q/4P and the balance

which is in deeper water is i'n

Q/5P. The southern part is Q/13P. The

northern part Q/7PA attracted no applications.

There were no applications for Q/4PA, Q/5PA, or Q/6PA - all

within the GBRP but outside Wee

recognised basins.

Names of permittees and applicants

PI. 5·10 The names of the permittees in respect of Permits

Nos. Q/1P to Q/13P with the respective numbers of blocks and

term of years are set forth on the first page of Exhibit 85.

Exhibit 509 contains additional information relating to

ownership and this has been set forth in Appendix "D" to the


The names of the applicants for areas Q/1PA, Q/2PA

and Q/10-12PA are set forth in Appendix "C" to Exhibit 80

which also contains a map - Appendix "D" - showing the

position of all relevant permit areas. Exhibit 197 a map

produced by the Department of Mines Queensland and delineating the Queensland off-shore permit areas and sedimentary basins

has been made an attachment to the Report.


Seismic stability

PI.5·11 Geologists seem to be satisfied that the Great

Barrier Reef area is seismicly stable. Evidence to this effect

was given by Mr Woods (T796), Dr Chapman (T3525-7, 3578), Dr

Jones (T1879) and Dr Maxwell (T221). Evidence was also given

by Dr Webb (Senior Lecturer in Geophysics, University of

Queensland) on the subject "Seismicity and Earthquake Risk in

the Region of the Queensland Continental Shelf" of various

minor earthquakes, one only - in 1918 - of maximum intensity VII-VIII having its epicentre doubtfully within the Queens­

land Continental Shelf. However, Dr Webb's conclusion was


"Bearing in mind the difficulties of predicting

from inadequate data, the balances of evidence sug­

gests that this is an area of low earthquake risk."

The general view supported tectonic stability as a feature

of the GBRP.

Dr Webb said that no properly designed structure

should suffer any damage from earth tremors in the area


Likely oil types PI.5.12 It is not possible to predict with confidence the type of oil which might be discovered if exploration were

successful in the GBRP.

Oils hitherto found in Australia (Bass Strait, Alton,

Moonie, Barrow Island) have been light with a low sulphur content. They have a high proportion of gasoline, kerosene

and diesel oil components but low proportions of furnace oil

and lubricating stocks and no asphalt base stock. As a

consequence if further reservoirs however extensive of such

type only are found in Australia (on or off shore), the total

home consumption requirements can never be satisfied and a

measure of heavier oil will always have to be imported even though generally this light oil is graded as superior quality.

However, it does not at all follow that any oil which


may be found in the GBRP will be of a light quality or similar

to Bass Strait or Moonie oil. In many parts of the world light

and heavy oils have been discovered in close proximity to each

other. At T10990 Mr Cowell said:

"The other point is that it is very misleading to

talk about a Russian crude oil or a Canadian crude

oil because the differences in a crude sample from

one well may be very great compared with another

well only a number of miles away and it would there­

fore mislead the public to talk about oil from one

country when that country itself may have 20 to 30

different types encompassing the whole range."

It can however be said that any discovered GBRP oil

is more likely than not to be of a light nature.

Most evidence given to the Commission proceeded on

the basis that it is impossible to predict whether any petro­

leum found in the GBRP would be in the form of oil or gas or

both. Other witnesses included Mr Allen (T1336-7), Mr Woods

(T894) and Mr Keith (T12095-6).

The only suggestion to the contrary (which is con­

fined to the sediments intersected by a single drill-hole)

came from Mr Ericson who said at T1201 when dealing partic­

ularly with the Capricorn basin and the two wells unsuccess­ fully drilled there in 1967-1968:-"No gaseous or liquid hydrocarbons were noted in

either the Capricorn No. 1A or Aquarius No. 1 bores,

but organic material and lignites were encountered.

In the marginal marine or deltaic facies such material

can be a source of petroleum or natural gas.

"Most of the petroleum found in Australia, notably

in the Gippsland Basin, is found associated with

plant remains and lignites. In Gippsland, natural

gas and light paraffinic crudes with gravities above

40° API (American Petroleum Institute) are produced.

The similar facies and Tertiary age of the sediments

in the Capricorn Basin could produce hydrocarbons


of the same type.

A study of the kerogen content of samples In Aquarius

No. 1 indicated that gas would be the most likely

hydrocarbon in that area.

Kerogen is a material which is actually broken up

plant remains. It is not exactly a mineral but it

is the material in shale which yields oil on dis­




General PI.6.1 A coral reef is an organically created structure

composed mainly of calcium carbonate which stands on the

sea-bed and rises to about sea level.

PI.6.2 In the GBRP the reefs are covered by a veneer of

living organisms of many kinds and in greater or lesser degree

of organic debris of which lime-secreting (calcareous) algae,

corals, molluscs and foraminifera are the dominant constituents.

The coral polyp which manufactures and inhabits the

coral skeleton is scientifically speaking an animal with

single cell algae called zooxanthellae living within its

tissues and with which it has a symbiotic relationship i.e.

mutual interdependence - T4222. The coral polyp feeds on animal plankton (zooplankton) which in general live on veg­

etable plankton (phytoplankton). Whether the symbiotic zooxanthellae living within the tissue of the polyp also

supplies a food source for the polyp appears as yet to be

undetermined - Sir Maurice Yonge T9275 et al - but see ref­

erence to recent work in paragraph 6.76 infra.

The coral polyp is a small cylindrically shaped

organism with a central cavity bounded by a two layered wall.

They are carnivorous and capture food (the animal zooplankton)

by an outspread circlet of mucus secreting tentacles which

surround the mouth. Food is digested within the cavity and

elimination of digested food is also made through the cavity.

Corals are classified scientifically within the phylum of the Coelenterata and the class Anthozoa and are most closely re­ lated to the so-called soft corals, and to sea-anemones which

are both commonly found on reefs.


PI.6.3 Zooxanfchellae are microscopic plants, which are des­

cribed in detail later, which depend on photosynthesis for

their maintenance and growth (Professor Woodhead, University

of Newfoundland - T5325) and can therefore live only in that

upper zone of the sea into which penetrates sufficient light

from the sun. The corals in addition to obtaining their colour

derive important benefits from the zooxanthellae with the

result that they do not thrive at depths below the upper sun­

lit zone. Reef building corals in the Barrier Reef Province

grow down to a depth of about 90-120 feet below the sea sur­

face (T215, 1501, 5303) but the depth of their flourishing

and most profuse life is about 30-50 feet (T232, 615, 5303,

5334). (Sir Maurice Yonge referred to corals growing to a

depth of 90 metres, but he was uncertain of this figure

(T9270)). Mr Cropp spoke of coral growing at 150 feet (T11769).

Professor Woodhead referred to the discovery of an isolated

coral at over 30 fathoms (T5303) and to corals in the Atlantic

at depths of 200-300 ft. (T5305)· The last however are not

reef building corals.

PI.6.4 The reefal remains of reef building corals at depths

greater than 90-120 feet are due to a gradual subsidence of the

sea bed or a gradual elevation of the sea level.

General description of reefs PI.6.5 As earlier stated the GBRP is said to contain about

2,500 reefs some of which are large.

Much of each reef was formed between ten and twenty

thousand years ago based on much older reefs some millions of

years old.

Dr Talbot (Director of Australian Museum, Sydney)

said (T946):-"The reef as a total structure is therefore of an

ancient age with a veneer of rapid recent reef

growth." It is the "veneer" (which grows from about the

surface down to 120 or more feet) which is so richly coloured

and which has attracted around it such a complex and delicately

balanced series of eco-systems both fauna and flora.

The veneer when seen in profile varies in thickness

from about 3 feet to 10 feet. The greater thickness occurs

where the tall branching corals flourish. Included in the

veneer are soft corals as well as algae, molluscs and


PI.6.6 There are however, large areas of reefs where corals

are sparse or absent altogether. In a typical case only 20% of a reef's surface may be covered with corals. This varies

from reef to reef and in different parts of each reef (T231-2).

A really flourishing reef may have an 80% coverage (T13002).

Dr Endean put the average figure for coral coverage at 40%

(T12938) .

PI.6.7 Encrusting algae tend to overgrow the coral skeletons,

and there is continuous competition between the different

living members of the community. The history of a coral reef

is really a story of the life and death of living things and

the deposition and sedimentation of their calcareous remains

under the influence of oceanographic factors.

PI.6.8 The corals do not however provide the largest part

of the reef "biomass." Sir Maurice Yonge said (T9241):-"In terms of what we call a biomass ... the actual

bulk of living material, the corals would actually come quite low ... actual living tissue, even in a

massive coral colony, is very slight indeed ..."

(See also Dr Halstead T7308, Dr Orme T1501.)

Dr Halstead (T7308) said:

"Corals appear to dominate the reefs visually, but do

not comprise the major fraction of reef community

biomass or energy metabolism."


and Dr Orme said (T1501)

"Therefore the living, sedentary, calcium

carbonate secreting organisms form only an

outer shell to no more than the upper 120 ft.

of the reef structure, and they generally

constitute only a small part of the total

reef mass at any one time. Nevertheless,

this living 'skin' (3 to 10 ft.) is vital

to reef growth, and its death would lay

the reef open to rapid erosion by waves

and currents."

Reef zones

PI.6.9 A brief summary of portions of the evidence given by

Dr Maxwell and Professor Thomson on the distribution of fauna

and flora on and in the reef zones seems a desirable background

to the answer to TR2.

At T115 Dr Maxwell said:- "Regardless of its internal structure and

composition, every organic reef is character­

ised by 3 topographic elements which have

been moulded in various ways by organic

growth, sediment deposition and surface

erosion. These elements are the reef

slope, reef rim and reef flat. In addition

to these basic elements other topographic features are variously developed, viz.

lagoon, back-reef apron, ancillary reefs,

banks, cays, boulder zones ... Depending

on the mode of development of its topo­

graphic elements a reef of the continental

shelf may be assigned to one of 14 basic

reef types ... Essentially, they fall into

two broad groups - first, the symmetrical

reefs in which the topographic elements

are concentric about the reef mass and,

secondly, the linear reefs in which the


topographic elements tend to be arranged

parallel with the main seaward face of the


PI.6.10 Professor Thomson described the zones as follows

( Τ 6 1 3 ) :-"Typically a reef rises steeply from the

continental shelf floor, which is on the

average about 20 fathoms deep. The outer

rampart facing the weather side is covered

by living coral, its face being irregularly

dissected by gullies. Inside the rampart

is a rather deep trough called the outer moat where patches of living coral are

scattered amongst niggerheads (dead masses

of coral that blacken when exposed to sun.

and air), and boulders of limestone rock

(see figure 72 in Maxwell's Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef). ... Here the water

surges continually from the heavy surf

hitting the outer rampart.

"From the outer moat the reef wall or

inner rampart gradually rises to reef

crest, where there often lie large nigger­

heads. Inside the reef crest is usually

a shallow inner moat where living and

dead coral mingle, and beyond is the gradually sloping floor of coral sand on

which patches of coral are scattered. The

floor slopes to the lagoon with fewer and

fewer corals reaching the surface as the distance from the reef crest increases.

The rampart is seldom well developed on

the leeside of the reef, and the rampart of inner platform reefs is poorly develop­

ed compared with those of the outer



Then the witnesses described at length the different

zones namely (a) the reef slope, (b) the reef crest, (c) the

reef flat, (d) lagoons, (e) the outer flat or back-reef zone,

and (f) the beaches and other zones.

As to (a) reef slope

PI,6.11 "Reef slope is the face of the reef from

shelf floor to reef-rim. It varies in

height from 16 to 32 fathoms for the majority

of reefs although those of the near-shore

zone are much smaller ... The slope gradient

is interrupted by a number of terraces, the

most persistent being found at 2-25$, 7 and

10 fathoms. The lower part of the slope

carries a very sparse faunal cover. Sand

and gravel derived from reef organisms are

abundant, both on the lower slope and on

the terraces. As one progresses up the

slope, fauna becomes more prolific and

from 30 feet to reef edge, coral is domin­

ant. This is possibly the zone of most

profuse and most diverse coral growth. The many species of Acropora, particularly A.

hyacinthus, A. humilis and A. pulchra are

abundant ...

Reef front is the highest part of the slope

above the 2-fathom terrace. It includes the spur-and-groove structure - projecting walls

of coral and algae, separated by channels

covered by reef debris ..." (Dr Maxwell T121-2)

PI.6.12 Professor Thomson said of this zone that it is not

bared at low tide that the corals are luxuriant and the fish

and other animals abundant (T629).

PI.6.13 Dr Cribb said that the richest part of the reef was

the saw-tooth area (what Dr Maxwell called the "spur and


groove" structure). He said that these indentations penetrat

ed deeply into the face of the coral rampart and were deep

vertically also - perhaps 12 ft. deep. He said that the top

9 - 1 2 inches of these structures would be exposed "at least

between surges of low spring tides." (T4756)

As to (b) reef crest

PI.6.14 Dr Maxwell said (T123):-"...Reef rim (or crest) is the highest part

of the reef and separates the reef slope

from the reef flat ... It varies considerably

from reef to reef. In many cases it is

typified by the abundance of encrusting

algae (Lithothamnion and others) which

form a hard, resistant surface. Small

isolated colonies of branching corals are

also abundant on some rims. In most cases,

the reef rim carries extensive boulder and

shingle deposits which add to its relief."

PI.6.15 Professor Thomson said (T628-9):

"This is an area of coral boulders and

rubble. On the rocks will be barnacles

(Tetraclita vitiata), a few oysters

(Crassostrea amosa), chitons (Acanthozostera

gemmata)■ A peculiar boring chiton Crypto- plax laeviformis) is found in the rock.

Various crabs and molluscs including cowries

are under the stones and in crevices. Mantis-

shrimps (Gonodactylus spp. ) are also common

here. Large fish graze in this area during high tide, including parrot fishes (Calliodon

fasciatus) and rabbit fish (Siganus spp.).

In the crevices lurk eels.

"The outer slope of the reef crest has a

covering of both coralline algae and a short

green algae, as well as some anemone-like

animals called Zoanthids. The corals here

are mostly encrusting forms. Where pools

form coral growth is luxuriant."

As to (c) reef flat

PI.6.16 Dr Maxwell said (T148):-"The third structural element is the reef

flat which includes the zone of living

coral, the dead coral zone and the sand

flat. In the first zone, large shallow

pools behind the reef rim support profuse

populations of branching coral - Acropora pulchra, Pocillopora and Seriatopora are

probably the dominant forms."

PI.6.1? Professor Thomson said (T625) "Inshore reef flat. There is a lot of

gritty sand in this inner reef area and

the scattered coral patches are rarely

very big. The corals are often encrusted

with coralline algae and provide a home

for a host of small animals."

PI.6.18 Dr Maxwell was asked (T176) about the parts of a

reef which are exposed at low tide. He said:-"The part of the reef exposed at low tide

is generally the reef rim and higher part

of the reef flat."

"...would it be that, say, at least 50 per cent of this 4300 square miles would never

be exposed - at least 50 per cent of it?"

"I think that would be a fair approximation.

I think you would have to allow yourself a

margin of 10 per cent - 40 per cent to 60

per cent." (The reference to 4300 square miles was to Dr

Maxwell's estimate of the total area of reefs in the Province.)


PI.6.19 Professor Connell spoke of the living portions of

corals on the reef flat at Heron Island being exposed, if at

all, only on "very very low tides." He said he had been

there at very low tides and could not remember seeing it


As to (d) lagoons

PI.6.20 Dr Maxwell said (T235) :-"There are two types of lagoons ... the lagoons

with the platform reef such as No. 2 here, which is fairly shallow. The lagoonal reefs

are small and there is generally heavy encrusta­

tion of algae and also heavy growth of the

bushy algae - Halimeda. To my eye the coral

there is not at all comparable in profusion

with the coral that one gets in the coral

pools or the reef slope. In the ring type

reef where you have the deeper lagoon and

much bigger lagoonal reef development, one

does get quite a profuse growth of coral

comparable to the reef front or reef slope."

PI.6.21 Professor Thomson said (T627) that "often a wide

sandy bottomed lagoon will separate the inner flats from the outer flats."

As to (e) outer flat, back-reef zone

PI.6.22 Dr Maxwell said (T127):-"...Back reef apron or back reef zone is

found on the leeward side of linear reefs

which have not recurved sufficiently to

enclose a lagoon. This zone may reach a

width of 2 miles. It is always submerged

and deepens leewards. Its floor is composed

of sand derived from reef organisms and it supports scattered reef clumps ("bombies")

in the deeper water and smaller reef


masses nearer the sand flats."

PI.6.23 Professor Thomson said (T628)

"The pools of the outer flat contain flourish­

ing corals, the commonest being

staghorns, but many other types are found.

... Among the corals is a host of fishes and

crabs, in more variety than on the inner flat,

mostly because the pools are deeper; the

fauna of the sandy bottoms of the pools is

very similar to that of the inshore flat but there will be additional species such as the

Tiger Cowry (Cypraea tigris). ... Worms and

molluscs abound including the mutton shell

(Haliotis asinina)."

PI. 6.24 When asked whether all types of reef have these inner

and outer flats he replied:-"It depends on the stage of building up of

the reef and what I described is typical of

a reef which has a coral cay. If there is

no coral cay there then ... there may be

nothing you could really describe as an inner flat in such circumstances. On the

other hand, if you have an established cay, certainly you may get the whole flat area

filled in by silt so that there is just a

flat and nothing distinguishable."

"Is the description you have given here, for

example, true of Heron Island?"

"It is true of Heron Island."

As to (f) the beaches PI.6.25 The sandy areas above normal high tide are the

situations used by turtles to lay their eggs. ,

The lower beach is usually gritty and is the home

of a small white bivalve mollusc (Atactodea).


"The most conspicuous animals are the large

chitons (Acanthozostera gemmata). At the

lower levels the cap limpet (Nerita

aibicilla) is common. Oysters, acorn

barnacles and ordinary limpets are rare

on the coral cays but sometimes in abund­

ance on the mainland islands. Crabs are

common and include Grapsus strigosus, the

porcelain crab (Petrolisthes lamarcki) ..."

"It is called the scuttle crab in Gillett and

McNeill: is that an alternative common name?"

"That is right ...

There is also a green clawed hermit crab

(Clibanarius virescens) and a red-eyed gray crab (Eriphia laevimana). The beach rock, where

it is intertidal, does not have a visibly dense

cover of algae; but in fact there is algal cover over much of the rock, but it is kept

clipped short not only by the chitons and other molluscs but also by the grazing of fishes during night-time high tides." (T624)

PI.6.26 Other zones include sand tracts, shingle cays and

boulder tracts. Much of the coastline around Princess

Charlotte Bay consists of mudflats (Mr Davis T2498-9)·

Soft coral ■

PI.6.27 Dr Endean spoke of an average overall live coral

coverage of about 40% on a healthy reef (T12938). He also

said that soft corals which do not build reefs appear to be most prevalent in back-reef areas and lagoonal areas rather than

on the reef slopes. He would normally expect 5 - 10% soft coral cover in a back reef area in the central region (T12953)·

Distribution of flora and fauna PI.6.28 Professor Stephenson said (at T2057):- "Although our knowledge of diversity on

the reef is woefully incomplete, some

patterns are obvious. First, the richest

faunas are in the north and they decline

as we come southwards. Data on corals

given by Stephenson and Wells (1956)

document this.point. In 1956 110 species

had been recorded from Low Isles, about 90

from Heron Island, and 2k from Moreton Bay,

Woodhead, based at Heron Island, has greatly

increased these numbers, mostly by using

aqualung exploration, but the tendency


PI.6.29 Professor Woodhead1s evidence confirmed the increas­

ing richness of coral genera as one goes north.

Professor Thomson at T630 said:- "...there are tropical species of fishes

which do not reach the southern end of

the reef such as the larger Spanish

Mackerel. You get the smaller species

even coming down to Brisbane; the larger ones are confined to the northern and

central parts of the reef. There will

be other examples too."

PI.6.30 Dr Maxwell spoke of reef development being poorer

in the Central region (T226) but he referred to "quite

spectacular" fauna on some of these reefs.

PI.6.31 Mr Cropp was also asked to comment on the differenc­ es between the regions. He said that in the Northern section

the corals were prettier and more varied than in the Southern.

He attributed this to the increased abundance of soft corals.

On the other hand he said that there were more fish and fish

activity in the South (T11809). He also said that the Central section, from just south of Cairns to about Rockhamp­

ton was the poorest of the three (T11809-10).


PI.6.32 Professor Woodhead said of the continental islands

north of Gladstone

"...I would expect all of them to have some

coral, not necessarily fringing reefs right

around them ... Not many species will settle

in the close inshore region for the reason

that there is a lot of land wash off, high

turbidity and low salinity - these do not

encourage extensive coral settlement..." (T5322)

Calcareous algae and the rate of reef growth

PI.6.33 Dr Cribb (Senior Lecturer in Botany, University of

Queensland) at T4753 drew attention to the writings of Satchell

(1930) and Taylor (1950) who had stressed the role of crustac-

eous corallines in causing effective cementation and that the

main elements in the growth of the windward side of the reef

is the genus Porolithon.

PI.6.34 Dr Stoddart (Lecturer in Geography, Cambridge, UK) spoke of the growth rate or build up of the actual reef and

showed it was much less than that of coral itself. He said

(T5844-5) "The reef with the most limestone deposition

is Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands where 1300 metres of reef limestone had been

deposited in the last 60 to 70 million years.

This works out at a gross rate of reef growth

over this period of about 1 millimetre in 50

years which is some orders of magnitude less

than the growth rates of individual coral


Similar rates have been derived from other

deep borings so my point is that there is a very considerable disparity in rate between

the overall growth of reefs and the growth

of individual coral colonies measured over


very short periods of time."

The growth rate of corals is referred to

later under the heading "Regeneration of


The Great Barrier Reef and how it compares with other

coral reefs

PI.6.35 Sir Maurice Yonge who led the 1928-9 Research Expedition to Low Isles said (T9225)·’-"I think any marine biologist would agree

that there is no eco-system quite so complex

as a coral reef."

PI.6.36 Dr Endean (Reader in Zoology, University of Queens

land) said (T13056):-"I would think the diversity of species in

the coral reefs is only equalled by that of

the tropical rain forests."

PI.6.37 Dr Talbot (T938-9) said:-"Coral reefs are perhaps the most interesting

of all marine living systems ... Biologists

are only vaguely beginning to understand ’the

reasons for the tremendous diversity of

animals in a coral reef system and this is

thought to be in part due to stability of the environment over long periods of time."

PI.6. 38 All witnesses from different countries agreed that

of all the world's coral reef systems the Great Barrier Reef

is outstanding.

Other coral reefs throughout the Indian and Pacific

Oceans lack the continuity and in most cases the coral divers

ity of the GBRP which is really a portion of the Indo-West

Pacific region (T1020).


PI.6.39 Dr Talbot said (T940-1):-"The reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans

are much richer in the number of species

of corals and other marine animals and plants

than those of the Atlantic Ocean ... in the

area north of Australia there are some 50

genera of corals and some 700 species ...

something like 26 genera and 48 species have

been found in a well worked area of the

Caribbean ... In regard to fishes ... some­

thing like twice as many species in an equiva­

lent area north of Australia with one in the


PI.6.40 Dr 0. Jones speaking on behalf of the Great Barrier

Reef Committee said (T1865):-"The Great Barrier Reefs are unique. They

are by far the largest single collection of

coral reefs known throughout geological

history. The area ... contains the most dense and diverse assemblage of living

organisms to be fo.und in any region of

comparable size in the world."

PI.6.41 Professor Johannes said (T4205):-"To say that this area provides some of

the loveliest scenery on earth and some

of the most exciting recreation is just

a beginning. Coral reefs are also among the most biologically productive of all

natural communities."

PI.6.42 Dr Maxwell in his "Atlas" (Exhibit 2 p.3) stated:- "Many factors have combined to make the

Great Barrier Reef Province unique." Dr Isobel Bennett, Dr Grassle and Mr Cropp were amongst

others who in Exhibits or in evidence have made similar state-87


The best known corals

PI.6.43 Professor J.M. Thomson (Professor of Zoology,

University of Queensland) said (Τβ23) that there are some 500

species on the Great Barrier Reef and that on any particular

reef over 200 species may be found with perhaps 20 being

dominant. He added:-"Because of the abundance of nooks and

crannies on a coral reef a very varied

fauna and flora exists, the variety

exceeding that of more temperate

communities. Because of the abundant

cover near at hand, background camouflage

is not as important as it is elsewhere so

that many animals (e.g. fish) are vividly

coloured, a factor in the attraction of

coral reefs to the tourist."

PI.6.44 The stony reef building corals (in contrast with

the "soft" and semi-calcareous corals) which are commonest

and best known include the staghorn (Acropora), branching (Pocillopora), mushroom (Fungia), micro-atoll (Porites) and

the massive corals the latter being divided into brain and non-brain corals. The best known of the soft corals is

probably the bluish Xenia. Many corals are magnificently

illustrated in Isobel Bennett's "The Great Barrier Reef"

(Exhibit 451) and in Domm (Exhibit 5).

A more detailed description of corals and of the

biology of the Reef appears in the answer to TR2.

Feeding habits of corals and reproduction

PI.6.45 A brief reference to the feeding habits and propaga­ tion methods of the coral polyps seems desirable as they are

among the key genera of the Province albeit they do not make

up the bulk of the biomass.



PI.6.46 Corals belong to the phylum or division of animal

life known as Coelenterata which are distinguished as two­

layered animals having the simplest form of food chamber known

as a gastric cavity. Animals of a higher order have separate stomachs and body cavities.

PI.6.47 The polyp (like the sea anemone) has a soft tube-like

body sealed at the bottom and with a mouth at the top. The

mouth is surrounded by tentacles which assist the animal in

obtaining its carnivorous diet of zooplankton. The mouth

serves to ingest food and to eliminate the waste products after

digestion. Planktonic organisms are captured from the water by

the polyps, usually at night (T946), except in the case of a

few "massive" corals such as Goniopora.

PI.6.48 Professor Stephenson said (T2070):-"The corals are plankton feeders, and again surprisingly, are secondary or higher level

consumers, utilising the zooplankton. A

primary consumer is something that feeds on

plants. A secondary consumer is something

that feeds on something that feeds on plants and a tertiary consumer is something that

feeds on something that feeds on something that feeds on plants. One would expect the

corals would go to the source of food, which

is the plant plankton. In fact they can only

feed on animals."

PI.6.49 Professor Woodhead said (T5329):-"Corals are specialised carnivores, digesting

animal matter captured by their tentacles and

cilia; it has been established that the reef-

corals are capable of capturing and ingesting

sufficient zooplanktonic food to account for their daily metabolic maintenance requirements."


PI.6.50 Professor Johannes at T4240D was asked about the

diet of coral polyps. He replied:-"Corals derive their food from three

sources. Firstly, the symbiotic algae

which live in their tissues release dis­

solved organic molecules into the coral tissues and the corals utilise this

leaked material from the plant as food.

Secondly, corals have the ability to

capture zooplankton that is, small

animals floating in the water - to

ingest and digest zooplankton. These

two facts are well known and well document­ ed, these two processes by which they gain

nutrition. A third process which has been

under investigation in my laboratory and

which has not been discussed yet in the

open literature is that of the ingestion

of very small microscopic particles by

the corals, particles much too small to be seen by the unaided eye, particles the

size of bacteria."

A further description of the feeding habits of coral

appears at p .107 and p.108 of Exhibit l6l "A Year on the Great

Barrier Reef" by Sir Maurice Yonge.

Two methods of reproduction

(a) Asexual - budding off

PI.6.51 Corals have two methods of reproduction. One method

is asexual. The corals responsible for reef building are

those of the class Scleractinia. These polyps have a limy support for their soft tissues and the polyps usually live in

colonies, each divided from its neighbours by a limy partition

but each contacting its neighbour by its tissue. As each polyp grows its tissue and limy skeleton increase in size.

The colony of which it is a member increases in size not only

because of the growth of the individual polyp but also because


the initial number of polyps multiplies by a process of division

or by producing buds on all sides of the colony as its size

increases (T12259)·

PI.6.52 Professor Thomson said (T616): —

"In basic structure a coral polyp is much like

a sea anemone - indeed they belong to the same

phylum of animals known to zoologists as the

coelenterata. As terrestrial animals, we tend

to think of animals that move about independ­

ently. But many animals in the sea including

many corals, are colonial. The organic

tissues of the individual polyps connect with one another. There are corals which are

produced by a single polyp, such as the quite

large Fungia or mushroom corals. A Fungia may

be six inches across."

and at T6l8:-"The polyps of colonial corals are quite small, even microscopic in some species. There may

be hundreds or thousands of individual polyps

supported by the skeleton of a single colony.

The individual polyps are connected to each other by strands of living organic material

passing through microscopic channels in the

skeleton or even clothing the outside of the

skeleton. The polyp can retract into a depression or hole called a calyx or corallite.

In 'true' stony corals (the Scleractinia, also

called Madreporaria), these depressions are marked by limy ridges or partitions which

radiate to the outer walls of the depression

but leave a narrow space in the centre."

PI.6.53 As to the actual process of budding off, Professor

Woodhead said, at T5^6l:-


"...with a polyp with a large calyx ...

a partition may grow across the middle

of this calyx separating it with a wall

and two calices are then formed which

will be individual polyps. In other

instances new polyps may be budded off

from the tissue lying between individual

polyps and a new small one will grow to

separate the original ones. In other

instances again there may be an actual

splitting of the colonies ..."

PI.6.5^ Professor Connell referred to the fact that when

some polyps of a colony are touched not only those polyps

but also neighbouring polyps will retract and at T12150 he

pointed out that if small parts of a colony are broken off,

they are capable of founding new colonies; and parts of a

colony often die without affecting the rest. On the other

hand growth tends to proceed unevenly where this is necessary

to bring a colony towards a circular shape. There is also some evidence of the transfer of energy-rich material between

adjacent parts of a colony.

PI.6.55 Mr Shinn also said that as a polyp deposits calcium carbonate at its base, thus pushing itself outwards, it leaves

behind living tissue in the pores of the limestone deposit

(T10238). However, when pressed about the tissue running

through the skeleton to the central canal he conceded that he

could not prove that it was living tissue (T10251-2, 10262).

PI. 6. 56 On the subject of the growth of coral colonies,

Professor Woodhead, at T5408, said:-"Corals have an edge zone. This is a growing point and they will grow forward ... as they

expand, so the edge zone moves on across

coral rock, coral skeletons or dead coral."


"Is there a maximum size for a polyp or can

it go on growing indefinitely?"

"No. They may vary, but for a particular

species there will be a certain polyp size.

The largest known is Cenactis echinata,

which is one metre long ... that is a Fungiid


"Take porites - of what order is the size

of a porites polyp?"

"Of the order of a millimetre or so. The

polyp would be larger, the calyx is more

readily measured since the polyp can distend

with water pressure, but quite typical porites

would be 3 millimetres, 4 millimetres - this

order - in diameter."

"When the front line of polyps have reached

their maximum size, how do they go on extend­


"They keep budding, reproducing."

"Is it asexual reproduction?"

"Yes ... the edge zone simply advances by asexual vegetative reproduction, but new

colonies of the same species may well settle

in that vicinity." He gave further examples of small polyp sizes "down

to .2 or .3 of a millimetre in diameter."

PI.6.57 Professor Johannes spoke of massive corals growing

to 12 feet in height over several hundred years (T4257-9)· In his book, Domm refers to some massive corals being six feet

across and some branching corals six feet high (T37)· When it comes to measured growth over periods of

years, the material is scanty (T12955, 12209).

PI.6.58 Dr Stoddart said (T5843) "...Generally speaking massive coral forms

increase in diameter by approximately 1


centimetre a year. This is a rough

generalisation. The increase in height

is generally rather less than that."

PI.6.59 However, as Dr Stoddart was quick to point out,

and other witnesses confirmed, these growth expectations will

vary with such factors as the size and age of the colony, the

position of the polyps in the colony, the nature of the site

and so on.

PI.6.60 Sir Maurice Yonge also referred to the rapid early

growth of colonies, which he described as being "quite■

spectacular." (T9264)

PI.6.61 Dr Endean said (T12955)

"In the case of some species at least

there was an initial rapid growth rate

followed by a slowing down ... Growth

rates vary from species to species and

are affected by several environmental


PI.6.62 Mr Shinn gave evidence of the growth patterns of

Acropora which he had studied in Florida. He said that some

time in December or January "all the colonies will initiate

new branches and what one sees are as many as five new apical

polyps or directive polyps, whiechever one could call them,

form..." (T10123). More than half existing branches will

form new branches; the remainder will continue to grow

normally. There appears to be also a natural pruning process

which causes many of the new branches to die early (T10124).

PI.6.63 One important point brought out by Professor Connell

was the high mortality rate of coral colonies (T12185, 12190)

especially small, young colonies (T12191-2). Professor Connell

believes that the most likely causes of the random localised

mortality which he observed were competition for space and


light and natural enemies (T12192).

PI.6.64 The result of his research at Heron Island has led

Professor Connell to believe that:-"The age distribution of some coral popula­

tions in shallow water indicates that they

are young assemblages with median ages of less than 10 years." (T12226, 12211)

However he goes on to say that "individual

colonies can live much longer; estimates

range up to 140 years at least." (T12226,

see also T12212-3, 12278)

(b) Sexual reproduction involving

fertilisation and planula larvae PI.6.65 The second method of propagation is by spawning

fertilisation, and the development and the floating away of planula larvae. This ultimately settles on an appropriate sub­

strate and starts the change into its adult form growing into the first polyp and the beginning of a calcareous skeleton (Dr

Talbot at T950). He added:-"The conditions necessary for settling are

little known, but growth will not take place

in deep or cold water (most corals grow in

100 feet or less and in water above 70°P).

Because of this floating period, current systems affect the distribution of corals."

PI.6.66 All corals are thought to produce these minute planula larvae, just visible to the naked eye which swim weakly

or float in the upper waters of the sea until they settle on some substrate and proceed to advance their life cycle to coral

polyps. However there has been very little study either of the circumstances of release or of the subsequent behaviour of

the larvae.

PI.6.67 Thus little is known of the length of time which


corals take to reach sexual maturity and develop gonads (Dr

Grassle at T6437). Undoubtedly the time would vary with the

species. For example, the commoner reef corals such as

Porltes, Acropora and Poclllopora have smaller polyps than the

Favla. Also the FungiIds are a very specialised group. "They

possess the largest polyps of any coral and obviously it must

take them a great deal longer to achieve maturity." - Professor Woodhead at T5406.

PI.6.68 The length of time spent by the larvae in the plank­ ton before settling is yet another field in which very little

is known.

Indeed the Commission was given evidence which tended

to differ amongst witnesses. Thus reference was made by

Professor Woodhead at T5359 to a larval life of six weeks as

demonstrated by a scientist named Atoda whilst others suggested

that the majority would settle within a few days. Professor

Thomson (Professor of Zoology, University of Queensland)

suggested the process was for the planula larvae to be carried

in ocean currents and that they fertilised reefs perhaps quite

distant from the polyps from which they originated (T666) and

it seems clear that the distance covered by the larvae will depend upon the length of the planktonic life of the larvae and the strength of the currents in the particular area. In

the GBRP the currents are such that wide dispersion could occur

but although the evidence as a whole seemed to favour the view that settlement would occur within a few days of release, un­

certainty exists on this subject. Thus at T12163 Professor

Connell said "nobody knows" what distances are travelled by the

coral planulae. Some planula larvae were shown by Scheltema at

Woods Hole to travel across the Atlantic but these were probab­

ly of a soft zoanthid coral and larvae of gastropods and not of

the hard reef building corals (Dr Grassle at T62^5).

PI.6.69 Planulae of hard corals require a hard substrate for development and If one luckily finds such a spot it attaches

itself to it, mouth upwards. It then grows its tentacles and


produces lime to cement down its base and to form inside its

tissues the beginning of its skeleton.

PI.6. 70 Professor Woodhead said (T5339):-"Despite the fact of my earlier remarks (see

T5334) that corals will settle on a number

of different rocky surfaces, the nature of

the substrate ... may still affect the

settlement of the coral larvae; the planulae.

Different corals certainly settle in different

zones on the reef and although they have no

obvious sense organs - and are very simple - they must have some means to select these sites. "

He went on to suggest that if some of these means

were chemical (and corals do at times tend to settle near their

own species) then a foreign substance could interfere with the mechanisms.

PI.6.71 Elsewhere, Professor Woodhead spoke of larvae settl­

ing on such substrates as iron pipes, beer cans, bottles and

structural pipes (T53^4, 5397).

PI.6.72 Dr Stoddart made the point that planulae do not have to have limestone rock on which to settle. Colonies will grow

on granite (T5855). Professor Connell spoke of the work of Stephenson and Stephenson at Low Isles when various species settled on sandstone, earthenware, glass and clamshells


PI.6.73 Professor Connell in Exhibit 356 ("Population Ecology of Reef-Building Corals") stresses the "many gaps in our

knowledge of the population ecology of corals." He refers at page 2 to self-fertilisation as a possibility and amongst the

species he mentions in connection therewith are Poeillopora

brevicornis and Favia fragum but on another assumption he states that "cross fertilisation is evidently the rule" (page


3). He adds:-"Fertilisation is probably usually

internal, the sperm released from a

neighbouring colony being drawn into

the polyp where the eggs are fertilised.

However fertilisation may sometimes be


PI.6.7^ Equally little is known about the times of year at which larvae are released. Professor Woodhead, among others

(T12146), told the Commission (T5397) that the observations of

Dr S.M. Marshall (Low Isles Expedition 1928) showed that

Pocillopora damicornis released larvae every month of the year

at a time apparently related to lunar cycles (see also T12146).

However other species will only release larvae at one time of the year, say, midsummer. It appears that there is a broad

range of times for different kinds of coral, but many do

release larvae throughout the year.

PI.6.75 It was made clear by Professor Connell at T121^7 that

in his opinion all corals reproduce both ways - asexually and by the settlement of planula larvae. He was being asked about

branching coral and whether it only reproduced itself by the

method of asexual growth of branching and he answered "No, I think they all reproduce both ways." In other words, a coral colony grows new colonies

asexually by simply branching out and also establishes new fresh colonies on distant substrates by releasing planula


Zooxanthellae PI.6.76 Reference has previously been made to these symbiotic

algae and their important role in the subsistence of the coral polyps. Professor Stephenson said (T2068):-"The unicellular algae contained by corals

(the symbiotic algae) contribute to their often brilliant colouring and add greatly


to the organic production of the reef

(Odum and Odum 1955; see also Gordon and

Kelly 1962). They are of respiratory

significance, producing oxygen within the

tissues. There has long been controversy

over whether they contribute nutriment to

the coral (Yonge 1940, i960, 1963, 1968;

Goreau 1959, 1961a, 1961b, 1963; Goreau and Goreau 1959, 1960a, 1960b, 1960c),

but recent work by Muscatine (1967, 1969) clearly shows that organic molecules such

as glycerol can be liberated by the algae

to the animal cells of the corals in con­

siderable quantity."

PI.6.77 Dr Cribb said (T4760):-"The tissues of all species of reef-build­ ing corals contain microscopic, unicellular,

brown coloured algae which go under the

general name of zooxanthellae. These are

present in large numbers, up to 30,000 per cubic mm. of tissue, and are always contain­

ed within special cells of the coral host.

... These algae are of significance or

possible significance in the economy of

the coral reef in at least four ways:

(a) By promoting skeleton deposition by

the coral,

(b) By removing waste products of the

corals' metabolism,

(c) By providing some nutritional require­ ment of the coral, and

(d) By producing oxygen."

PI.6.78 Sir Maurice Yonge said that the role of the zooxan­ thellae in promoting skeleton deposition was crucial but that

the nutritional contribution was an open question. As earlier


stated Professor Johannes considers (T42OD) that symbiotic

algae is one of the sources of the polyps food - the other

being zooplankton (small floating animals) which in turn live

on plants called phytoplankton.

Sir Maurice Yonge said that zooxanthellae are a

"speck" and would be about l/100th of a millimetre in diameter

or rather less (T9264).'

The source of colour in corals

PI.6.79 He seemed to consider zooxanthellae to be the source

of some but not of all colour in the coral. He said (T9264):-

"These purples and yellows and browns

have nothing to do with them. They do give

sort of a background colour, I would agree to that. Most of these spectacular colour­

ed corals; it is a pigment in the super­

ficial tissues which is responsible."

On further questioning he said (T9264): — "You spoke of corals going white?-- Yes,

that is true. You see, when a coral is fully expanded it has not really any

colour at all. You see colour really when

it is contracted, when all the tissues

are pulled back. It is a little diff­

icult to straighten this one out. I

suppose the major colour in some corals is the zooxanthellae but in others ther

is a superimposed pigmentation. That is

really the matter." "And that is why they went pale when the

zooxanthellae left?-- Yes, it is indeed."

Dr Isobel Bennett's view

PI.6.80 At page 92 of Exhibit ^51 ("The Great Barrier Reef")

Dr Bennett says:-"The living colour of the coral colony has been traced to three different sources.


Firstly colouration in the outer layer of

cells is produced by fine granular matter

in pigment cells, with a wide range of

tints through black, red and orange.

Secondly colour is sometimes indirectly

caused by the red or green filamentous

boring algae in the skeleton. Thirdly,

the most common yellow, brown and green

shades found in the reef-building corals

are produced by the zooxanthellae, the

minute single-celled dinoflageHates

which live within the inner layer of


PI.6.81 Sir Maurice also stressed the dependency of coral upon zooxanthellae for their ability to deposit calcium and he

endorsed on this aspect a paper by Goreau which is Exhibit 352

at page 37.

Expulsion of zooxanthellae by corals PI. 6.82 Sir Maurice also spoke of the expulsion of zooxanthe­

llae by coral. He said (T9235-6):-"You see, in a sense a coral always has a

full population. You expose these artific­

ially or in nature to extreme conditions

and the animal will respond by expelling a

large proportion, even apparently all of these algae. I found just by observation

in Australia on very low tide in the

summer, and you get many corals exposed

to these tropical and mid-tropical summers to a very high temperature - temperatures getting on to l40° - quite a number of

these exposed corals were killed but

certain were not. They were quite white but not dead. I found out these things

had literally expelled these plants. If


I experimentally could expose corals to

very low oxygen tension over a long period

they would expel the algae also. If I

starved them over long periods, starving

them by deprivation of animal food, then

the same thing would happen.

Subsequently Tom Goreau at Jamaica - they had a major flood of rainwater over a

section of reef lowering the salinity to

quite an abnormally low state and he

found just the same thing there. Many

of the corals there discharged the algae.

Then if you get them back into good

conditions they gradually build up the

association again."


PI.6.83 Associated with its living conditions and habits is

an important protection given by nature to the coral polyp

(and many multi-cellular animals) namely its ability to

secrete mucus which is a slimy secretion extruded in substant­ ial and visible quantities under conditions of stress or

Irritation. This mucus can collect sand or other material which may be falling on the coral and then itself will fall or

be washed off the coral. In certain short term experiments made during the hearing and to which reference will be made in

the Answer to TR2 mucus was seen in some cases to be emitted

copiously when oil came into contact with the coral.

Professor Woodhead at T5377-8 said: - "Yes, one would expect this at all times

in normal healthy coral. Indeed in the summer time such types of coral as stag­

horns which are exposed on the reef flat

literally drip with mucus so that large

quantities may be exuded. I have already referred to certain massive corals which

appear to be glazed with mucus and this


seems to protect them from the excessive

heat of the sun so that they grow rather

higher on the reef than is typical for all corals.

"...When you handle corals at all, as I

have in these experiments, even in a

bucket or a bath of seawater, and do not break the water surface, simple manipula­

tion seems to stimulate a great deal of

mucus production with mucus in the water.

...this will help to shed sediments which have settled upon them. The various

capabilities of the corals in this respect

will not all be the same. Some corals are

better able to do this type of thing than others."

Effects of adverse conditions

PI.6.84 A brief summary of the evidence which related to the effect upon corals of certain specified adverse conditions is

as follows. Here again a more detailed account of relevant aspects of this introductory summary will be given in the

Answer to TR2.

(a) Lack of oxygen

PI.6.85 Dr Talbot said (T1103) "To my knowledge they have no method of

storing oxygen, although I must say I am

not a specialist in this physiological

area. They have only two layers of cells basically, a very thin layer of cells, and they are completely dependent on continuous

water flow, although not necessarily active

movement, but they must be completely covered by water to get continued oxygen

and most of them, if exposed for instance,

will only last some 20 minutes out of the


water without death."

PI.6.86 Sir Maurice Yonge said (T9233-4):-"...corals were over the short period

singularly unsusceptible to lack of

oxygen ... by short term I mean over­

night or perhaps a few days ... over any

significant length of time is another

matter altogether. Undoubtedly the

corals would die ... I would have thought

coral exposed to really low oxygen tension,

say 10 per cent of normal oxygen, over a week would be suffering; over a month

would be dead."

PI.6.87 Mr Kinsey said (T4898):- "The results of a number of workers,

including myself, have established

that corals themselves are able to with­

stand short periods of almost total anoxia, but no precise limits have been

established for this tolerance."

(b) PI.6.88 Lack of light Professor Woodhead (T5329) said:-

"The reef corals may have relatively high

metabolic rates for simple animals, and

it has been suggested that benefit may be

derived from the oxygen produced by the zooxanthellae during the normal process

of photosynthesis during daylight."

PI.6.89 Although corals can grow in caves and in deep water the general scientific view seems to be that if over a period light is insufficient for effective photosynthesis the coral

ultimately must be affected.


PI.6.90 Sir Maurice Yonge said (T9232):-"If you consider trying to put a canopy

over an area of coral reefs the whole

thing, so far as the corals are concerned, would simply wither and die."

PI.6.91 "Light is all important" he said and, at T9256, he said that with care corals can be kept alive in the dark for

months but they will not grow.

"...The rate of calcium carbonate deposit­

ion is on an average about ten times greater

in daylight than in darkness."

said Professor Woodhead at T5327· This was confirmed by

Professor Connell who referred to the work of Goreau and Goreau

which established that calcification rates (so necessary for

coral growth) on sunny days are double those on cloudy days.

Some species will stand poor light better than others (Professor Connell at T12174-5).

(c) Reduced or excessive salinity

PI.6.92 Dr Stoddart said (T58l6):-"Lowered salinity during excessive rain­ fall. The death of corals, caused by

intense rain during a cyclone, coincident

with a low tide, occurred on the Queens­

land coast in 1918 (Hedley, 1925; Rain-

ford, 1925) and again in 1956 (Slack-Smith,

1959) ... Mass expulsion of zooxanthellae from corals in Jamaica was also noted by

Goreau (1964) following a similar storm; the expulsion presumably occurred during

extreme physiological stress, but death did not follow ... Shallow-water corals

are particularly susceptible to damage

during low spring tides,when they may be emersed and exposed to extremes of temperat­

ures and salinity."


PI.6.93 No doubt the heavy freshwater run-off from Queens­

land rivers tends to dictate the areas In which coral will not

flourish. Dr Endean expressed the opinion that exceptional

run-off could damage fringing reefs on some continental islands

but would not affect patch reefs further from the coast. He

said further that "many corals are tolerably resistant to

lowering of salinity." (T13050)

PI.6.94 The only evidence concerning excessive salinity related to the failure of coral to tolerate high salinity

levels in the Gulf of Salwa, a branch of the Persian Gulf

(T10136-7)· It seems that corals prefer normal salinities of

the order of 35-6 parts per thousand; they will in some

cases tolerate up to 45 parts, but cannot sustain the 60 or

more parts found in the Gulf of Salwa. There is no evidence

of trouble from excessive salinities in the Reef Province.

(d) Low and high water temperatures

PI.6.95 There were no recorded cases given of coral deaths

caused by high water temperatures but it would seem that loss

could happen if temperatures in shallow tidal pools rose un­

usually during a protracted low tide.

But there is a range of temperature tolerances

depending on latitude and position. The figures given by scientific witnesses varied.

Isobel Bennett (Exhibit 451 at page 80) gives the

lower limit at 20°C and the upper 30°C whilst Professor

Johannes (T4243 et seq) gives 16° - l8°C and 33° - 38°C


Two witnesses said that about 14° to 15° caused

death (Professor Woodhead (T5290, 5367) and Mr Shinn (T10139,


PI.6.96 Mr E. M. Grant said that coral deaths on the exposed reef rim may occur at a winter period of cold south-westerly

winds that coincide with a low tide (T10335)· Some robust species are found as far south as Moreton,


Bay and doubtless due to the presence of some warm current coral

grows profusely In the west coast waters of Lord Howe Island

which has a latitude of 31°S. This is quite exceptional.

(e) Low tides

PI.6 .97 The great majority of corals on all reefs throughout

the GBRP are below the surface - indeed well below - at all

times (T10220, T12937) yet large areas of reef crest and reef

flats are exposed on some reefs at low tides (T12940 and photo­

graphs in Isobel Bennett's "The Great Barrier Reef" Exhibit 451 demonstrate).

PI.6.98 When exceptionally low tides occur mortality may occur to corals which are not inured to emergence at low tides. Un­

usually high or low temperatures at low tide may also cause

mortalities. The emission of mucus when in discomfort is a nature given means of protection to corals. Sir Maurice Yohge

said:-"...if you get exposure at low tide in the

full heat of the sun a lot of them die."

(T9257) Professor Connell spoke of the importance of some

part of any particular coral community remaining immersed for

survival (T12259).

(f) Cyclones

PI.6.99 As earlier stated (Part IV supra) massive coral des­ truction has occurred in various areas of the GBRP as a result

of cyclonic storms.

The damage is caused by coral branches being broken

off and by masses of coral being rolled violently around in reef areas.

"...colonies are uprooted, carried above

sea level or more often into deep water,

or are fragmented in situ by direct wave

action." (Dr Stoddart at T5824) The massive corals (such as brain and non-brain


corals) survive cyclones better than

branching corals as one would expect.

Sometimes the damage from a cyclone not

of high Intensity will be less severe

(Dr Endean at T13051). See also under

"Regeneration of Coral" (later).

(g) Sedimentation PI.6.100 This Is a well known destructive factor. The build­

ing of an airway strip out towards a coral reef can cause

wholesale destruction of coral (Professor Johannes). At T4218

he said:-"In Castle Harbour, Bermuda, an airfield

was built between 19^1 and 19^3 by dredging

and filling. Visibility was reduced at

times to less than one foot. The Bay's

population of brain corals, DiplOrla, the dominant coral genus on Bermuda reefs, was

destroyed (Burnett-Herkes, personal


...Van Eepoel and Grlgg (1970) report that In large areas of Lindburg Bay, St. Thomas,

Virgin Islands, most corals and other sessile

animals have been destroyed and conditions

remain unsuitable for their establishment

due to sedimentation caused by bulldozing,

construction, and the surfacing of land

which drains into the Bay."

Professor Johannes showed films which illustrated

damage to Coconut Island Reef in Oahu (Exhibit 2^3). At

T4222-3 he said:-"Wherever the water is agitated, cool and

free from excess of silt, the reef flat is wide and covered with living corals. But

wherever it is calm, hot and depositing

silt the reef flat is narrow and the corals

are deficient. ... An additional factor


which should be considered in relation to

such sedimentation is that the distribution

of reef-building corals is determined in

part by light because of the symbiotic

algae which live in their tissues and

with which they maintain an intimate

physiological interdependence."

Dr Halstead also spoke on the dangers of sedimentat-

tion (T?415) and indeed it was universally accepted that this

is a well known and very adverse condition.

(h) Construction work, dredging and explosives

PI.6.101 All three are hazards to coral life.

Various witnesses gave evidence on the deleterious

effects thereof and it seems unnecessary to elaborate as their

destructive potential is plain.

These witnesses include Dr Grassle T6223, Professor

Johannes T4265, Mr Cropp T11762, Professor Woodhead T5396 and

Dr Talbot T963.

(i) Predators especially crown-of-thorns starfish

PI.6.102 A number of boring molluscs, sponges, barnacles and

worms weaken coral structures especially the branching Acropora and similar species increasing their vulnerability in

stormy weather (T12204 et seq).

Some fish graze on corals particularly the parrot

fish and a proportion of coral polyps will be killed in the

feeding process (T7307, TII785).

PI.6.103 Dr Endean gave as his list of predators (T12941):- "... fish (representatives of at least 12

familites) polychaetes, a cyclopoid copepod,

a barnacle5 species belonging to three

genera of crabs, several species of gastropods and ... Acanthaster planci ... ."


PI.6.104 It is clearly beyond the Commission's Terms of

Reference to delve into the controversial nature and extent of

the crown-of-thorns plague except in so far as it touches and

concerns questions of the powers of regeneration of coral.

PI.6.105 There were optimistic and pessimistic witnesses on

the subject. No one who has seen (as did the Commission) the

coloured underwater slides produced by Dr Endean of the star­

fish on reefs east of Townsville could doubt the massive and

indeed appalling extent of the plague at least in that


PI.6.106 The matter seems associated with Sir Maurice Yonge's

references to the "complex and delicately balanced" ecosystem of the GBRP. Thus Dr Endean said (T13084):-"... the starfish plague began on reefs

near centres of human population in North

Queensland, to wit Cooktown, Port Douglas, Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville. It began

during the early 1960's as a result of the

reduction in numbers of Charonia tritonis, apparently the principal predator of the

starfish. This reduction in numbers was

brought about as the result of the

intensive collecting of tritons on reefs in Queensland waters by humans, principal­

ly during the trochus trading era since

the end of the last war up to I960 when

trochus collecting effectively ceased.

But I think that the position could have been aggravated by the possibility that

pollutants of one kind or another had been released into Barrier Reef waters

and some of them could have affected the

breeding of the triton and could have killed the triton actually, but which­

ever way it goes I still think the reduct-110

ion in numbers of the triton, the principal

predator of the starfish, has been respons­

ible basically for the starfish plague."

In quoting Dr Endean's views on this subject, the

Commission does not wish to be taken as adopting or accepting them.

PI.6.107 Where corals have been substantially killed, those reefs or sections of reefs are soon deserted by their fish

populations also (112943-5, 12976-8, 12997). Other forms of animal and plant life are, no doubt, also affected (112946,

12976). Ihe exodus is no doubt largely due to loss of food sources but the suggestion has been made that it may also

result from toxic effects of resulting algal growth (112978).

PI. 6.108 Starfish move from reef to reef across the sandy

ocean floor (113012). Ihey begin their attack on the reef

slope and move up and around the reef (113005) but apart from some juveniles, they seldom attack the reef crest or

the upper few feet of reef slope (112961, 12966, 12967, 13006)

before moving on to the reef flats.

Some corals are more susceptible to attack than others. Generally speaking Acropora and other branching

species are more assailable (113005); massive corals are also heavily attacked as a rule (112943) but can be missed

(113005), whereas Turbinaria (113009) and the soft corals (T12945, 13006) are left alone.

PI.6.109 Amongst the witnesses who spoke on the subject of the starfish plague were Mr Cropp and Professor Connell. Ihe

former who is a film producer spoke of 17,000 having been

collected by a diver at Green Island in 1965 (111813) and the latter refered to the extent of the starfish problem beyond

Australian waters (112200).

He also said (112203):-


"Acanthaster often occurs in groups or

even large herds, apparently moving in

a group and eating most of the corals

in their path. The genera of corals

which are evidently attacked more frequent­

ly are Acropora, Montipora, Seriatopora

and Stylophora (Webb and Woodhead, 1970)

... The reason why it selects or avoids

certain corals is not known."

He added:-"Another sort of defence which corals

enjoy is the presence of commensal

crustaceans and fish. Xanthid crabs

attacked an Acanthaster crawling onto

a colony of Pocillopora in an aquarium

(Pearson and Endean, 1969). Crabs and small fish drove the starfish off

Stylophora and Acropora on the reef at

Fiji (Weber and Woodhead, 1970). These observations illustrate the complex inter­

actions which occur in coral communities."

Regeneration of coral

Methods of regeneration PI.6.110 The scientific witnesses were not altogether ad

idem on the ability of coral to regrow over damaged portions.

Certain types of algae, kelp and soft coral may take command

after hard coral has been destroyed and prevent or delay its re­

growth but in the absence of such impediments regrowth usually

occurs sooner or later.

On the one hand Sir Maurice Yonge spoke of the

"rapid" recolonisation which takes place after destruction.

But he was thinking in terms of years. Speaking of Professor

Woodhead's earlier evidence regarding damage from a cyclone he

said (T9268-9):-"Corals were rolled about and corals were destroyed. Over a period of three years


he observed re-colonisation and he

estimated it would take 10 years."

PI.6.Ill Professor Woodhead had also said (T5356):-

"After the cyclone, there rapidly develop­

ed a very heavy growth of filamentous,

green seaweed, probably Chlorodesmus,

over all of the areas destroyed. Sediments

settled with the seaweed and together they

formed a dense mass, covering much of the

coral rock. Only slowly did this seaweed

and sediment mat disappear, but after a

year the whole rock was largely free and

much had been covered by a pink cement of

coralline algae. Small numbers of new

coral colonies had begun to settle; more

resettlement and growth continued in sub­

sequent years."

PI. 6.112 On the other hand more gloomy views were taken by Dr

Grassle and Professor Johannes. The former at T6220 said:-

"Even under the best circumstances recovery

of reefs requires decades. Dead coral surfaces

are rapidly colonised by algae which may prevent coral settlement delaying the start of recovery."

PI.6.113 The latter said (T4224) that when a reef community is

destroyed it cannot be taken for granted that it will ever

replace itself and he cited instances of decades of delay.

Dr Talbot said (T959) "The areas which the crown-of-thorns have been through are, in some cases - not all -

starting to regenerate; in some cases quite healthily. I see no reason why

these particular reefs should not come

back within a relatively short period -


perhaps as short as five to eight years -

and be flourishing reefs again."

PI.6.114 There are broadly three possible methods of regener­

ation namely (1) regrowth of the damaged colony in situ, (2)

regrowth in new sites to which wave action has carried

fragmented coral and (3) establishment of new colonies by the

settlement of larvae.

Sequence of recovery

PI. 6.115 Dr Cr'ibb said that the reef is a highly complex

community and disturbance of any of its constituents may start

a chain reaction (T4806).

He said:-"The lower part of the seaward reef margin,

supporting a strip of rich coral growth, is

an area where, if the substratum were of

rock, a vigorous growth of fleshy algae

such as Sargassum would be expected.

... Thus once corals were destroyed in

this area it might be speculated that

their re-establishment could be long

delayed by the presence of algae."

PI.6.116 Professor Stephenson said (T2127-8):-

"... in all cases the first obvious organisms to settle were blue/green

algae, but I strongly suspect that

previous to this there had been a bacterial film ... I think the blue/

green algae have got to be ... replaced

by something else before you have a

surface which is ... attractive to corals ... there is scope for a tremend­

ous amount of thorough going investiga­

tion on these problems and I am guessing."


PI.6.117 Professor Johannes with whose views Sir Maurice Yonge

agreed (T9266) listed the sequence of events during recovery as

(i) heavy growth of filamentous algae,

(ii) increase in the numbers of herbivores,

(ill) growth of encrusting plants and animals,

(iv) gradual growth of corals,

(v) re-establishment of typical reef


Professor Woodhead's account of regrowth after a cyclone is set forth above.

He compared the green algae with green slime in a

fresh water pond and said he expected good regrowth in 10 years and full recovery in 20 years.

PI. 6.118 Others who spoke of the algal mat included Mr Shinn

(T10177), Professor Connell (T12294) and Dr Endean (T12944).

At T12952 Dr Endean said:-"Within a few days after a coral colony

has been killed a coating of filamentous

algae is apparent on the coral skeletons

... soft corals have rapid growth rates

and appear to compete with hard corals

for available substratum in many habitats."

Rate of regeneration PI.6.119 Varying scientific views were expressed on this subject. Some of these varying views were:

Dr Talbot -"An East African coral reef off the island

of Innaca was completely killed by fresh water coming down from a major river and

recovered to a flourishing coral reef in

eight years" (T1031) but the source of this statement was not made clear. He gave

the growth rate of staghorns as three feet in eight years.


PI.6. 120 Professor Stephenson believed recovery would be

slower than Dr Talbot's figures and he gave a growth rate of

1 inch to W inches per year for staghorns (T2097) - which is

a fast growing species.

PI.6.121 Mr Cropp described rapid recovery after both storm

and starfish damage (T11755 and T11753)· On the other hand recovery from the bombing on Saumarez Reef has been poor

despite the passage of several years (TII856).

PI. 6.122 Mr Shinn, Senior Geologist, Shell Oil Co., New

Orleans also spoke of examples of rapid recovery of reefs (in

Florida) after cyclones - recoveries largely due to the

ability of broken pieces of Acropora to stay alive, recover

themselves in new sites and grow quickly (T10117).

PI.6.123 Dr Stoddart was one of those who took a gloomier view

of time taken to recover and spoke of recovery periods ranging

from ten to twenty years and even longer (T5827).

PI.6.124 Another was Dr Endean who at T12959 discussed the effects of the moderate cyclone "Dinah" which in January 1967 struck the northern side of Heron Island reef. He said that

within twelve months small coral colonies were noted in the

relatively small sections of the reef which had been denuded

of living coral and by August 1970 recolonisation of these

areas was well under way. He added "It would appear from the above studies

that the rate of recolonisation of coral

reefs depends on the extent of damage to

hard corals caused by the storms. If this

damage is slight recovery can probably

occur within ten years, if moderate then

ten to twenty years might be involved.

If the damage is exceptionally extensive and severe then a still longer time will

probably be required."


PI.6.125 Dr Endean discussed at length the observed rates of

recovery from destruction of coral by the Acanthaster plague

in various reefs which he and his team had examined. His

summary of conclusions included:-"Thirdly, even after the lapse of some

years, recolonisation of hard corals was

generally slight or negligible in the

reef areas visited. It is possible that

very small colonies were overlooked but it

is believed that this is unlikely since in

most cases recolonisers attracted attention

because they appeared as splashes of colour

amid the drab colouration of a devastated

reef. Fourthly, there has been a phenomenal

increase in the algal cover and in the soft

coral cover of vast areas of devasted reefs.

It was apparent that the extent of recovery

of-the devastated reefs visited varied from

reef to reef and from one region to another

of the same reef." (T12985)

He added (T12986-7) "On the other hand, there appeared to be

a relationship between the rate of recovery

of an area of reef and the extent of coral

destruction in that area caused by the starfish initially, the more complete the

initial destruction the slower the recovery and vice versa. This raises the possibility

that recolonisers on a particular reef are

principally the progeny of coral colonies on the same reef which have survived the

destruction caused by A. plane!. ... Within

three to four years after starfish had devastated some areas of reef, recently

settled hard corals were seen in the areas.

However, species diversity was low." He agreed that there is some difficulty in estimating


the time which corals have had to recover from starfish attack


Others who gave varying views on the rate of

regeneration were Professors Woodhead, Thomson and Connell and

Dr Maxwell.

PI.6.126 Professor Connell gave detailed information of growth

rates in his survey areas at Heron Island following cyclone

damage. He said (T12173) "In one of my plots a branched piece of

large staghorn coral, 22 x 31 cm. arrived

in this way and grew to a size of 26 x

51 cm. in the next 2 years." He agreed with estimates of 10 - 20 years·for reef

recovery from substantial destruction (T12295).

PI. 6.127 Professor Woodhead gave his figures of coral cover

at Heron Island following the cyclone damage (T5309). They were average figures per square metre measured along lines

running parallel with the reef edge. In 1970 the cover was

24%, the mean number of colonies was 16 and the mean number

of species 9h. In 1971 the respective figures wer'e 38%, 24^% and 15 but these figures were subjected to considerable cross­

examination (T5450 et seq) and he conceded that these figures

could not be strictly relied on because the areas compared

were not precisely the same. He conceded also that the 8% new colonies shown could not (as he had suggested) account for half the cover increase. New colonies could not grow so fast

in the time available (T5452). His general views had earlier been expressed:-"During the 4^ years since the cyclone destruction there has obviously been good

recovery which is continuing ... " (T5310)

PI.6.128 Professor Thomson said he had observed regrowth at

Green Island and that coral several inches high "must be at least two years old." (T664)


PI.6.129 It seemed to be the general view (e.g. Dr Stoddart at

T5840) that the most rapid growing species are the branching

corals and the slower are the massive hemi-spherical colonies.

PI.6.130 Mr Shinn said the rate of growth of Acropora was 10 to 20 times that of head corals.

At T10178 he said:-"These head corals are up to 15 feet in

diameter. If you work out the growth rate

and the size of these you will see it

takes hundreds of years for many of these

heads to form. What I am saying is that

if a reef made of such large coral heads

is completely killed, every living portion of that outer living skin on these heads

is killed, then to grow new heads of the same size would take several hundred years.

Whereas Acropora as we have seen from the rapid growth rate can grow back in a

matter of years."

Other fauna and flora of the GBRP


PI.6.131 The most interesting molluscs on a coral reef are the clams (Tridacna). When their valves are open fleshy

mantles are exposed which are striking in the brilliance and diversity of their colouring - arresting photographs appear in

Isobel Bennett's "The Great Barrier Reef" Exhibit 451 at pp. 129

and 131 and also in Exhibit 3 p. 87 (Gillett and McNeill). The smaller clams occur in great abundance. A giant clam is also an inhabitant of the GBRP some of which exceed three feet in length

and weigh hundreds of pounds.

PI.6.132 Most molluscs are animals in a limestone shell which has been made by the animal itself, but some (e.g. octopus),

have no shell, others (e.g. cuttlefish and squid) have internal



Other molluscs of the GBRP include gastropods such

as snails and chitons, cowries, volutes and the naked sea

slugs or nudibranchs. On p .132 of Exhibit 451 is a photograph

of a nudibranch known as "Spanish Dancer.

Oysters are molluscs which are on the coast and some

continental islands in the GBRP.

They are being farmed commercially at Magnetic Island and else­

where. A number of species of oysters flourish in tropical

conditions (Mr Harrison T5716). There are also pearl oyster

farms in the Torres Strait and at the tip of Cape York. Mr

Grant spoke of the decline of the mother-of-pearl industry

(T1552 et seq). The trochus shell industry disappeared about

1965 with the production of plastic synthetics for buttons.

Fishing for clams is now prohibited (T1554) and the

taking of triton shells is also forbidden.

Echinoderms PI.6.133 In this phylum fall starfish, feather stars, brittle

stars, sea urchins and holothurians or sea cucumbers, some of

which are otherwise known as trepang or beche-de-mer. The word

"Echinodermata" means spiny-skinned. These creatures are

carnivores and scavengers, and in the latter role they play an

important part in removing bacteria and organic matter from

the coarse sand of the reef flats·(Professor Stephenson T2070) Descriptions of different echinoderms appears in

Chapter 6 of Exhibit 3 and Chapter 8 of Exhibit 451.

The beche-de-mer industry ceased about 1948.

Crustaceans PI.6.134 This class of the phylum includes crabs, lobsters,

prawns, shrimps and barnacles (see illustrations at pp. 122-5

of Exhibit 451).

There are numerous kinds of crabs living in the Great

Barrier Reef zone and upon the reefs and cays in particular.

A good general description is given in Exhibits 3 and 4.

However, none of these crabs has any commercial significance.

The only commercial crustacean fisheries away from


the mainland in the zone are for crayfish and prawns.

Prawning has become lucrative and is now the major

source of income for professional fishermen in the Townsville

region at least (Mr Bryson, Oyster Farmer and Secretary,

Professional Fisherman's Association, Townsville - at 1135*13) ·

Fish and fisheries * I

PI.6.135 An enormous number and great variety of fish inhabit the GBRP. Professor Thomson said (T629):-"Over 1,200 species of fish have been

recorded from the waters of the Great

Barrier Reef. A few are obnoxious ...

but most are either edible ... or decorative species."

He added (T632):-"I think most of the accessible reefs are

already fished to capacity. It is only a

matter of the fishermen extending their range to the more remote reefs. At a

guess I would say that probably a quarter

of the reefs are not touched at all. From

the nature of the fish species most of them

are not schooling species and are not suit­

able for great commercial fishery business.

I think, therefore, the increase will be

relatively small.

... The greater potential lies in the pelagic fishes such as tuna, (largely but

not entirely outside the reef), and clupeoids such as anchovies. There is a

great potential in oyster farming, more particularly along the mainland shore and

the inshore islands."

PI.6.136 Dr Choat (Lecturer, University of Auckland, N.Z.),

who carried out research work in relation to the ecology of reef fishes of Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef between


1963 and 1967 spending 18 months in the aggregate at Heron

Island said:-"The Barrier Reef will probably turn

out to have the richest fish fauna of

any region on earth ... we might say it would have something in the order

of 5,000 species ..." (T13146) "... an

unsurpassed natural laboratory for the

study of tropical fishes." (T13150)

PI.6.137 Dr Talbot said (T943):-"...The colour and variety of the fishes of the Great Barrier Reef far

surpass in pattern and in number of

species the rich bird fauna of the

Australian continent (by 3 to 4 times). ft

PI.6.138 Professor Stephenson said (T2057A) that Woodland and Slack-Smith in 1963 record­ ed 400 species from a single cay, Heron

Island - "this is more than is known

from the entire area of the North Atlantic and associated areas." This illustrates

the complexity of the reef fauna.

PI.6.139 Mr Grant (Research Fisheries Biologist, Department of Primary Industries, Queens­

land) used the annual reports of The Fish Board and the North Queensland Fish Board

to prepare tabulations of the annual

recorded catches of cod, coral trout, red emperor, mackerel, parrot and sweetlip

from receiving depots from Gladstone to

Cairns. This tabulation is Exhibit 104.

He concluded that over the decade I960 -

1961 to 1969 - 1970 (inclusive) the


average annual catch of these fish In that area was 1,101,384

lbs. with a current value of $352,000. The actual value of

the 1969-1970 catch was In Mr Grant's opinion $427,000.

Other "coastal fish" caught In the GBRP include

mullet, whiting, bream and javelin fish (T1546). Professor

Johannes stressed the importance of mangroves in relation to

such fish. This is dealt with later under "Mangroves".

PI.6.140 The fish food chain is a complex one. Some graze on

the coral polyps, some feed on algae and others eat smaller

fish. Mr Cropp at T11745 said that some of the very largest fish (as well as the smallest) live on plankton and he cited

the manta ray which grows to 15 or 20 feet across and the

whale shark which grows to 35 feet and more as examples of the

largest fish (also the mammalian whalebone whales) which live

on plankton. The general chain is for bigger fish to live on

small fish and the small fish on plankton. Some are scaveng­

ers. How plankton and the coral polyp feed is dealt with else­ where .

PI.6.141 Dr Choat said (T13133):-"On the Barrier Reef we have many true herbivores which depend exclusively on

plant material. At a rough estimate, I would say they represent 30 - 40% of

the biomass of the fish fauna on a reef like Heron Island. They are preyed upon by numerous larger carnivores. Coral

trout is the prime example."

PI.6. 142 Dr Choat said that there are two fairly distinct feed­ ing assemblages of fishes on a reef. Daylight feeding species,

mainly the large schooling herbivores such as parrot fish, but

with some carnivores (especially wrasses, a photograph of which

appears in Dr Isobel Bennett's Exhibit 451 at p.166) and

omnivores are preyed upon by gropers and coral trout (T13133)· This predatory activity becomes very obvious at dusk.


PI.6.143 There is another, larger, group of carnivores which is active at night. These include huzzars, sweetlips, grunts,

squirrel fish and moray eels. Most seem to feed on benthic

invertebrates (T13134).

PI.6.144 As a practical man Mr Bryson spoke both on oysters

and basic nutrients in the GBRP. Of the former he said that

when cultivated they lose their natural strong flavour and he

feared from his observations and experiences in the Townsville

area (he farms oysters at Magnetic Island) that oil pollution

would both damage and render unmarketable his oysters (T13587)·

He said also that basic nutrients were not available in

sufficient quantities to sustain heavy density fishing. This

he attributed to the poor exchange of waters across the Barrier

reefs whilst the south east trade winds (on which he spoke at

length - T13581) predominate.

PI.6.145 He stressed the significance of large quantities of reef spawn ("plankton or algae organisms . . . this year we had at least four months of it continuously" ~ T13554) sometimes

seen on the water surface or washed ashore and said it stimulated the growth of oysters, pippies, prawns and corals

(T13555). He thought that an oil spill must have a serious

effect on such floating organisms.

PI.6.146 Mr Bryson was the only witness who spoke of poor

nutrition affecting the well-being of coral. He said (T13580)

that lack of nutrition in the water in the Magnetic Island

area, due to four years of south easterlies, caused 90% of coral deaths and the coral began to regrow when the water

became enriched due to off-shore winds.

PI.6.147 Mr Bryson spoke of marked changes of temperature

which occur in lagoonal waters as fresh cold waters are brought

in by the rising tide and of the oil slicks deriving from the tanker terminal at Townsville. He spoke of an oil slick being

carried around Magnetic Island by tidal currents and travelling 20 miles in 24 hours (T13554). 124

PI.6.148 Dr Choat stressed that there appears to be very

little movement of true reef fish between reefs or even away

from specific locations on a reef. He said (T13119):-

"What studies have been made indicate

there there is only very limited move­

ment to particular spawning sites, and

these movements may be in the order of

perhaps 400 or 500 metres. There is

nothing comparable, as far as we know,

to the very characteristic migration

circuit of temperate water fishes,

which will travel in the order of

hundreds of miles to reach a specific

spawning site, spawn and move on. It

appears that reef fish have nothing

comparable to a migration circuit."

He added:-"The reasons for the association may

be varied. The reef may provide food, its structure a shelter for species

which feed beyond the reef boundary.

Pelagic species such as tunas,

mackerels, and some sharks which visit

reefs from time to time are excluded here. Evidence suggesting a high degree of internal organisation in reef communit­

ies is slowly accumulating but more rigor­

ous proofs are required."

PI.6.149 Speaking of the habitat he said (T13120):- "To an untrained observer there seems to

be little visible plant life. Odum and Odum (1955) have demonstrated that most upturned calcareous surfaces harbour commun­

ities of small algae which in terms of pro­ ductivity are the most important source of

plant material on the reef. This algae


supports the vast school of herbivor­

ous fishes characteristic of the shallow

flats and channels. It grows rapidly and

is just as rapidly eaten down."

PI.6.150 An important aspect of the complexity and balanced

inter-dependence of marine life in the GBRP was stressed by

Dr Choat. He warned that large numbers of fish life do not

necessarily mean an ability to resist or recuperate from a disaster.

He said (T13170A):-"Mature eco-systems such as coral reefs

do not have great stores of free

nutrients. Nutrients are abundant, but

are bound up in the living components

of the eco-system and are cycled through

the animals and plants by a multitude of

complex pathways. The energy in such a

system is not easily harvested without

running the risk of widespread disruption

as removal of animals or plants also

involves removal of the nutrient stock."

He said also (T13170):-"... If we float a boat over a reef and we can see a large number of fish below, it

does not necessarily mean we can catch all

of them and expect a similar number to return there within some period of time."

"Why not?"-- "Because estimates of how

standing crops will change throughout time are based on a knowledge of the life

and life processes, birth, death, growth and movement of the species concerned. We

simply do not have that information for a

great majority of fishes on coral reefs."

and he posed the following question (T13171):-"... Can we get at some harvestable material


and leave the stock of nutrients intact

... you can manage a canefieId very easily.

I do not think you can really manage a

reef very easily. It is just too complex

and there are too many possibilities of

things going wrong ... things we are un­

aware of."


PI.6.151 Plankton are very small organisms which do not swim but drift although they have a measure of mobility in that they

have the ability to propel themselves (Mr Grant at T12921).

T12921). Some are plants and others are animals. The smallest

are microscopic but some are visible. Some animal plankton

spend all their lives as plankton, others are planktonic only

during the larval stage.

PI.6.152 Many coral polyps begin life in the plankton -

probably in the upper 20 - 30 feet of the water mass - "it is

not a question of them going right up into the surface layer" -

Dr Choat at T13193-

PI.6.153 Mr Cropp said that many bottom dwelling animals such as clams, corals and worms feed on plankton but the manta ray

and whale shark feed near the surface. He said that that is

where the heaviest concentration of plankton is found but that

"it is all throughout the water, everywhere." (Tll802)

PI.6.154 Professor Woodhead said that a majority of reef

animals have eggs and larvae which are planktonic (that is they

drift and are not nektonic) for varying periods (T5271).

PI.6.155 Dr Mather said (Tl4l44) that the longer the planktonic

life of the larvae, the longer its free swimming cycle, the more dispersal it is likely to suffer and the longer its

exposure to the predator. She added:-" if too dispersed these larvae when


they settle and metamorphose Into

adults would give rise to populations

that were so sparse that sexual re­

production would not be possible within

them ... In general therefore evolution

tends to be accompanied by a reduction

in the time that larvae are planktonic

or pelagic."

PI.6.156 Plankton is of critical importance for the continued

existence of much of the marine life within the GBRP due to it

being an all-important source of food. The crucial importance

of planktonic organisms to marine life generally was stressed

(amongst others) by Professor Clark at T3723 (and see Answer to TR2).

Zooplankton and phytoplankton

PI.6.157 There is plant plankton (phytoplankton) and animal plankton (zooplankton). The latter feeds on the former

which is at the bottom of the trophic level but both are fed

on by larger creatures and are therefore responsible for life

including coral life as the coral polyps feed on zooplankton.

It is clear therefore, that zooplankton and phytoplankton are

members of the coral's food chain and that any enquiry into the effect of oil on coral must include an enquiry (inter alia)

into the effect of oil on both zooplankton and phytoplankton.

Effects of oil on plankton - Mironov and Kasymov

PI.6. 158 The question whether oil affects coral and if so how

and to what extent can not be determined until full experiments are carried out on the effects of oil on plankton. This has

not been done in respect of the GBRP. In respect of the spill from the 1 Oceanic Grandeur' in the Torres Strait area in March

1970, Mr Tranter during an inspection of the area said (T7517):- "A plankton sample was taken beneath an

outlying oil slick (fig. 17) and in the

wake of a tender spraying detergent.


Neither sample showed any unusual mortality

or lack of vigour among the organisms

caught, but later microscopic examination

showed that some organisms had their

appendages fouled with oil droplets."

This can however scarcely be equated with a scientific

experiment conducted in depth over a period. The examination of Mr Grant at T12921-2 is referable.

Exhibits 289 and 299 relate inter alia to the toxic effects of oil on plankton. The former is a copy of a paper

entitled "The Effect of Oil Pollution on Flora and Fauna of the

Black Sea" read by Professor Mironov of the Institute of Biology,

Sevastopol, U.S.S.R. at the Rome 1970 Conference of FAO (Food

and Agricultural Organisation of the UNO) on Marine Pollution

and its Effects on Living Resources and Fishing.

It states

"Experiments (Mironov and Lanskaya -

1967) indicate that oil products in the

water produce a toxic effect on phytoplankton.

Differences in sensitivity to oil pollution occur between species ... we noted that oil

and oil products in the concentration of

.001 ml/1 (i.e. one part per million) accelerated the death of zooplankton (Table


... The survival of fishes depends mainly

on the way the oil is introduced into the

sea water. When oil products were emulsified

in the sea water, the damage was much greater than in the case of oil films on the surface.

... The data on the effect of oil on benthic organisms particularly molluscs are contra­

dictory . "

PI.6.159 Exhibit 299 is a copy of an article entitled "Industry and Productivity of the Caspian Sea" which appeared in the

Marine Pollution Bulletin Vol. 1 (NS) Number 7 of July 1970.


The writer is A.G. Kasymov of the Institute of Zoology,

Academy of Sciences, Baku, U.S.S.R. It deals with the- scale

of pollution in the Caspian Sea which is described as "consider­

able." It avers that there has been a reduction in the amount

of phytoplankton and of zooplankton in industrially polluted

areas, also a reduction of benthic fauna and of fish reserves.

Detailed figures and Tables are given in the article.

Neither Professor Mironov nor the writer of Exhibit

299 was a witness before the Commission.

PI.6.160 Professor Stephenson said that the general plankton

of the Reef had been little studied. At T2077 he said:-

"Coral larvae are part of the planktonic

populations as a whole. The only effective

studies of the general plankton of the reef

were made in a localised area by the Yonge

Expedition, and over most of the space we

do not even know the seasonal succession of

dominant forms, much less the temporal and spacial distinctiveness of such 'communities'

as might exist. Experience with post­

graduate students working within the confines

of Moreton Bay suggests that at least ten

Ph.D's will be awarded before we have a

tolerably acceptable knowledge of even this

relatively small area. The logistic and

faunistic complications which can be expected in comparable studies of the reef

will be of a much greater magnitude."

PI.6.l6l He had earlier said (T2075-6):-"Part of the problem is that most species

of corals settle as larvae, after a

period of planktonic life. There have

been no studies of the varying populations

of larvae of different species of corals

in different parts of the reef at different


seasons. This would be a study of con­

siderable magnitude ..."

Foraminifera and reef formation

PI.6.162 Foraminifera are mainly microscopic but a few are

considerably larger-"the size of the old Australian penny"

(Professor Thomson at T6l6). The small ones are everywhere

throughout the reef not on the reef proper but in the channels.

These one-celled animals are so numerous that their dead and

dying skeletons fill in the cracks in the reef walls gradually

cementing the blocks together. Other animals which contribute

to the formation of the reef are the calcareous tubes of worms,

the mat of moss animals and the fixed molluscs such as clams


PI.6.163 The skeletons of the corals themselves which are com­

posed of calcium carbonate and which are generally white, are

secreted by the jelly-like tissues of the living coral polyps themselves and it is the polyp which gives these skeletons

their vivid and varying colours.

Complexities and dependencies of GBR marine life

PI.6.164 The complexity of the coral and reef systems is thus

apparent - many animals and plants are directly and indirectly

involved in the creation of the reef and in maintaining its

existence. There is not only a food chain but a "bricks and

mortar" chain. There are of course many other essentials - temperatures, freedom from sediments or pollution, and nutrients,

currents, winds and weather suitable for sustaining life amongst

the multiple dwellers in this environment whose inter-dependence

is manifest and so on.

PI.6.165 This inter-dependence was stressed by many scientific

witnesses and perhaps the arresting words of Sir Maurice Yonge

in a letter to the Commission shortly before he gave evidence

is illustrative:-"One thing is quite certain namely that


the coral reef community Is extraordinar­

ily delicately balanced and can easily be

tipped in directions leading to total


A stability theory

PI.6,166 A somewhat contrary theory generally attributed to a

Spanish scientist - Margelef - was referred to by Dr Talbot at

T1024 et seq and discussed by one or two other witnesses namely

that the very complexity of the Reef eco-systems promoted

stability. This will be discussed later, (paragraphs PI.6.185

et seq)


PI.6.167 "Algae and fixed vegetation such as

Zostera and the mangroves play a vital

part in the system (i.e. fertility and

productivity) along the seashores" -

Mr Harrison quoted by Dr Cribb at T4?85.

PI.6. 168 The production of algae in the GBRP is very high.

There are the coralline algae and other types

generally known as the "fleshy" algae. The part which

coralline algae play in forming the cementing mat has been

referred to earlier. Dr Maxwell (T122) said

"In addition, the calcareous algae

Halimeda grows profusely in the

crevices and niches of the spurs, while

the encrusting algae - Lithothamnlon

and related genera - encroach the bases

of coral colonies." "What size is this calcareous algae

Halimeda?" "It grows as a small bush approximately

of the size of one's hands put together.

The fronds of it are slightly smaller

than one's finger nails."

"What about Lithothamnlon?" 132

"That forms as an encrustation - a reddish

encrustation. It is a red algae."

PI.6.169 Dr Cribb at T4750 et seq spoke of algae as they

inhabit the reef zones. He said:-"The sandy-gravelly beaches of the cays

are devoid of plant growth. Beach rock

(consolidated beach material) occurs

between approximately mean high water

and mean low water along the beaches of

many cays and supports several species

of small algae, particularly Blue-green

algae (Cyanophyta), which form a thin

crust or fur, in the upper parts appear­

ing as no more than a dark stain, in the

lower parts often partly obscured by the

sand and the sediment they trap." In respect of'the reef flat he said (T4752):-"Some algae grow on the sandy floor but

the great majority are attached to dead

parts of the poral clumps. In general,

the proportions of living coral and

fleshy algae show an inverse relationship.

Fleshy algae are usually best developed near

the cay where coral, both living and dead,

tends to be relatively sparse."

PI.6.170 In respect of the seaward reef margin, which is an

area forming a relatively narrow strip often 50 - 150 yards

wide in the main sloping gently seawards and during periods of

spring tides emergent at low water, he said (T4752):- "Its upper part consists commonly of coral

rubble, the fragments varying from finger­

like pieces to boulders. The smaller frag­

ments are subject to frequent movement and mostly support only microscopic, often

penetrating, algae.


Larger fragments, less subject to movement,

may support as well several species of

small, fur-like algae. Seawards of this

rubble band is a gentle slope seaward of

calcareous rock, often shallowly and

irregularly terraced, which, to a casual

observer, might appear to be largely devoid

of algae."

PI.6.171 After damage to coral reefs the fleshy algae flour­

ish but in the course of time are generally replaced by coral­

line algae during the process of coral regeneration.


PI.6.172 The importance of mangroves was stressed by several

witnesses. Professor Johannes said (T4229):-"The work of Odum (1969) among others has demonstrated conclusively that mangroves

are of immense importance to commercial

fisheries. While the living leaves of

the plant are seldom eaten, the decompos­

ing fragments provide the base of a very

important food chain supporting shrimp,

shell-fish, and the juveniles of a

variety of commercially valuable species

of fin-fishes. The roots of the mangroves

also provide shelter vital to the survival

of these juveniles. ... Thus, when man­

groves are destroyed, damage occurs both

to the land, in the form of erosion, and

to the adjacent marine community in the

form of sedimentation."

PI.6.173 There are at least 27 species of mangrove in North

Queensland and stretches of mangroves and mangrove swamps are

frequent and in the aggregate occupy a very substantial pro­

portion (nearly half - Mr Harrison T5766) of the entire coast-


line of the GBRP. Mr Davis' map Exhibit 223 indicates where

the coastal mangroves are.

PI. 6.174 They provide important breeding and nursery grounds

for fish, prawns and crustaceans (Dr Cribb T4785).

He said (T4?82):-"The roots of plants require oxygen for

respiration, and, in most species,

sufficient is obtained via the soil.

However, the roots of mangroves are

normally in a water-logged soil, poorly

aerated and, in some cases, completely

devoid of free oxygen. Many mangroves

have specialised roots with above­

ground portions pierced with lenticels

(pores) leading to a system of internal

air spaces continuous with those in the

underground parts."

PI.6.175 It has in the past been a popular fallacy in some quarters that mangroves are not only unattractive but useless.

But it is now universally accepted by scientists

that they play not only an important but a necessary part in

the maintenance and protection of the environment.

Dr Cribb at T4782 quoted from a paper of Mr Harrison

as follows:-"Removal of mangroves and marine grass

cover has freed mud banks to move with

the currents and engendered heavy spending

on maintenance dredging, retaining walls

and breakwaters."

Apart from the coastline, mangroves exist on many

coral cays.

Mr Harrison stressed (inter alia) that steps were

being taken for their preservation (T5762-3)· Useful references to and photographs of mangrove

habitats appear in Exhibit 451 (by Dr Isobel Bennett).


Birds - Dr Kikkawa

PI.6.1?6 Birds present a special problem where oil spillage is


PI.6.177 Dr Kikkawa was the only witness before the Commission

whose chief interest lay in birds. He is a D.Sc of Kyota

University and for a considerable time has been Reader in

Zoology, University of Queensland. Other witnesses such as

Dr Talbot (T963), Professor Woodhead (T5254 and T5277) and Mr

Cropp (T11822-3) referred to the bird population of the GBRP .

Dr Isobel Bennett's Exhibit 451 has useful photographs at

ΡΡ.57 - 61.

PI.6.178 Dr Kikkawa gave evidence on two occasions, the first

beginning at T673 and the second at T1903. At pp. 675 - 680 is a table prepared by Dr Kikkawa setting forth details of

bird species, their common names and their ecological categor­

ies .

PI.6.179 Petrels and shearwaters which are oceanic birds migrate to areas in great numbers for breeding purposes.

Other oceanic birds such as albatrosses and storm-petrels are

seldom seen.

PI.6.l80 Gannets, pelicans, cormorants and frigate birds are

common in more or less degree in various areas of the GBRP

and the reef heron is present in significant numbers. Noddies,

terns and silver gulls in various species are common as are also plovers and waders. These birds are either surface feed­

ers or divers.

PI.6.I8l Dr Kikkawa discussed the place of birds in the GBRP

eco-system. At T693 he said:-"Birds in this region occupy a unique position

in the eco-system. As shown in the ecological

categories above, they exploit all trophic

levels of sea and land; sea birds range from


plankton feeders to fish eaters, while

waders feed on tidal zone animals.

Land birds also vary in their diet from

fruits to insects at all heights of veg­

etation and on the ground. One signific­

ant function of sea birds in the cycle of

nutrients is to transport organic matter

from the nutrient rich marine environ­

ment to islands and thus support the

growth of vegetation. Migratory birds

disseminate many species of plants from

island to island and help development of

plant communities. Any catastrophic

change, if it occurs, will inevitably

affect all birds in the area through

marine and terrestrial food chains."

PI.6.l82 Later he spoke of migratory waders and sea birds which

migrate to the North Pacific in large numbers and use Barrier

Reef islands as stepping stones. Many land birds do the same

(T701). In some cases there is a local distribution pattern of breeding sea birds. He said (T699): —

"The breeding colony of the Australian

pelican on Pelican Island, south of Cape Flattery is an example of the traditional

breeding ground. The island was so named

by Captain Cook and pelicans still breed

there in large numbers. They do not occur

on adjacent islands and in fact they are

rather rare in Barrier Reef waters."

He added (T700):-"Because sea birds breed in large colonies

their influences on marine organisms are

generally considered great, particularly

when young are fed in every nest."

PI.6.183 Of the Torres Strait pigeon he said (T702): —


"Several of the northern Islands are

used by the Torres Strait pigeon which

roosts and breeds on the island In

enormous numbers. The birds fly across

the ocean each day from the traditional roosting site of the island to the main­

land, travelling at least 10 miles each

way. One of these Islands, Hope Island

off Cape Tribulation, was watched from

the sea one evening in 1968 when 1,332

pigeons were seen in many small flocks

flying low above the water on their way

back to the island. Protection of such

a traditional island is essential for

the conservation of Torres Strait pigeons

in Australia."

PI.6.184 On his second visit to the witness box Dr Kikkawa

gave detailed evidence of the birds which would be more obvious­

ly affected by oil pollution. Divers, surface feeders and

waders are especially in jeopardy. This aspect will be dealt

with in the Answer to TR2.

A theory relating to stability The Margelef theory and Sir Maurice Yonge's

contrary view PI.6.185 Mention has been made earlier (paragraph PI.6.166) to the Margelef theory and of the dichotomy it tends to create.

The matter rests presently in theory - the issue being whether

Sir Maurice Yonge is correct when he says that the delicate

balance of the complex eco-system of the GBRP lends itself

readily to destruction of the system or is its own protection.

PI.6.186 The matter can scarcely be carried further until

scientific experiments in depth have been made over a period

but a few brief references to the evidence are in point because of the importance of the subject when the Terms of


Reference are being answered perhaps particularly TR2 (para­ graphs 2.9.139 et seq).

Dr Talbot’s view

PI.6.I87 At T1024 Dr Talbot said:-"It is my feeling that the barrier reef is

not as stable as current ecological feeling

would suppose ...”

"You are saying you are out of step with

current ecological theory (i.e. the Margelef theory). "

"That is correct."

Later he said (>T1027) that he did not accept the Margelef doctrine altogether.

Professor Stephenson’s view

PI.6.188 Professor Stephenson at T2072 said:­

"... emphasises the interactions in the eco-system, and how disturbance of any

important element could have widespread

and harmful effects. One disturbance which

has not been evaluated, is the effect of

removing the fish which are high in the

food chain by commercial line fishing, angling and spearfishing."

When asked expressly about the Yonge statement the

following took place (T2073):-"I think I would like to see the evidence

on which that statement is based."

"It comes from Sir Maurice Yonge."

"It is an opinion to which I would incline,

but my inclination would be on an intuitive

basis. Since you have mentioned Sir Maurice

Yonge, I have a very high respect for his

intuition. It would be much more reliable

than mine."


Professor Johannes1 view

PI. 6.189 Professor Johannes at T4271 et seq said he did not

agree with the Margelef theory beyond the point that "the

more species you have in a community the more pathways of

interaction and the more stable the community is." But "there

is another mechanism for'the development of stability which I

believe to be more important" he added. He then contrasted

the environmental variables which occur in a very shallow

community such as the mangrove community with the situation on

the reefs. He said:-"Therefore, the animals and plants that live

in this community have not had to adapt,

physiologically, to great extremes of

environmental variables. Therefore, when

an extreme does come along as a result of

some natural or man made disruption, the

likelihood that coral reef organisms as a

whole can tolerate these stresses is less

than in the case of the mangrove community,

despite the fact of the diversity of the

mangrove community, the number of different

species and the interactions, being less

than in a coral reef community. To sum it

up there are two ways in which a community

develops stability and this complexity

seems to be less important than this

other consideration of how wide a range of stresses the community normally encounters."

Dr Grassle says Margelef has

been wrongly interpreted PI.6.190 Dr Grassle said there has been some confusion of

thought over the word "stability" which Margelef himself had

discussed in 1969 (T6255). It is unnecessary to canvass in

detail the analysis which he then made but he had earlier made

a persuasive point that many species of Reef animals are highly

specialised in their habitats and some of the rarer species


might not be able to survive damage to those habitats, and he

instanced the anemone fish (T6241).

PI.6.191 At T6447 Dr Grassle was referred to Yonge's statement

and was asked whether those views were consistent with Margelef'

and he replied

"I think that is why Margelef wrote this

other paper because he found in this difficult

area people were misinterpreting his words.

I agree that at least Margelef's treatment

of it has been highly theoretical ... he tried

to clear this area up in this Brookhaven

Symposium and I think Dr Margelef would agree

with Sir Maurice."

Further view of Sir Maurice Yonge

PI.6.192 Sir Maurice Yonge in his own evidence at T9260-1 said:

"Margelef is a very distinguished Spanish

worker -and I think his primary concern was

with plankton. Where you have a relatively

simple system you have a series of animal

planktonic organisms which are feeding on plant planktonic organisms. He is a very

eminent worker and if he says that, he has

adequate reason for saying so ... I am no

expert ecologist, but I would have thought it would be difficult to establish this in

the complicated set-up of a coral reef,

very difficult."

PI.6.193 Earlier at T9227 Sir Maurice had said:-"... Any upset in the existing ecological balance could have devastating effects.

I say 'could'. There is no certainty on these matters. But in my opinion

the ecological balance is all important

and that is easily upset."

and he added

"But in point of fact there is an enormous

cryptic fauna in addition to these

external obvious fauna. This is perhaps

the most delicate part of the system,

or it certainly could be. Here again

one would like experiments." (T9230).

Dr Stoddart's view

PI.6.19^ Dr Stoddart said at T5848 that it is quite possible

that components of the reef such as bacteria and fungi could

be disrupted by pollution in a way which is not immediately

apparent. "... the long term effects might be perhaps more

far-reaching," and at T5868 he said:­ "... in general the most stable communities

are the most complex. Reefs are highly

complex; one would therefore expect them

to be stable, but the experience of

Acanthaster for example has shown that

there are circumstances in which this is

not true. To my knowledge we simply do

not have the understanding of reef eco­

systems to make meaningful statements

about them."

PI.6.195 Many examples of symbiotic, commensal and parasitic

relationships between animals of the GBRP were given by Mr

Cropp at T11774 et seq as being evidentiary of some aspects of

the inter-dependence existing in the eco-systems thereof. A

few examples will suffice -(a) larger fish which go periodically

to cleaning stations where small

cleaning fish free them of small

parasites which cause fungus dis­

eases .

(b) the remora or sucker fish which get

"free rides" from manta rays, sharks

and turtles.

(c) commensal crabs which live inside

mollusc shells.

(d) the damsel fish which hide in coral.

and among the examples of specialised feeders were:-(a) the parrot fish feeding on live


(b) surgeon fish eating algae.

(c) fish living mainly on pilchards.

Dr Halstead's view

PI.6.196 Dr Halstead at T7308 said:-"Corals are so important to the integrity

of the reef that their destruction soon

results in the migration or death of

most of the other reef fauna and a

significant part of the flora." In making this statement he relied on his observa­

tions in the Marshall Islands.

Dr Endean's view PI.6.197 Dr Endean also noticed the tendency of other animals

to desert reefs where the coral had been killed by starfish.

After referring to the Margelef theory he said

(T12937):-"However a number of cases have been recorded

where mass mortality of coral, the basic

element in this system, has occurred. The

results were far reaching."

PI.6.198 He said he tended to regard each coral reef as an eco­

system "to a limited extent" as it was far from being completely independent of other coral reefs in the area.

PI.6.199 At T13057 he agreed that the GBR had shown "tremendous

powers in nature of restoration." He said:-"This must be so, particularly so far as


coral reefs are concerned, because

they have evolved under conditions

where they are periodically damaged.

Nobody would disagree with this."

PI.6.200 Other features of Dr Endean's evidence which related

to the general subject of stability included a reference to

the "key" species concept. At T1294? he said that the elimina­

tion of a given species would not necessarily affect the whole

community but if a species such as the triton were concerned -

"a key species, high in the trophic scale at the end of a

food chain" - the results could be far reaching. He said the

theory is in the developmental stage and that further work may

justify a more comprehensive concept of "key species" - a

concept introduced by the American, Robert Paine in 1969.

Dr Mather's view

PI.6.201 Dr Mather (Research Fellow, University of Queensland)

at T14077-8 said that the extent to which disturbance in any

area could affect contiguous areas is not known. She said it

was a scientific possibility that destruction of a reef at

point X could affect a reef 50 miles away. She was asked

"Say instead of 50 even 500 miles? Would you still say it

would be a scientific possibility?" - to which she replied:-

"I think it is more than a possibility:

that the size of a wound in any ecological

system, the rate of healing of a wound in

any ecological system, is directly related

to the distance where the nearest healthy

section of that system is. In other

words, if you have a big disturbance, a big wound, then you will need, for rapid

healing, a very nearby source of healthy


PI.6.202 Later she was cross-examined on this statement and

at 114165 the following question and answer appear:-

"So, would it follow from that that if,

for one reason or another, a wound were

suffered to a coral reef, in an area

where there were many coral reefs in

the near vicinity, the recovery of the

wounded reef would be greater or more

rapid than it might otherwise be? -- "Yes."

Summary of views and the necessity for research

PI.6.203 From the foregoing it will be seen that variance

exists amongst scientists on the general question of stability

and much experimental work must be done before theories can be finally accepted or rejected.

PI.6.204 At least it can be said that Dr Endean's view that

the GBR has shown tremendous powers of restoration is persuas­

ive so far as the coral reefs are concerned as they are period­

ically damaged by nature. But whether this can be extended to

damage caused by oil - especially if it sinks - dispersants and

sediments is another matter which will be discussed in the answer to TR2.

Oxygen usage in the GBRP - How oxygen is provided

PI.6.205 This subject is also discussed in the answer to TR2.

Oxygen is provided to marine life on the Reef from three sources:-1. The production of oxygen by marine

plants in light;

2. Diffusion of oxygen from the air into

the water during darkness; (during the

day the concentrations are high in the

water and oxygen would tend to flow the

other way); and 3. Dissolved oxygen reaching the reef in

water flowing from the open sea.

PI.6.206 Considerable attention was paid in evidence to the

total oxygen demand of the biomass on and around coral reefs.

Seaward slopes of reefs

PI.6.207 Oxygen from the atmosphere is available in greater

quantities in surface than in deeper waters. The seaward

slopes of reefs which are pounded by the surf will always

have an adequate oxygen supply. Mr Kinsey tended to agree

(T4962) that the area where oxygen availability was critical

was restricted to the back reef areas.

Sir Maurice Yonge's view

PI.6.208 Sir Maurice Yonge gave evidence on this subject at

T9233:-"The importance of oxygen is that all

animals of course must have oxygen and

adequate oxygen. I mean, here I did do

experiments. One current view at that

time was that of course you had these

plants inside the animals and they have to photosynthesize. In other words,in

the presence of light they build up their

COp - carbohydrates, (semble, C02 and

water into carbohydrates). Well, this

of course involves as a by-product the

production of oxygen. The coral workers at

that time said this was significant; the

amount of oxygen so produced was a signific­ ant factor in the maintenance of corals. I

did experiments - I think quite valid experi­

ments - on this point and however I did find

that corals were over the short period singul­

arly unsusceptible to lack of oxygen. They

could get on overnight when the oxygen

content undoubtedly falls very low on a

reef. They could get on quite well

overnight and then of course the follow­

ing day their oxygen would be replenished just by the circulation of the water and


by the action of the plants and all the rest

of it. I mean for the short term and by

short term I mean overnight or perhaps a few

days corals can exist well enough in very

low oxygen content. I think that is valid.

Over any significant length of time is

another matter altogether. Undoubtedly the corals would die."

PI.6.209 Later he elaborated:-"I would have thought coral exposed to really

low oxygen tension, say, 10 per cent of normal

oxygen, over a week, would be suffering; over

a month would be dead. That is just an opinion.

It is an opinion that can be experimentally

proved without any difficulty."

Dr Talbot's view

PI.6.210 Dr Talbot also gave evidence of oxygen usage by a reef

community at T951:-"During the day much more oxygen is produced

by the plants than they and the marine

animals use, but during the night no oxygen

is produced by the plants and oxygen levels

continuously drop under quiet water con­ ditions .

In the work by the Australian Museum's team

on One Tree Island lagoonal reefs we have found that, because of the huge amount of

living plant and animal matter found per

square metre of coral although there is an excess of oxygen produced during the day over that utilised by both plants and

animals in normal respiration or breath­

ing, the picture at night is quite differ­

ent and of extreme interest. ... The large

biomass continues to respire after darkness


has fallen and as no oxygen is then

produced by the chlorophyll in the

green plants the oxygen in the water

drops rapidly. In measurements cover­

ing work through many night/day cycles

with regular sampling of oxygen

tensions, pH - which is merely acidity -

and other chemical parameters - (here

we have watched mostly calcium produc­

tion or calcium balance) - we have

found oxygen tension to get so low in

the back reef and lagoon of One Tree

that the absorption of oxygen into the

water across the air/water interface

is only just keeping pace with the

utilisation of oxygen by the respira­

tion of the plants and animals."

He added at T952:-"We can therefore see that the reefs

have such abundant animal and plant

life that they are in fact reaching

close to the limits with regard to

the oxygen cycle and that in limiting

periods movement of oxygen through the air/water face is vital to the

existence of the reef system. It is

already only barely adequate to keep

pace with total respiration of the

animals and plants. The reef system is therefore extremely delicately


PI.6.211 The question whether a layer of oil on water surface

prevents or impedes the transfer of oxygen from the air to the water at the air/water interface and the nature and results of

experiments made by Mr Kinsey will be discussed in the answer


to TR2.

Other forms of animal life in the GBRP

PI.6.212 Turtles, dugongs (or sea cows), sponges, marine worms,

molluscs, echlnoderms and eels are among other forms of animal

life which are important.

PI.6.213 Dr Isobel Bennett's Exhibit 451 ("The Great Barrier Reef")for example deals with turtles at pp. 62 - 3, with sponges at pp. 104 - 110, with marine worms at pp. 116 - 121

and with eels at pp. 54 - 6. Exhibit 3 (Gillett and McNeill)

also gives interesting descriptions and photographs.

These animals are less dominant in numbers than many

earlier mentioned but they are so highly regarded that most of

them are now protected in more or less degree.

The low level of biological knowledge of the GBRP Generally

PI.6.214 Many scientific witnesses stressed the general lack

of knowledge of the ecosystem of the Reef.

Work on the inter-relationship of species was said to

have scarcely started whilst much work remains to be done on particular species.

Professor Stephenson's view

PI.6.215 At T2075 Professor Stephenson said:-"Coral ecology is an extremely complex subject because so many species occupy what appear to be identical habitats."

At T2077 he said:-"As part of the benthos, corals do not

live in isolation from the remainder.

Space competition between hard corals,

soft corals, macroscopic algae and

microscopic algae has only been hinted

at in publications. Close associations between corals and other organisms have

been studied ... but a very great deal


remains to be done ...

Dr Choat's view

PI.6.216 Dr Choat said that in his view the field of plank­

tonic settlement was the most important in reef fish biology.

He said (T13202):-"I think the most important aspect of

reef fish biology is the period when the

larvae must transform from being in the

plankton and open water and find a

suitable site on a coral reef to commence

their adult lives. I think that is very

important as far as reef biology is con-

concerned. "

PI.6.217 He had earlier tabulated at least four areas in

which research might be profitably undertaken "into the fish

population." (T13174 et seq)

PI.6.218 To carry out the work he had in mind would require

a team of 18 - 20 workers over a period of five years (T13203 -


Dr Stoddart’s view PI.6.219 Dr Stoddart said that the ribbon and barrier plat­ form reefs have hardly been studied at all: attention has

been concentrated on the more accessible patch reefs and reefs

with islands (T5786). He added (T5790):-"To emphasise the spatial restriction of

the work carried out on the Great Barrier Reef, however, is not to imply that nothing

has been done: rather it is to emphasise

the disparity in scale between the magnitude

of the problems posed by the reef and the

small number of scientists, mainly based

at the University of Queensland, supple­

mented from time to time by overseas


expeditions ...

PI.6.220 Dr Stoddart spoke of the great practical difficulties

involved in studying the reefs of the outer Barrier. He said (T5796):-"... outer ribbon reefs of the Barrier

system ... are extremely wide reefs in

areas of very considerable tidal range

and the problems in getting to pre­

specified locations on these reefs with­

out running into considerable difficulties

are really quite immense."

Dr Grassle's view

PI.6.221 Dr Grassle at T6098 referred to the "uniqueness" of

the reef and said it had many species found nowhere else and he mentioned the work he had done on polychaetes at Heron Island

and at Τβ2?6 he said that the sort of work which ought to be

done "before any new disturbances are introduced" - by which he included oil drilling - would take at least 10 years "no matter

whether you had a lot of people and the best people you could

possibly get."

Sir Maurice Yonge's view

PI.6.222 Sir Maurice Yonge said (T9230):-"We were experimenting some ^0 years

ago in great detail over 13 months and we began to analyse the whole set-up.

We hoped this would continue, but very

little has been done since."

Lack of adequate laboratories PI.6.223 Dr Stoddart and Sir Maurice both spoke of the lack of

adequate laboratories and at T5897-8 Dr Stoddart spoke at some

length on the projected 1973 expedition by the Royal Society to

the GBRP.


Reef fish

PI.6. 224 Dr Cheat at T13119 said:-"It is not yet possible to give any

exact definition of a reef fish fauna

... because we simply do not have

enough knowledge of the habits, the

distribution, patterns of activity,

the reproductive processes, movement

especially, of the fish themselves.

We also are lacking in the essential

taxonomic knowledge to identify the

species correctly, and those reasons

make it rather difficult to define a

fish fauna and say, 'This is a reef

fish, this is not.'"

Senate Select Committee Report

PI.6.225 Earlier (Part 2) we quoted from the Report of the

Senate Select Committee (Exhibit 450) at paragraph 13-185 portion of which reads

"Lack of Knowledge of the Reef: There

was wide agreement amongst all witnesses

that present knowledge of the Reef was

extremely inadequate whether in terms of ...

marine biology or any other of the marine sciences."

Marine national parks and reserves

Paramountcy of the Petroleum (Submerged

Lands) Act of 1967 over the Forestry Act

PI. 6.226 Reference has been made elsewhere (paragraph 4.2.28

of the answer to TR4 and also in paragraph 5-3.6 in the answer

to TR5) to the anomaly in Queensland legislation that licenses to drill for petroleum can be granted in a proclaimed marine

national park or a reserve because the Petroleum (Submerged

Lands) Act is paramount. As late as 1971 S102 of the Forestry

Act was amended so as to enact that the provisions of the


Submerged Lands Act shall prevail over the provisions of the

Forestry Act to the extent of any Inconsistency. - "A marine

national park would be established under the Forestry Acts

... ." (T5759 and paragraph PI.6.229 infra)

S^6 of the Queensland Mining Act

PI.6.227 The matter was discussed at T12552 where Mr Connolly

QC referred toS.46 of the Mining Act relating to public reserv­

es. By way of contrast the views of the Department of Mines

and of the Department of Harbours and Marine and the fisheries

branch must be considered before any area can be proclaimed as

a marine park.(TIA083)

Dr Mather's view

PI.6.228 The general legislative and administrative position in

respect of the GBRP was criticised by Dr Mather who is Honorary

Secretary of the Great Barrier Reef Committee.

"However, the many different laws, both

State and Commonwealth, administered by

so many different departments do conflict.

Some of the departments concerned are:

Primary Industries, Forestry, Mines,

Native Affairs, Tourism, Harbours and

Marine (State); Primary Industry,

National Development, Bureau of Mineral

Resources, Education and Science, Bureau

of Meteorology (Commonwealth). Nor is there an adequate mechanism in respect

of personnel or facilities for any of

these departments to administer many of

the regulations which have not been design­

ed specifically for this area. There is

no provision, moreover, for any planned

development of the area; no provision for

the collection of scientific information on

which to base the development of the area;

and no administrative organisation to employ


the professional experts required

to administer the area." (T14091)

A map showing the location of national parks is Exhibit 517.

Mr Harrison on reserves

PI.6.229 Mr Harrison who is Chief Inspector of Fisheries and

Senior Biologist, Department of Primary Industries gave evidence on reserves. He said:-"... A number of areas have been

recommended as habitat reserves . . .

an area in the Hinchinbrook Channel has

been under discussion between my depart­

ment and the Department of Forestry as

to whether it would be more correct to

protect it as a habitat reserve or as

a marine national park.

... The purpose of a habitat reserve is to protect a habitat which contains

the food chain on which the fish depend

at some stage of their life ... to

preserve the area as a source of food

for the fish and also a place in which

those fish can be taken. The principal fishing grounds for certain species of

fish, for example the mullet, would lie

in these habitat reserves ... So that the

habitat reserve is intended to protect

the area, not to protect the fish .in -it at any time. The protection of the fish

... would be a matter for regulation

under the Fisheries Act (T5757)· ... A marine national park would be established under the Forestry Acts ...

The Conservator of Forests is empowered ... to permit angling to take place in a

national park. He is also permitted to

issue special permits to professional


fishermen to fish with hand lines in

marine national parks." (T5759)

PI.6.230 In cross-examination he was asked who polices the

Fisheries Act. He replied (T5773):-"... The policing of the Fisheries Act

is carried out by officers of the Depart­ ment of Harbours and Marine."

"So there is no person who understands the

scope and purpose of the legislation

involved in its enforcement?" -- "I would

not like to comment."

(However Mr Harrison later indicated that his office

was only "along the passage" from that of the enforcement

officers, so communication-was not difficult (T5776)).

PI.6.231 Later he was asked (T5773):-"Does this mean ... that the Conservator

of Forests is the person who would

administer a marine national park that is

all below the low water mark?" -- "Yes."

Mr Piesse on national parks PI.6.232 Mr Piesse, Director of the Australian Conservation

Foundation spoke inter alia on national parks at T13351 et seq

and at T13368 said:-"The Fourth Ministerial Conference on National Parks held in Melbourne in August

1970, and attended by State and Federal

Ministers responsible for.National Parks,

who are also Ministers for Lands, Agriculture or the Interior, as the case may be, agreed

that: 'a national park (was) a relatively

large area set aside for its features of

predominantly unspoiled natural landscape

flora and fauna, permanently dedicated for

public enjoyment, education and inspiration


and protected from all Interference

other than essential management practic­

es so that Its natural attributes are


PI.6.233 Mr Plesse also said that, in Queensland, 128 islands

in the Reef area are declared as national parks (T13362).

He went on (T13384 ):-"... the Conservator of Forests, as

his staff provision allows, is progress­

ively classifying the national parks of

Queensland. Some of them he has given

urgent attention to. For instance,

Hoskyn and Fairfax Islands were given

this classification ... ."

PI.6.234 Finally, Mr Piesse referred to international interest

in the protection of the Reef. He said (T13375)·'- "Proposals have been made by inter­

national conservation organisations,

including the International Union for

Conservation of Nature and Natural

Resources (IUCN), to provide for the

conservation of areas of such outstand­ ing importance as to be of concern to

all mankind." (IUCN is a non-government


PI.6.235 Exhibit 457, an extract from a publication of the National Parks Association, set out the outline of submissions

made to the government by the National Parks Association of

Queensland for the establishment of three marine national

parks to protect the reef.

"It is proposed that a Northern Marine

National Park be established to include

approximately the whole of the Reefs

from l4°30' South Latitude to 16°30'


South - Reference Admiralty Chart No.

2344. This will extend approximately

150 miles northward, along the line of

Barrier Reefs from Trinity Opening."

"It is proposed that a Central Marine

National Park be established to extend

south easterly along the line of the

outer Barrier approximately 100 miles

from a point level with Flinders Passage

- (i.e. all the Reefs between l8°45' South Latitude and 19°l4' south, east of

148°E Longitude - Reference Admiralty

Chart 348.

... It is proposed that a Southern Marine

National Park be established to extend

along the inner edge of the Reef from the most southerly extremity of Swains

Reefs to Heralds Reef Prong, and along the outer edge of the Reef 120 miles, the

extremities being joined by a straight

line - Reference Admiralty Chart 1024."

PI.6.236 The reasons for these suggestions are set out in

Exhibit 457-

Concluding notes - Mr Cantley's suggestions

PI.6.237 (a) During the hearing, Mr Cantley introduced (through correspondence with the Depart­

ment of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) the subject of subsidence. The matter is

referred to at T13743 and T14917 et seq. However, although the subject is not with­

out some importance (as Californian

experience shows) it was deemed by the

Commission to be outside the Terms of

Reference. It seems to be a matter which

should be given expert consideration


before production is allowed to begin

in the GBRP.

(b) Recently (and 18 months after the hearing ended) Mr Cantley invited the Commission's

attention to work by Professor Benson and

Professor Muscatine both of California which

relates (to use the words of Mr Cantley)

"to the re-cycling of mucus wax-ester in

relation to oil pollution in coral-marine


The Commission found it impractical to reconvene as

suggested by Mr Cantley but there is no reason to doubt that

all relevant modern scientific thought and work will be duly

considered by the scientists who carry out the long-term

research recommended by the Commission.


APPENDIX (See paragraph PI.2.14 supra)


Two types of research and experiments should be carried out



(a) Research into the chemical composition and toxic

nature of weathered oils at different stages of

migration to be undertaken in each of the Northern,

Central and Southern Regions of the GBRP. Associat­

ed with this research should be tests for rates of

evaporation, sinking and dissolution using prefer­

ably a Moonie type of oil.

When the results of this type of research are made

known, the suggested buffer zones could be reviewed.


(b) Long-term research into the effects both direct

(or acute) and indirect (long-term) of both

fresh and weathered oil on:-

(i) the coral polyps (ii) symbiotic algae (ill) various members of the food web

including zooplankton and phyto­


(iv) planktonic life generally (v) juveniles of marine life

(vi) the reproductive systems

(vii) the ecological balance (viii) oxygen balance

Generally (A) Such research should also include such subjects

as the spread of oil, whether oil is taken up,

retained or accumulated in marine animals especially

in lipids, whether oil spreads through


animals and spreads through the food web as

claimed by Dr Blumer in Exhibits 290, 238 and

533, sinking agents, (paragraph 2.8.21) and

whether oil at any, and if so what stage or

stages is demonstratively toxic.

Amongst the suggestions for research made by

Dr Talbot on behalf of the Australian Conserv­

ation Foundation were: - Energy flow studies,

community studies, taxonomy of reef plants

and animals including plankton studies,

fish productivity and pharmacological studies.

Suggestions were also made by the Senior

Lecturer in Geology, University of Queensland

Dr G.R. Orme through the President of the

Great Barrier Reef Committee Dr Endean.

These included programmes for geological,

hydrographical and biological studies as well

as special studies aimed at providing informa­ tion on the absorption and retention of oil

by calcareous substrates, the rates of

degradation of oil and of oil associated

with dispersants in reefal waters, and

allied subjects.


"Taking into account existing world tech­

nology in relation to drilling for petro­

leum and safety precautions relating thereto, what risk is there of an oil or gas leak in

exploratory and production drilling for petro­

leum in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef?"


Suggested answers

1.1.1 The answer to this TR involves the making of an

assessment of the degree of risk or likelihood of an oil or

gas leak occurring.

1.1.2 On behalf of the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr

Bennett QC suggested to the Commission after a careful analysis

of the evidence that the answer should be "nil" (T15384). On

behalf of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association, Mr Jeffrey QC submitted that the assessment should be "negligible"

("Synopsis of Submissions on TR1" page 66). As will appear

from our answer these submissions are not acceptable to us.

1.1.3 On behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation

and other kindred interests, Mr Connolly QC suggested that such

an occurrence is "a statistical certainty", that you can mini­ mise but not eliminate the risk of such an occurrence because

past events have shown that the human factor has been the

greatest cause of blowouts and spills and that human error and

equipment failure will always be with us. He quoted Mr Basire

(at T2359) who is a consultant to the Mines Department in Queensland and a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining

and Metallurgy, as one of the authorities for this proposition



1.1.4 Views of other witnesses may be appropriately

quoted at this stage before embarking on the complex task of

forming our own assessment.

Mr Thomas (General Manager of Beach Petroleum

N.L.) (T2832):

"...It appears the greatest proportion of

blowouts are caused by human error.

...Human factor can never be excluded.

...One must accept the chance of a blowout occurring wherever one is drilling ... from

time to time." Professor Thompson (Professor of Law,

University of British Columbia, who gave

evidence concerning legislative safeguards

in Canada and the United States) :-

"It is agreed by the experts that there

is a substantial hazard of oil pollution

with respect to exploratory and develop­

ment drilling." (Exhibit 296 p.6l) Mr Denton (Manager for Government Relations,

Esso Standard Oil). In a paper incorporated

into Exhibit 6 and as spokesman for the oil

industry at a symposium, Mr Denton stated:-

"No one can guarantee that blowouts or oil

spills will not occur. Even before the 'Torrey Canyon' disaster, Esso, along with

other responsible oil companies, had been

working on means of dispersing oil spills."

(p·53) Mr White (Supervising Petroleum Technologist,

Bureau of Mineral Resources) said (T3120):

"I would say that a blowout would be extremely

unlikely in the area based on past experience

both around Australia and throughout the world ...


Is there any reason why Australian results in

regard to blowouts should be any worse than

those overseas? -- One reason could be the

fact that the off-shore areas of Australia

are relatively little known and, in addition,

they are not closely cdnnected with correspond­

ing exploration on land, whereas in other

countries, particularly in the United States,

its exploration tends to come in much smaller

steps so that completely unknown conditions are very rarely experienced in the United

States. Normally one can predict with some

degree of accuracy there as to the conditions

which will exist when a well is drilled at a

particular location." These latter remarks

however may not be applicable to the salt dome areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr Woodward QC (Senior Counsel assisting the

Commission during his final submission to the Commission):

"There is a danger that reference to the number

of ways in which mishaps can occur may lead to

an unduly gloomy view of the risks involved in

oil drilling ... but the initial planning of

the Japex operation in Repulse Bay seemed to

suggest that not all off-shore operations are managed with ruthless efficiency ... and

it was one of the world's major, more responsible companies which was fined $1,000,000 in the

United States recently for flagrantly cutting

a corner and defying the law in the process --an offence which seems unlikely to occur again

in view of the adverse publicity and the heavy penalties incurred both in clean-up costs and

fines. On the other hand the more recent Shell

fire is disturbing in its implications - that

the most modern equipment cannot always prevent


a major oil spillage from a production platform.

1.1.5 As Mr Woodward said, the evidence disclosed that

there are many ways in which a mishap may occur and this is so

even with the advances made in off-shore drilling technology

during the last decade such as the sub-sea hydraulically

controlled safety valve, and to assess the quantum of risk

or degree of likelihood clearly enough involves a knowledge

of "existing world technology". Consequently a substantial

number of overseas and local experts gave detailed evidence of

most if not all facets of off-shore drilling and associated

activities in addition to which many diagrams and coloured

slides were shown and explained to the Commission two of whom

were laymen in such matters. Furthermore all three Commission­

ers spent a day on each of an exploratory drilling platform and

a production platform in the Bass Strait area and inspected

a shore installation near Sale in Victoria. This evidence

will be analysed to show the various potential hazards

involved in off-shore petroleum drilling and production and

the material on which our assessment of the risk has been made.



Types of spills

1.2.1 An off-shore "oil or gas leak" may take various forms

and fall within two broad descriptions, namely:- (i) an oil or

gas blowout (or both); and (ii) a chronic spill. The former

involve sudden and major spills, the latter small but contin­

uous or intermittent spills. Random spills are those which are

comparatively small but not continuous. Reference to all types

of spills will be made later and the causes of major overseas

and Australian blowouts in recent years are dealt with in-Part

6 of the answer to TR4, but the following is a preliminary out­ line .


1.2.2 These are uncontrolled flows of fluid from a bore

hole. The escaping fluid can be gas, oil or water or a com­ bination thereof. Before a blowout can occur, both "primary"

and "secondary" control of the well (to which reference will

be made later) must have been lost. Gas blowouts are more com­

mon than oil blowouts because:- (i) the density of gas is very

much less than that of oil - .001 gas compared with .8 oil -

the consequence is that at a given bottom hole formation pres­

sure, invading fluid is more likely to be kept under primary

control if it is oil than gas; (ii) gas expands significantly

when its pressure is reduced (Dr Chapman at T3486). The effect

of this is that as a given volume of gas rises it displaces a greater amount of mud than would be the case from the rise of a

comparable volume of oil and this in turn affects the velocity

at which they respectively rise.

1.2.3 But a gas blowout may convert into an oil blowout as

in the Santa Barbara blowout of 1969 · Off-shore blowouts are

generally more difficult to control than on-shore blowouts (Mr


White T3120).

1.2.4 Generally it can be said that before a blowout can

occur there must be an appropriate geological situation and

either a human failure or an equipment failure or both (Dr

Chapman T3486). The appropriate geological situation can occur

where hydrocarbons are present and abnormal pressures are en­

countered. Human failure which can manifest itself in many

ways derives from ignorance, or lack of skill, carelessness,

rashness, forgetfulness and the like. For example, the casing

programme may be inadequate or the platform equipment may be

insufficient, or there might be a failure "to hang off" when

emergency conditions require such action.

Chronic and random spills * ( i )

1.2.5 These result (inter alia) from:-(i) accidents on drilling and production plat­


(ii) accidents to, fractures of and leaks from

pipelines leading from production rigs to

shore depots

(iii) deliberate or accidental discharge of oil

polluted mud or water from rigs

(iv) accidental discharge of oil from tankers or

barges and from flexible hoses when loading or unloading oil during the transportation

of oil from the production site to the shore


1.2.6 Mr Keith's evidence on tanker mishaps has interest -

from about 3,450 tankers plying the world's oceans in 1968 and

which carried 1,150 million metric tons of oil (about one half

the total sea borne trade) there were 60 tanker incidents which

involved a spill greater than 1,000 barrels each. The total

oil so spilled was estimated at 3-5 million barrels and Mr Keith estimated that this would be as high as 85% of the total

oil spilt from all causes. Other authorities put the percen-166

tage somewhat lower (e.g. Dillingham).

Tanker spills are not as such within the Terms of

Reference, but in so far as any spilled oil within the GBRP

may derive from barges, tankers or pipelines engaged in rec­

eiving and transporting crude oil from a production well to a

shore depot and whilst such transportation is within the GBRP

such spilled oil would fall within the enquiry defined in TR1.

1.2.7 In this connection, it is of importance to note that

expert evidence established that if oil in quantities equal to

the existing Bass Strait output were produced within the GBRP,

two tankers per day (each of about 40,000 DWT) would be required to transport the oil southwards.

1.2.8 Comprehensive statistics of the classes of oil spills

enumerated above are not available. It is, however, certain

that the aggregate number of small and chronic spills is large.

It is only in recent years that oil spills large and small have

become news. The success of the energetic measures continuously

taken over the last decade or more in England's leading oil

port, Milford Haven, illustrates what can be done to eliminate

chronic and random spills in a comparatively small and enclosed

area which is under constant supervision. But conditions and

the situation in remoter and less confined localities are diff­

erent .



The approach to statistics 1.3.1 Although the answer to this enquiry as to the degree

of risk cannot be answered solely by an examination of the num­

ber of blowouts and spills which have occurred in overseas and

Australian off-shore wells, the statistics relating thereto are

nevertheless a helpful and important section of the enquiry.

They also must form a background to the other sections of the

enquiry and will accordingly be dealt with first.

1.3.2 It was urged both by Mr Bennett QC and Mr Jeffrey QC,

that if the risk of an oil or gas spill is to be assessed by

reference to past experience as embodied in statistics, the appropriate measure against which to set the number of blow­

outs which have actually occurred is not the number of wells

which have resulted in completions or production, but the num­

ber of wells which have been sunk. "To adopt the former fig­

ure" urged Mr Jeffrey (in his "Synopsis of Submissions on TR1"

at p.59) would be to give a falsely high percentage to the likelihood of a blowout and leave out of account that explora­ tory wells which establish that a particular area is not hydro­

carbon bearing are necessarily sunk without the risk of any

blowout at all (that is, as after events proved). He illus­

trated his submission as follows:-"Let it be supposed that in a given area the chance

of finding hydrocarbons is 50/50 and let it also be

supposed that statistics show that if hydrocarbons are encountered a blowout is certain; it would

nevertheless be correct to say that the risk of a blowout from exploratory drilling in that area was

50%" .

If this approach be taken, he added, a markedly diff­

erent and more correct complexion is given to the statistics.


1.3.3 For practical purposes and in the context of the questions as put to the Commission these views are not persuas­

ive. The Australian and Queensland Governments have not asked

us to express opinions as to the chances of finding oil in the

GBRP - the questions impliedly ask us to assume that explorat­

ory drilling will be successful and indeed commercially

successful as both TR5 and TR3 indicate - and then with that

background TR1 asks us to evaluate the risk of a spill during

(inter alia) drilling. No useful practical purpose would be

served by taking into account the number of barren wells

which have been sunk elsewhere when statistics are being con­

sidered for the purpose of assisting the governments to decide

whether oil exploration should be permitted. Everyone knows

that there is no risk of a blowout when drilling in a barren

area. But the question requires us to take into consideration modern technology and safety precautions and then asks - what

is the risk of a spill?

1.3-4 The correct approach to statistics seems to be that they are records of oil and gas blowouts which have occurred

under various conditions from wells producing hydrocarbons or

being drilled into reservoirs containing hydrocarbons.

Australian spills

1.3.5 There have been no oil blowouts in Australian waters

but there have been 4 gas blowouts including one in the north­

west off-shore area. Mr Keith (Research Co-ordinator, Oil

and Gas Division, BHP) at T5509 said:-"Australia has had one gas blowout in development

wells and 2 in exploration wells. This is from

89 wells containing hydrocarbons. The percentage

is 3hi".

But since this evidence was given the Marlin A4

gas blowout occurred on 19th May, 1971 in a production well in Bass Strait. The dates, locations and causes of these 4 blow­

outs are given in Part 6 of the answer to TR4.

On the other hand there have, of course, been other


wells completed off-shore since 1971 and drilling has continued

particularly off the north-west coast.

I.3.6 But the statistics given on behalf of APEA by Mr

Jeffrey QC (Synopsis p.57) are more up to date. They are:-

"Australia. All off-shore drilling including

exploratory and development wells from the

beginning of off-shore drilling in 1964 to

March 1972:-Total wells drilled 205

oil wells 88

gas wells 34

dry or abandoned 83

oil well blowouts NIL

gas well blowouts 4

percentage of gas blowouts 11.8"

Overseas spills 1.3.7 It was not possible for the Commission to get up-

to-date figures for overseas off-shore incidents but Mr Keith

gave helpful figures for the years 1968 and 1969 and there

were some later figures. Firstly as regards the extent of off­

shore drilling. The figures given by Mr Keith (T5503-5) in relation to the number of off-shore wells drilled both explora­

tory and production were:-United States 1968 - 1,487

1969 - 1,341

Latin America 1968 - 425

1969 - 438

Eastern Hemisphere 1968 - 443

1969 - 511

Outer Continental Shelf of U.S.A.

1.3.8 Mr Keith added:-

"Good statistical data is available for the

United States, the North Sea and Australia.

Other major off-shore drilling areas, notably


South America and Brunei are not well documented.

In the United States, there have been about

13,000 wells drilled up to 1969. Of these 7,860

have been drilled in the Outer Continental

Shelf, between .1953 and 1st August 1969- Of the latter, 133 were in the process of drilling,

4,428 had been completed for production or

service (7,324 zone completions : 5,607 oil :

1,717 gas) and 3,299 dry or abandoned holes.

During this period there had been 25 blowouts".

It appeared from Ex. 74 (a publication by the

Department of the Interior) that of these, 7 were oil well

blowouts and 18 were gas well blowouts.

1.3.9 The percentage of blowouts to wells completed for 2 R

production was thus for the 1953 - 1969 period x 100 =


.56. If zone completions are taken (7,324) the percentage

was .34. The percentage of gas blowouts to gas zone complet­ ions was x 100 = 1.0 and the percentage of oil blowouts


taking oil zone completions was about .13 or as Mr Jeffrey QC

said "about 1 or 2 for every 1,000 wells drilled into an oil containing zone".

But there have been two major blowouts in U.S.A. off­

shore wells since 1969 namely Chevron and Shell so that these

figures are not fully up-to-date.

1.3.10 "Zone completions" relate to the fact that there

can be more than one zone found in a well. A well may - at

different levels - produce from several different zones (T5546).

Mr Keith also said:-"Of all the blowouts listed, only 10 (all in the United States) involved crude oil. The

others were natural gas and there is no record

that these caused any damage to the environment.

Of the 10 crude oil blowouts only 2 have


resulted In significant oil spillage - those

at Santa Barbara and the Chevron platform in

the Gulf of Mexico." (T5506)

The North Sea

1.3.11 Mr Keith added "... There have been 280 wells drilled in the North

Sea from 1964 to June 1970. Of these, 150 were found

to be dry. There have been 3 recorded blowouts."

Prom these figures it would appear that in respect of

North Sea drilling there were 3 blowouts from 130 wells which

were not dry, that is to say a percentage of 2.3.

Generally 1.3.12 It would appear that the large and long lasting Shell

fire in the Gulf of Mexico which began on 1 December 1970 and

which is described in Part 6 of the answer to TR4 occurred

after Mr Keith's statement and was not included in his figures.

Furthermore, Dr St Amant (Assistant Director, Louisiana Wild

Life and Fisheries Commission) at T4021-3 when referring to the West Delta Block 45 explosion and fire in the Gulf of Mexico on

15 October 1958 and in respect of which Mr Keith in his Exhibit

216 (T555D stated that the quantity of oil lost had not been

reported, said of it (T4021):-"... probably the largest amount of oil I have ever seen in the embayment system."

"... a considerable amount of oil was lost at

this site and we were aware of it and aware it was floating around in the gulf proper in a

rather large lake or flow."

1.3.13 Dr St Amant (at T3941) speaking of the total number of active wells in and off Louisiana referred to the "Inter­

mediate" zone of marsh land immediately inland from the coast (in which he thought there are upwards of 15,000 wells) and

then as regards "zones 2, 3 and 4" - which are presumed to be

in the Outer Continental Shelf and beyond the 3 mile limit, he


said that "U.S. Geological Survey data indicates a total of

6,556 active wells."

Conclusions from blowout statistics

1.3.14 (i) Major oil blowouts are few in proportion to the number of wells successfully drilled.

(ii) Gas blowouts are more frequent than oil blow­ outs . The reasons for this appear in para­

graph 1.2.2 supra.

(ill) Notwithstanding advances in (a) world tech­ nology, (b) standards of personnel training

and (c) governmental supervision at least

three major oil incidents have occurred in

United States off-shore drilling, three gas

blowouts have occurred in the North Sea and

four in Australian waters within the last few



As it is universally acknowledged that the

main cause of the American and Australian

incidents has been human frailty (see Part 6 of the answer to TR4), it is almost ce"rtain

that blowouts will never be entirely elimina­ ted. Recent gas blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico as recounted in the American periodi­

cal "Ocean Oil" Vol. 7 No. 12 p .1 of December 11 1972 tend to confirm this view.

(v) Statistics may improve with advances taking

place in world technology, but some reserva­

tions must be made.

Changes in modern technology

1.3.15 Both the industry and governmental authority in the

U.S.A. and elsewhere continue to endeavour to improve standards of equipment design, personnel training and safety precautions

but the number of major changes has not been large. Mr Thomas

(General Manager, Beach Petroleum NL) gave evidence at T2831 as follows:-


"When was the last radical change made In this technology? Not mere points of detail,

but when did it take its present shape?-- The

method of rotary drilling and the means of

blowout prevention have been with us for far

longer than my career in the oil industry;

possibly something of the order of 30 years.

Could you tell us when the last important

development in this area was made?-- This

would only refer to the use of sub-sea

drilling equipment as opposed to land type

drilling equipment. This I consider would

be the largest step made by the industry,

and here my actual knowledge of dates is somewhat hazy, but I would say it must have

been in the late fifties, early sixties that

the techniques of placing sub-sea blowout

preventers on the sea floor became accepted

as a standard practice.

"MR CONNOLLY: Since, say in the early sixties,

has there been any further radical changes?--In the type of equipment, no.

Of course, improvements in detail are, I suppose, being made from time to time?--Almost continually, yes. It would be right

to say then for the last ten years the tech­

nology has had its present shape so far as

drilling the seabed is concerned?-- In gen­

eral form, yes.

The blowouts that have occurred in the last ten years have occurred with the technology

in a satisfactory state?-- I would like to first of all define whether we are talking

of blowouts from producing wells or blowouts

while drilling. It was a perfectly general

question. If you want to draw a distinction,

would you draw it?-- While drilling certainly


blowouts have occurred during the last ten

years, and how many I have not studied.

I understand.-- With essentially the same

type of equipment as Is now employed. In

the field of production, however, there have been at dates later than that ten years, but

during the last ten years, improvements In

sub-sea safety valve equipment. So that one

would anticipate that during the last ten

years the technology of preventing blowouts

from production wells has advanced somewhat

more rapidly than that In preventing blowouts from drilling wells. "I think It would be

useful for the Commission to know when the

last major Improvement in relation to sub­

sea production wells occurred and what It

was?-- This would be, as I have already

stated, the Introduction of the hydraul­ ically controlled safety valve which became

generally accepted and used possibly from

1963 onwards.

It follows surely, that blowouts which have

occurred since, let us say, 1963, from prod­ uction wells and over the last ten years In

drilling operations, must have been largely

due to the Introduction of the human factor?

-- Yes. I have already stated of course that on old evidence certainly It appears the

greatest proportion of blowouts are caused

by human error."

1.3.16 But the evidence (to be referred to hereafter) estab­

lishes that In addition to the sub-surface safety valve, other Improvements tending to Increase safety have In recent years

taken place such as tanks more sensitive to changes In mud

levels, audible as well as visible warning devices, remotely situated manual controls in addition to automatic controls,


shear rams, compensating devices reducing the amount of heave

motion and improved casing designs. The comparatively recent

introduction of semi-submersible and jack-up drilling barges

must also be noted as they reduce the effect of rough seas on

drilling operations from floating rigs and so give greater

stability than floating rigs of the "ship-shape" type. Improv­

ements have sometimes resulted from lessons learnt from recent

blowout incidents.

1.3.17 It is proposed to give now a description of the main

features of "existing world technology" and its main hazards

as an introduction to our assessment of the degree of risk of

an oil or gas leak from a blowout or otherwise in the GBRP.



Types of off-shore rigs

1.4.1 The Industry had had over 20 years experience of off­

shore drilling and is presently exploring the coastal waters of 75 countries (Mr Ericson T1122).

1.4.2 Off-shore drilling may take place from a fixed plat­

form (T2610) or from platform and tender (T2611) or submersible

(maximum depth 175 feet - T2612) or from the "jack up" type

(T26l4) or the semi-submersible (T26l4) or the "ship-shape"

floating rig (T2615)·

1.4.3 (i) The fixed platform carries all the

working machinery of a rig and has

most of the advantages of a land

unit. It is not moved by tides or currents or winds and it can be built

strong enough to withstand hurricanes.

However the deeper and rougher the

water in which the platform is built

the more expensive will be its con­ struction. Mr Thomas (General Manager

of Beach Petroleum NL) said (T2610)

its use in deep or rough water is more suitable for development drilling on

a proven discovery.

1.4.4 (ii) The platform and tender is where a small

platform is used to mount only the der­

rick and drawworks and a barge or tender

is moored alongside to carry the mud

tanks, drilling materials, etc. This is

a cheaper method but can only be safely


1.4.5 (111)

1.4.6 (Iv)

used In calm and comparatively shallow


The seml-submerslble rig can operate In

water depths of up to 1,000 feet using

systems of multiple anchors to hold It on

location (T26l4). The Commission considers

that, having regard to wind and wave condi­

tions obtaining within the GBRP any semi-

submersible which depends solely on

conventional anchorage systems for station

keeping should not be used in depths less

than 250 feet - see paragraph 4.6.23

recommendation No. 5- Evidence given by Dr Maxwell may at this stage be appro­

priately interposed. He said (T131):-

"There is a noticeable bathymetric trend from shallow to deeper water as one moves

southward from the Torres Strait area to the

Capricorn Channel. This trend, over a dis­

tance of approximately 900 miles is reflect­

ed in the progressive increase of maximum

depth from 16 to 70 fathoms. In addition

to the regional variation in bathymetry,

a normal shelf zonation may also be recog­ nised (Figure 6). This has been described

in the Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef and briefly is as follows:-(I) Near Shore Zone 0-5 fathoms,

(II) Inner Shelf 5-20 fathoms,

(III) Marginal Shelf 20-50 fathoms (divisible into eastern and western segments

in the south) and (iv) Southern Shelf Embayment, arbitrarily delineated by the 35

fathom contour, and separating the Western

and Eastern Marginal Shelves."

The submersible. This combines stability


1.4.7 (v)

with mobility. It is sunk so as to

sit on the ocean bottom by the use

of ballast tanks. It is there un­

affected by ordinary weather con­

ditions. When required it can be

raised to a towing position.

Mr White at T2983 said:-

"The submerged barge can only be

used in shallow (maximum about 15

feet) sheltered waters, with only

a low tidal range (maximum about

6 feet depending on maximum water

depth). ...Drilling operations are

carried out essentially as if the

rig were on land. This method is

relatively cheap but the limitations

are such that I doubt it would have

application in Barrier Reef waters."

The "jack-up" type can be towed and

as its name implies can be jacked up

on location (at suitable depths) and

then has most of the attributes of a

fixed platform (T2614). Mr White said

(T2983):-"This type of rig is limited to water

depths of between approximately 20 feet

and 300 feet although the only jack-up

rig to have operated in Australian

waters, the Offshore Co.'s 'Jubilee',

has a maximum depth rating of 200 feet.

A relatively level sea bed is required

and preferably the sea bed should be

fairly soft to avoid shock loadings to

the legs when jacking-up or jacking-down

in other than calm conditions. This

type of rig would have application in


certain areas covered by the inquiry.

1.4.8 (vi) The ship-shape rig is mobile and comp­

aratively cheaper for multiple and ex­

tensive exploratory work but is not

favoured by the Commission for use

within the GBRP as its operation pres­

ents more hazards under GBRP conditions

than the other types. It is more in­

fluenced both vertically and horizon­

tally by winds, waves, tides and currents

than the more sophisticated semi-submer­

sible (Mr Thomas Exhibit 205 p.24). But

this view applies only to conventional

anchorages. Technical advances in station

keeping and stability are being made (see

paragraph 4.6.23).

Directional drilling 1.4.9 A comparatively recent development is directional

drilling which has important advantages but also can create

hazards as overseas events have shown. It is possible by the use of a steel wedge or "whipstock" to deflect the drilling

bit and to achieve a hole with a succession of slight angles

amounting in effect to a curve. It is thus possible to reach

an objective distant say 6,000 feet in a horizontal direction and 6,000 feet in vertical depth from a surface location. This

has the advantages (a) of allowing a substantial number of wells to be constructed radially outwards from the one drilling plat­

form and (b) to plug a well at or near its bottom and stop a

blowout from a distant surface location (as in the Petrel No. 1

gas blowout). On the other hand great care has to be taken in

the casing at the angles when drilling in a proven field as

evidenced by the Marlin A? blowout - see answer to TR4, and also to ensure that the multiple wells are not too close or do

not come into contact with each other as a North Sea gas blow­

out demonstrated.


1.4.10 Exhibit 206, Figure 21 exhaustively illustrates the

uses of directional drilling and they may be tabulated as follows:-1. Reaching under a river or lake where

waters are too deep or swift to permit

platform or barge drilling from the surface.

2. Extinguishing an oil fire by drilling

from a site some distance away and pumping in mud.

3. Drilling under the cap of a salt dome

which forms a trap for oil.

4. Drilling under a city or other occupied

place where vertical well site is imprac­ ticable .

5· By-passing a blockage in an original vertical well.

6. Drilling underseas from the shore.

7. Off-shore drilling - several holes are

often drilled from the one platform to

produce oil more economically·

The drilling process

1.4.11 Different aspects of the process were referred to by several expert witnesses, the main and complete description

coming at an early stage from Mr Thomas - Exhibits 205 and 206 and at T2540 et seq. The following bare outline which is suff­

icient for our present purposes has been extracted from his

evidence with the assistance of the final address of counsel assisting the Commission.

1.4.12 The principle of drilling is to impart rotary motion to a hollow steel pipe, known as the drill string, to the end

of which is attached the drilling bit. The consequent revo­

lution of the bit and the weight of the drill string upon the

bit, aided by the heavier lengths of pipe immediately above the

bit, known as the drill collars, cause the earth or rock to be


dug away. The drill string consists of steel pipe of great strength (T2547) which is made up in about thirty feet lengths

(T2540, 28l6A) and varies in diameter up to five inches. As

the hole deepens a new thirty feet length of drill pipe is

screwed onto the existing drill string. Each length of pipe

has at each end an upset joint of larger external diameter than

the pipe itself. These are threaded to match the threads of

couplings called "tool joints" (T2547).

1.4.13 An oil drilling derrick structure is some 135 to 150

feet high (T2540). About 15 or 20 feet above the ground is the

derrick floor in which is set the rotary table (T2542). The

rotary table can be rotated in a horizontal plane by a power take-off from the draw-works or winch at a speed of rotation

which the driller can control. The rotary table has in its

centre a square or hexagonal hole. A length of high strength

steel pipe 40 to 45 feet long with a circular hole down its

centre and an external square or hexagonal shape, called a

kelly, is used to grip the drill string while the hole in the

rotary table grips the kelly (T2549)· Thus the rotary movement of the table is transmitted to the bit. The kelly can slide

freely up and down through properly shaped bushings in the rot­ ary table and so it slowly sinks through the table while the

bit penetrates until it reaches a point where it is appropriate

to stop, raise the kelly and add a further thirty feet of pipe.

Often three drill pipes are fixed into a ninety foot length or "stand" for quicker handling. The derrick also carries the

hoisting system consisting of a fixed crown block at the der­

rick apex, a travelling block and the draw-works. These items

are threaded with the drilling line, a high tensile steel cable, to provide a pulley system for the raising or lowering of the

heavy weights of drill string or other equipment within the hole. Attached to the travelling block is a hook and a swivel

from which the drill string hangs while drilling.

1.4.14 The operation of drilling can be continued twenty

four hours a day. As the bit proceeds deeper the formations


usually become more compacted and harder and the bit tends to

wear out more rapidly. The failure of the bit to penetrate

shows It is worn out and then the complete drill string is

pulled out and re-run with the new bit. This procedure is

called "making a round trip" (T2549). Depending upon the

formations to be penetrated a 10,000 foot hole could take as

long as three or four months, or as short a time as thirty days,

to drill (T2550). A bit might make several thousand feet be­

fore requiring changing when drilling shallower, softer form­

ations; in extreme cases, when very hard materials are being

drilled, the bit might make only a few feet of progress before

wearing out (T2550). To make a round trip at about 10,000 feet

a good crew would take eight hours (T2554). The actual process

of adding a new length of pipe would take a good crew only 3-4

minutes (T2554).

1.4.15 When the driller wants to add a new length of drill

pipe the kelly is raised above the rotary table level and (the

motor being shut off or out of gear) a set of "slips" or circ­

ular wedges are inserted between the drill pipe and the insides

of the rotary table bushing. When the kelly and drill string

are again lowered, sharp file like teeth in the slips grip

tightly to the drill pipe and are pressed more tightly still,

due to the conical shape of the inside of the rotary table

bushing. The full weight of the drill string below is thus

transferred to the rotary table and the kelly can be unscrewed

and stowed in a pipe known as the "rathole" set through and to

one side of the derrick floor (T2550). In this way the weight

of the drill string is temporarily taken off the winch of the

hoisting gear so that a fresh piece of pipe can be lifted out of the rack in the derrick superstructure and inserted at the

top of the drill string.

Casing the hole

1.4.16 The purpose of casing the hole was described by Mr

Thomas as follows (T2571-2):-"From time to time as the hole is deepened it


is necessary to run casing at various depth intervals. Casing is a steel pipe of strength

and size specifications rigidly controlled by

industry and government standards which is set

into the hole and bonded to the formation sur­

rounding it by a cement sheath filling the

casing/hole annulus.

The cement acts not only to provide support

for the pipe which it surrounds but also to

prevent the interflow of reservoir fluids

behind the pipe. Depending upon the purpose

of the well, i.e. exploratory or develop­

ment and the local conditions, the size and

depth setting of successively smaller strings

of casing will differ from well to well.

"Casing is set into the hole to protect the

hole, to prevent it from falling inwards; to

prevent escape of oil or gas through the cas­

ing near the surface. Therefore it must have

certain strengths specifications to fulfill

these functions, the more important one being,

of course, the burst strength of the casing so

that it can safely contain within it any pres­

sures met during any blowout or incipient blow­ out ..."

Mr Stewart at T4357 said the functions of casing

included inter alia acting as an anchor for the blowout prev­

enter and making possible the control and production of the

completed well and that the functions of the cement included

sealing off the annular space between the casing and the walls

of the hole to prevent migration of water or oil or gas between

zones or leakage to the surface.

Mr White (Bureau of Mineral Resources) said (T3007A) :-

"The company engineer must select casing setting

depths in accordance with expected lithologies."

Mr Thomas also stressed the importance of casing pro­

grammes in relation to safety at T2580.


1.4.17 But casing is to a substantial extent the subject of

governmental regulation in the U.S.A. - see answer to TR4 where

the subject is discussed at some length and where OCS Order No.

2 and Exhibit 68 are considered in detail.

1.4.18 As soon as new casing has been cemented into place it

is pressure tested to its design capacity, or to that of the

blowout preventers (as to which see below) whichever is the less

(T2659) · Thereafter the top section of the casing and the well

head should be pressure tested weekly (T2659). This is partic­

ularly necessary because the inevitable wear and tear of running

the drill string in and out will be greatest here and so will

the contained pressures (T2571, 2654). It is for this reason

that thicker or stronger casing is usually considered for the

top 500-600 feet. (T2657).

1.4.19 Then there are different strings of casing each with

important operational and/or safety functions. Commencing at

the sea bed and descending they are

1.4.20 Stove Pipe. A wide diameter pipe set at a

shallow depth (100 feet or more). This pro­

vides a circulation system for the drilling

fluid, referred to later.

1.4.21 Conductor casing. To cover unconsolidated

surface formations, to seal off shallow water

sands and to provide protection against shallow

gas flows. The annulus is cemented to the sur­

face. Depth to 500 feet or such greater depth

as may be necessary to extend into a competent

formation (see answer to TR4).

1.4.22 Surface casing. To provide blowout protection.

To prevent loss of circulation of drilling mud

to shallow weak formations. Annulus cemented

to at least inside the conductor. Depth to


3,000 or 4,000 feet.

1.4.23 Intermediate casing. To protect the open hole. To prevent sloughing and caving of

formations. To protect against lost circ­

ulation so that drilling mud densities can

be raised to control abnormal pressures.

Could be set at 8,000 feet. This string

has pros and cons and something may turn

on whether the well is a true exploratory

well with some unknowns or a development

well (Mr Thomas T2576).

In the former case, in spite of its cost

and accompanying necessity to use smaller

tools, it would be used for safety reasons

which are described at T2575·

1.4.24 Production casing. Used to separate pro­

ductive zones from other reservoir form­

ations to permit selective production (T2577)·

Could be 43$ to 5 inches in diameter - or

larger. To total depth of well.

1.4.25 Although the Commission was given several instances

of inadequate casing amongst the various blowouts, there were

no instances in which the casing itself failed.



Nature and functions of the drilling fluid

1.5.1 The primary control of well drilling is the use of a sufficient weight and quantity of drilling mud to keep the well

bore pressure a little higher than the formation pressure.

Furthermore, one of the methods of obtaining the earliest aware­

ness of formation fluids is to carry out a continuous examin­

ation of the mud returning to the platform tank after its cir­ cuit below.

1.5.2 The mud system is therefore of crucial importance in

the drilling process and lack of care or skill can lead to a

blowout. The system was described by several experts such as

Mr Thomas, Mr Stewart and Mr White and was referred to from time to time by American experts.

Amongst the several clear expositions was the follow­ ing by Mr Thomas:-"The mud circulating system consists of tanks

holding some few hundred barrels of the liquid

mud. This is drawn from the 'live' tank by

heavy duty pumps and fed via a manifold system

to the drill floor where it passes through a

high pressure flexible hose to the swivel from

which the kelly is suspended. The liquid mud

then passes down the inside of the hollow kelly,

drill pipe and drill collars to emerge through

nozzles in the drill bit itself. It returns to

surface up the annulus between the drill string

and the hole to a point just under the drill floor, from where it is diverted along a flow

line, passes over a vibrating sieve ('shale

shaker') which removes the larger rock chips

or cuttings and then drops back into the tanks...


Anything basically larger than a grain of

sand would be removed by the sieving process."


1.5.3 Mr White at T2992 said:-"The primary function of the mud is to remove

cuttings produced by the drilling bit, but it

also helps to cool and to lubricate the bit,

to protect permeable formations from damage,

to prevent collapse of incompetent formations

and to provide a path for electric current

during certain wire-line logging operations."

1.5.4 Mr Stewart at T4347 said "The main functions of the drilling fluid are

as follows 1. Scavenge the bottom of the hole and the

face of the bit and carry the drill cut­

tings to the surface.

2. Prevent influx of formation fluids while


3. Support the wall of the bore hole.

4. Deposit a protective mud cake on permeable


5. Cool the bit and lubricate the bit and

drilling string.

6. Intermedium in (electric) well logging.

Function No. 2 above is to prevent an uncontrolled

escape of fluid (i.e. a blowout) from a drilling


1.5.5 Mr Stewart’at T4348 referred to the planning of the mud programme as follows "The mud programme is planned so that the mud

should always have a density that will cause

an overpressure to bear on permeable formations,

so preventing the fluids contained in those


formations from entering the well bore

while drilling.

If for some reason the pressure in fluid-

filled permeable formations exceeds that

exerted by the mud column, then the fluid

(gas, oil or water) will enter the well

bore, displacing the mud. As the fluid

continues to enter the well bore, more

and more mud will be displaced from the

hole back into the mud tanks at the sur­

face ."

Then at T4431 he dealt with pressure con­

trol. He said:-"One of the primary functions of a drilling

fluid is to prevent the intrusion of form­

ation fluids into the well bore. This

ability of the drilling fluid to control

sub-surface pressure is dependent on the

hydrostatic pressure. The amount of hydro­

static pressure exerted against formations

depends upon the mud density and depth or

height of the fluid coloumn. The formation

fluid can be water, gas, oil or combinations

of these. Mud weight generally should be

heavy enough to provide an overbalance for

safe withdrawal of pipe; yet not so heavy as to cause lost circulation or retard pene­

tration rates.

The pressure expected in a formation varies

with depth and calculations are made to arrive

at the pressure expected in formations through

which drilling will pass." "The drilling fluid used most commonly in the

rotary drilling system is a suspension of fine

clay particles in water with chemical addition

to impart certain desired properties. In the early days of drilling it was common practice


to mix a batch of drilling fluid by puddling

water in a surface clay outcrop and so the

name 'mud' was born. In modern practice the

clay used is a fine grade of bentonite which

although expensive has been found by experience

to produce the optimum properties when properly

treated with chemical additives." (Mr Thomas


1.5.b The composition of the drilling fluid is of major

importance in the drilling process but in an area such as the

GBRP it would be important to ensure that it did not consist

of a mud and oil emulsion to prevent possible damage from

chronic pollution should discharges into the sea occur. On

this aspect Mr Erics on stressed that the Aquarius and Capricorn

exploratory wells to which reference has been made were drilled

with fresh water and sea water muds (T1203)· A recommendation

for controlling the use of a mud and oil emulsion and for the

prohibition of its discharge into the GBRP appears in the answer

to TR4.

1.5.7 The circulating fluid rising from the bottom of the

well bore carries the cuttings towards the surface. The effec­

tiveness of the mud in removing the cuttings from the hole

depends upon (a) the velocity at which the mud circulates -

generally between 100 and 200 feet per minute, (b) its density

or weight per unit volume - barytes is added to increase weight

and (c) its viscosity.

"The proper restraint of formation pressures depends upon density or weight of the mud.

Normal pressure can lie between 0.433 to

0.465 p.s.i. per foot of depth. This is

the pressure exerted by a column of form­

ation water. Normally, the weight of water

plus the solids picked up from drilling is

sufficient to balance formation pressures.

However, at times, abnormal pressure requires


the addition of finely ground material,

such as barytes, to increase the hydro­

static head of the mud column." (T2558)

Since both the drill pipe and casing are buoyed up by

a force equal to the weight of mud displaced, an increase in

mud density necessarily results in a considerable reduction in

total weight which the surface equipment must support (T2559).

1.5.8 Drilling with lighter mud (where practicable) tends

to give the maximum warning of the advent of abnormal pressures.

1.5.9 It may be added that a pump pressure of about 2,000 pounds per square inch at surface is frequently used (Mr Thomas

at T2555).

Importance of mud levels

1.5.10 It will be apparent that continuous skilled attention

to mud levels and pressures by platform personnel is imperative

if dangerous incidents are to be avoided.

1.5.11 Not only must the properties of the mud be regularly

measured but the mud levels in the active tank must be con­

stantly monitored because any sudden gain or loss of mud is a

warning of a potential blowout. Audible warning systems as well

as visible indicators appear to be very desirable if not neces­ sary .

1.5.12 The hydrostatic pressure must at all times be main­

tained in the well so that any mud lost to the formation must

be replaced. Accordingly whenever a drill string is withdrawn

(for example to replace a worn bit) it is replaced in stages with additional mud.

1.5.13 The mud pit, the shale shaker and the mud flow line

are illustrated in the "Drilling Rig - Schematic Layout" shown

in Figure No. 1 of Exhibit 206.


The control of drilling; 1.5.14 As described by Mr Thomas at T256? the actual control

of the drilling process on the platform is as follows:-

"Power is supplied to the draw-works, rotary

table and pumps via gears or chain drives

from diesel or steam engines or electric


Control of all operations of pulling and

running pipe, rotating the string and run­

ning mud pumps is effected from the drillers

console situated to the rear side of the drill

floor alongside the draw-works. Prom this

position the driller can observe and control

all activity on the drilling floor. Gauges

enable him to readily discern the weight on

the travelling block hook, rotary table speed

and torque, pump pressure and speed. Alarm

systems are fitted to inform him of malfunc­

tions. Near to hand but more remote from the

rotary table are the BOP activation controls.

A further auxiliary control unit for the BOP's

is normally situated well away from the rig floor...To make hole the drilling crew run in

the drill string described above. With the

bit just off bottom and the kelly bushing

sitting in the rotary table, the driller

starts up the mud pumps and commences circ­ ulating the mud at a predetermined rate and

pressure. He then starts up the rotary table

to turn the drill string and bit at the req­ uired revolutions per minute. He then notes

the total weight of the drill string hanging on the hook as indicated on a weight gauge

immediately before his eyes."

"What are the required revolutions?"

"This varies from 50 to 150 or more a minute

depending on type of bit and type of form-

ation drilled. My statement continues:

By slowly releasing the handbrake con­

trolling the draw-works winch drum he

lowers the entire drilling string, still

rotating, until the bit touches hole bot­

tom at which point he will observe a drop

in the weight carried on the hook. He

continues to lower the string until the

weight on the hook falls back from its

free hanging total load and the bit is

taking the required weight. This too

varies with bit size and so on ...

With the bit hanging at the bottom of a

hole we can record the weight of the hang­

ing drill at say 200,000 lb. The driller

then lowers the bit until it touches the

bottom of the hole, and the bit itself

takes some of the weight of the drill

string from the hook, say, 80,000 lb.;

thus the driller has 120,000 lb. on the

weight gauge reading. In the ultimate,

once that bit has drilled on and on, it

is more closely approaching the free hang­

ing point again. When it has drilled sufficient hole from underneath it, it is

more closely approaching that state."


Some aspects of deep sea drilling

1.5.15 Some special procedures and precautions are appli­ cable when drilling from a floating unit and these were given

in some detail by Mr Thomas at T2633 et seq. He also dealt with situations where the BOP can for the time being, be dis­ pensed with. Thus he stated that he might drill to 1,000 feet

without using a BOP system because he was satisfied he would

not strike oil or gas up to that depth. He added:-"For example, drilling by Burmah Oil Company


under my direction off the north-west coast

of Australia, the Legendre No. 1 well, was

drilled with a BOP on top of the 30 inch

casing. Four other wells drilled in the

same area were drilled with no BOP on top

of the casing because we had ascertained

from the results of Legendre No. 1 and

from other geophysical and geological evi­

dence that down to 1,000 feet depth there was no chance at all of encountering hydro­

carbons." (T2635)

He expressed the view that because of the great

length of the - GBR coast and if the drilling were widely spread

involving frequent long moves then a ship or barge would prob­

ably be the most economical unit notwithstanding that on occas­

ions there are cyclones. But in reply to further questions he

said (T2619):-"... from the point of view of smooth action of drilling and so on I would prefer a jack­

up or a fixed platform." "What about security of the hole?"--"Security of the hole also is exactly the

same with the jack-up or a fixed platform.

One can have the blowout preventers and

everything else above the surface of the

water from which you can work very easily.

From a floating unit or a ship you auto­

matically must have them on the ocean floor;

so from security of all types certainly the

jack-up would be preferred ...

I am really thinking along the lines that a

vessel or a unit that is subject to violent

movement on occasions due to wind, wave and

swell obviously constitutes more of a mech­ anical risk than a unit which is seated four­

square on the ground and is not moving - that

is all."

19 Ί

1.5- 16 Mr Roe of Messrs Cullen and Roe, Consulting Engineers,

also gave evidence on the same subject of choice between rigs.

At T4127 he said:-"The type of rig that would be used for ex­

ploration would probably be determined by

what type was available at the time that

the hole was started, semi-submerslble or

jack-up type being the probable choice.

Production wells would more likely be

drilled from fixed structures after a

field was proved.

A rig designed to suit the conditions at

some other location would not necessarily

suit the conditions on the Great Barrier


1.5- 17 His view was that our knowledge of storm and surge

conditions In the GBRP Is inadequate to ensure safe designing

(T4114) and that In any event platforms would not be designed

to resist the ultimate In cyclonic storms. He dealt at some length with wave heights and storm surges In different parts

of the world and with the statistics of 100 year storms. His

maximum wave height for the GBRP (Ex. 214 p.ll) was 50' and the

maximum length between crests he gave as 650 feet. The maximum

wind gust over 100 years was 124 knots. For the Swain Reefs

area he gave the maximum wind gust as 146 knots. At page 14 of

his Exhibit he gives a quotation from one Leon E. Borgman quoted

in a paper by one P. W. Marshall:-"Furthermore there Is a natural reluctance

to pay the often exorbitant cost of Increas­

ing the safety factor unless the situation

really requires it. Even with an Increase

there will usually be some risk because It

Is almost Impossible to make a structure

strong enough to withstand all conceivable

disasters. Thus In practice, risk cannot

be eliminated. It can only be reduced to


an acceptable level.

Detection of petroleum 1.5.18 It Is important during drilling operations for the

driller to detect at the earliest possible moment that the

drill is encountering or is about to encounter formation fluids,

particularly if there is any possibility that they may be under

abnormal pressure, so that appropriate measures can be taken to

prevent or control the flow of fluid at pressure out of the

hole. The methods presently available for detection and evalu­

ation of a potential reservoir of petroleum were discussed by

Mr Thomas at T2583-96.

1.5.19 They are formation cuttings, mud logging, formation

coring, drilling speed, wire line logging and drill stem test­


Details of these methods were.given by Mr Thomas at

T2583-2596. Each is of much importance in the detection of the

presence of hydrocarbons and in the safe conduct of drilling.

1.5.20 Thus samples of cuttings are normally collecting from

the vibrating screen and scientifically tested after each 10

feet of drilling.

The returning mud is subjected to a vacuum process to

detect petroleum gases and when gas intensity passes a pre-set

limit a warning bell rings (T2585).

Cylindrical pieces of core up to 60 feet in length may be removed by the driller and a geologist or engineer ex­

amines the cores. .

1.5.21 Anything like a "drilling break" - i.e. a sudden

significant increase in drilling speed will be observed immed­

iately because the presence of a porous formation, i.e. a

potential reservoir may be indicated (T2585)·

1.5.22 Various electronic, sonic and radio-active devices

can be suspended on a multiple-conductor cable over the section


of uncased hole. From these, accurately calibrated strip logs

showing many physical and electrical characteristics of the

rock strata can be obtained.

1.5.23 Then at a certain stage of exploratory or develop­

mental drilling judgment must be made on the potential or prod­

uctivity of the well being drilled in order to enable the imp­

ortant decision to be made as to whether production casing - a

very expensive matter - will be installed. This is done by

"drill stem testing", a procedure which was described in detail

by Mr Thomas at T2589. It sometimes involves hanging a "tail

pipe" below the packer assembly. It is of such a length that

when it lands on the bottom of the hole, the packer is posi­

tioned just above the zone to be tested and if possible oppo­

site a firm competent and impermeable formation. At a stage of

the testing the formation below the packer is relieved of the

pressure of the mud column above the packer and the flow of formation fluids is restrained only by a closed valve in the

tester assembly. The drill pipe is run empty or with only a

short and carefully measured column of water above the tester


As Mr Woodward QC said (Tl6l85)

"The risks are perhaps greatest because you

do not have the protection of the circulating

mud column at that stage and if you are suc­

cessful in your test you are introducing some

hydrocarbons into your drill stream which must

be then disposed of."




1.6.1 Mr Stewart (Senior Petroleum Engineer, Queensland

Department of Mines) at T4431 when dealing with loss of primary

control spoke of "kicks". He said:-"There are ways of determining if a well is

entering a region of abnormal rock pressure.

One is to plot the rate of penetration of the

bit against the depth at which the well is drilling. A change in the gradient of the

graph indicates that rock stresses are ab­

normal and any fluid encountered could be

under abnormal pressure. Another similar

type curve is to plot depth against the

density of the shale cuttings being ret­

urned to surface in the mud stream.

The first warning of an impending blowout

or 'kick1 is a gain in volume of mud in

the mud pits. Careful observations of

mud volume during all phases of the drill­ ing operation are the best indicator of


1.6.2 He was asked whether a loss in volume of mud could

indicate in some instances the possibility of a blowout to

which he said:-"While drilling, if you lose circulation it indicates you have a formation which is

taking fluid but I do not think it would

be 100 percent sure that it would indicate

you were going to get a blowout."

1.6.3 He added:-


"A 'kick' while drilling can be recognised

by an increase in mud volume and usually

just before the kick an increase in drill­

ing rate is experienced and followed by a

decrease in pump pressure, and an increase

in pump strokes. These symptoms are easily

recognised by trained and experienced crews

and appropriate action taken to contain and

control the well ...

The method of controlling a kick will depend

on what operation such as drilling or pulling

out of the hole etc. , is being carried out, but the aim is the same i.e. to increase the

mud weight sufficiently to a weight whereby

the hydrostatic pressure will contain the

formation fluid within the formation."

"Kicks" are further discussed a little later

(paragraph 1.7.9).

Causes of loss of primary control

1.6.4 These include

(i) drilling with insufficient mud weight

(ii) failure to keep the hole full of mud

(iii) loss of circulation

(iv) swabbing and/or piston action due to

pulling and running tools in the hole,

i.e. too quickly.

As to (i)

1.6.5 A mud weight which is sufficient for normal pressures will be inadequate if abnormal pressures are encountered.

Further weighting material such as barytes will then have to be added.

On the other hand and whilst a high mud weight is

obviously beneficial in preventing entry of oil or gas into

the well, high mud weights are expensive to maintain and tend

to reduce drilling speeds.


"... they also, from the viewpoint of well

control, constitute a danger in that the

high weight may help induce loss of circu­ lation into low-pressure zones. Should

this occur, the loss of part of the mud

column above a potential blowout zone may

lower the mud pressure sufficiently to

allow inflow of oil or gas." (Mr Thomas

at T2652)

He added (T2665) that it is important to

"ensure that mud gel strength and viscosity

are kept as low as possible to minimise swab­

bing when pulling out, pressure surges when

running in and to facilitate degassing of

gas cut mud."

As to (ii) 1.6.6 Failure to keep the hole full of mud. The flow rates

and the active tank level when circulating must be carefully

and continuously watched. Elsewhere the necessity for audible as well as visible indications of changes in levels has been

stressed. When circulation was suspended it meant the actual watching of the level of mud in the hole or carrying out a

limited circulation of mud across the top of the hole (T2641).

Particular care is needed when withdrawing the pipe because it

must be replaced with an equivalent quantity of mud as it comes


Mr Thomas spoke of "thief zones" at T2640 to which

reference has been earlier made.

An increase or decrease of mud level in the tank is

a very serious matter requiring immediate action as the his­ tory of blowouts shows. The subject of a well "kick" is dealt

with further below.

As to (iii)

1.6.7 Loss of circulation arises from a weakness in the formation which permits drilling mud to run away to such an


extent that circulation back to surface ceases. In most cases

a lost-circulation zone can be dealt with by adding some solids

to the mud.

"The loss of circulation very frequently

precedes a blowout. As a matter of fact,

it is the cause of many blowouts for the

simple reason that the fluid level drops

to such an extent that the fluid from the

formation can go in with practically no

resistance.. This happens so quickly that

sometimes it is right in your eye before

you know it is going on ... I agree with

what Mr Stewart has said, that from its

lowest point it would probably increase somewhat before you actually have gas or

oil coming out through the well, but this

may be preceded only by a matter of sec­

onds." (T4351)

As to (iv).

1.6.8 Swabbing or piston action:

Mr Thomas said (T2643):-

"the tools being used at the bottom part­

icularly and the bit and the drill collars and other devices which are fitted to drill

collars, called stabilisers. They are close to the hole size and therefore they could

have the same effect as the piston in a pump when they move fast enough. If one drags

the drill string up the hole away from the

bottom, at a sufficient speed, depending

upon the viscosity of the mud, you can, in

actual fact, lift mud out of the hole. This

would leave a vacuum or opening below the bit

into which hydrocarbons may flow."

He went on:-"The answer to this is simply that the pulling


speed should be regulated so that you do

not get any swabbing action and that the

viscosity of mud should be low enough so

that the mud can flow easily down past

the drill string while it is being pulled


The reference to piston action here is

actually a secondary reference to loss of

circulation by running in the drill string

too fast. This creates a pressure surge

ahead of the bit and it acts as a piston

... and it may be of such a dimension as

to break down ‘ or fracture some weaker form­

ation and this could cause loss of circu­

lation of mud."


1.7*1 The technical 'details of the steps which should be

taken to avoid trouble (given by Mr Thomas, Mr White and others)

are not necessary for present purposes more than to the extent

required to assist in the assessment of the degree of risk in­

volved in drilling and production. Trouble may occur in at

least four situations namely (a) while making a round trip,

(b) while doing maintenance work, (c) if a thief zone is en­

countered and (d) if a drilling break occurs. A blowout is always preceded by an actual "kick".

As to (a) - Making a round trip

1-7*2 As Mr Thomas said, it is essential that the hole must

take or give up mud volumes equal to the change in drill pipe

displacement. He continued:-"If the hole is taking less mud than required

when pulling out or is giving up more mud when

running in, this is an indication that form­

ation fluids are entering the bore hole. A

tank of small cross-sectional area which en­

ables accurate volume measurements must be used to deliver mud into the hole or receive

it from the hole ... (T2661)

If after pulling off bottom, swabbing is indi­

cated, i.e. the hole does not take sufficient

mud, run back to bottom, circulate and con­ dition mud." (T2662)

1.7*3 An entirely different point raised by Mr Thomas rel­

ating to "tripping" was the need to check and record any evi­

dence in the mud of gas or brine which may have entered the mud

column during the process (T2662-4). He again stressed the need

to measure accurately any change in mud volume (T2662).

1.7.4 As already stated, the first thing to do If swabbing

Is indicated Is to return the bit to the bottom, recommence

circulation and check the mud quality for viscosity.

As to (b) - Maintenance work

1.7-5 Mr Thomas stressed that the driller should stay out

of the hole for as short a time as possible. He said in rel­ ation to the desirability of hanging off the drill string with

the bit inside the lowest casing shoe whilst maintenance work

is being done (T2662):-"... if a certain length of pipe is in the

hole, you can control an incipient blowout

with a lower weight of mud than would be

necessary when dealing with a hole that has

no pipe in it ... it is standard practice

that all rig maintenance, including greas­

ing of parts, oiling of hoisting machinery

and pqmping equipment, is carried out with

the bit standing in the shoe of the lower­

most casing.

Thus when the driller realises he must carry out maintenance, he will, on the next trip

out of the hole, stop the pipe out of the hole with the bit which is inside the cas­

ing, hang it up, carry out his maintenance, then proceed out of the hole to complete

the trip. In this way he is able to run

back again immediately."

As to (c) - Thief zones 1.7.6 Thief zones are also referred to when dealing with

secondary control (infra). Mr Thomas said that he had not

known of a case of such a zone which had not been noticed dur­

ing the actual drilling. Nevertheless it was important for

the crew to check the level of mud in the hole occasionally

while circulation was interrupted (T2787).


As to (d) - A drilling break

1.7.7 So far as drilling breaks are concerned, Mr Thomas

said that the proper course of action was to suspend drilling,

shut down the pumps and check for inflow. This enables a check

to be made as to whether any formation fluid is entering the

hole from the presumably porous zone intercepted. The reason

for shutting down the pumps is that this eliminates the back

pressure due to friction which occurs while pumping. Thus 'the

formation fluids have only the hydrostatic head of the mud to

contend with in forcing their way into the hole. If they do

not do so at this stage, they are unlikely to do so later

(T2665). A further reason for shutting down the pumps is that

it is easier to detect an increase in mud level in the hole

than in a comparatively large mud tank which is already subject

to some disturbance due to the circulation of the mud.

1.7.8 After a drilling break, as in the case of a suspected

swabbing, one option open to the driller is to circulate "bot­

toms up", that is to circulate until the mud from the bottom of

the hole reaches the surface, when it can be closely examined

for any sign of formation fluids (T2781), and the mud recon­



1.7-9 A "kick" has been referred to earlier paragraph 1.6.1.

It is said to take place when formation fluids actually enter the hole.

When a kick occurs secondary control is called upon to hold the position until primary control is confirmed or

regained. Secondary control will be discussed a little later.

Indications of a kick at the surface are an apparent gain in mud volume followed by a decreas-e in mud density and,

if the formation fluid is gas, an increase in the mud gas read­

ing (T3011). Any increase in chloride content - indicating the

presence of brines - will also be noted as will the presence of oil in the mud.

Mr Thomas (General Manager, Beach Petroleum NL) said:-205

"A gain in mud volume while drilling or

failure of the hole to take the proper

amount of mud while pulling pipe is the

first positive sign of an incipient blow­

out. The essential training of all mem­

bers of the drilling crew must emphasise

the value of the mud level reading in

the active tank. Pit level indicators

with warning signals should be located

next to the driller and as a further check an independent system can be (and

usually is) connected to the mud logging

unit ..."

1.7.10 He added:-"A problem on floating vessels is caused

by the surge of mud in the active tank due

to vessel movement which can give spurious

tank level readings. This can be overcome by fitting a number of level indicators

across the tank, the readings of which can

be automatically integrated to give a mean

level. Another device consists essentially

of two meters to measure mud flow into and

out of the hole which will actuate an alarm in the event of difference between the two

rates." (T2668) With regard to controlling a kick which has occurred

Mr Thomas said:-"It should be emphasised that the fact that a well kicks does not mean that it is immed­

iately going to blowout but it does mean

that rapid smooth action is necessary to

minimise the problem of gaining full primary

control once again.

Crew training is probably the most important

single factor in ensuring that an inconven-


ience does not degenerate to a catastrophe.

Crews must be trained to work as a team with

at least two men able to carry out any one

particular job. Teaching should consist of

demonstration and explanation of the use of

the emergency equipment followed by drills

for each shift until full competence is

attained. Thereafter alarms should be given

without notice by a senior supervisor at least

once each shift and the reaction time of the

crew noted." (T2670-1)

1.7.11 Dealing a little further with remedial steps the

evidence indicated that the remedial procedure when kicks occur

includes resort to secondary control a commonly used procedure

being (i) raise kelly above rotary table, (ii) stop pump, (iii)

open choke line, (iv) close BOP's, (v) close choke, and (vi)

read shut-in pressure on drill pipe and casing annulus pressure.

1.7.12 Mr Thomas stressed that the choke line should be kept

open at all times. In this procedure the BOP is closed before

the choke otherwise there would be a danger of creating a pres­

sure that could do some damage to the equipment and possibly

break down the formation. He also gave reasons for taking an­ nulus pressure readings at this stage (T2672). Other steps in

this procedure were also described by him (12673-4)·

1.7.13 A possibility of a kick while round tripping with the

drill pipe exists because of the danger of swabbing. The prob­

lem may be increased if the bit is high above the producing zone

before the danger is realised. Mr Thomas said (T2676):-"In such a situation the invading gas or

liquid can only be circulated out completely

by returning the bit to bottom. After fit­

ting a non-return valve, known in this case

as an 'inside BOP', to prevent flow up the

inside of the drill pipe, every attempt


should be made to run back to bottom (as

safety and time permit) prior to closing

the BOP's. Should this be accomplished

the procedure for handling a kick while

drilling or circulating can then be taken."

Other steps In this procedure were described all

tending to show the necessity for sustained care and skill on

the part of the drill crew.

1.7.14 Of the possibility of a kick occurring while out of

the hole Mr Thomas said (T2680)

"This Is a most unusual occurrence but Is

possible If a minor zone of lost circulation

exists and the mud level In the hole drops

unnoticed by the crew who may be engaged In

other work. As a preventative, all routine

maintenance work should be done while the

drill bit hangs In the shoe of the casing

and the mud level should even then be regu­

larly checked."



Nature of secondary control

1.8.1 Secondary control Is the use of blowout prevention

equipment (BOP) to control the well If loss of primary control Is threatened or occurs.

1.8.2 In preceding Parts we have described the mud system

and primary control. The possible causes of loss of primary control may be summarised as

(I) drilling with Insufficient mud weight (II) failure to keep the hole full of mud

(ill) loss of circulation

(iv) "swabbing" and/or piston action due

to pulling and running tools in the

hole (Mr Thomas T2638-9).

1.8.3 The importance of ensuring that mud gel strength and

viscosity are kept as low as possible was stressed in order to

minimise swabbing when pulling out and pressure surges when

running in, also to facilitate degassing of gas cut mud (Mr

Thomas at T2665).

Types of BOPs

1.8.4 But if primary control fails secondary control is adopted.

1.8.5 BOPs are hydraulically operated valves and the drill string and kelly pass through their centre into the hole.

1.8.6 In the event of loss of primary control resulting in

oil, gas or water attempting to escape through the annulus be­

tween the drill string and the hole, the BOP can be closed

around the outside of the drill string.


1.8.7 There are three types as explained by Mr Stewart

(i) Ram type "The ram type preventer is like a gate valve

with gates which meet at the centre of the

hole which they close. The faces of the ram

which meet are equipped with heavy rubber

packers, and they are made with shapes to close around pipe when it is in the hole.

One size of ram can only close on one size of pipe. Rams are made in all of the tubing,

drill pipe and casing sizes which can be run

through the preventer. When pipe rams close

on drill pipe', they seal off the annulus be­

tween the outside of the pipe and the well

bore. On the face of the rams, there are

centering guides which contact the pipe first and push it to a central position as

the rams close. Ram type preventers can

also be equipped with blind rams which seal

off the hole when there is no drill pipe in­

side the well bore. The common practice on

a well is to use two ram-type preventers, one

for closing on the drill pipe and the other

with blind rams. When the casing or tubing

is run the drill pipe rams are then changed to match the new size of pipe ..."

(ii) Annular or bag type "An annular blowout preventer consists gen­

erally of a massive rubber sealing element

having a circular shape which, in the rel­

axed position has a bore through it to match

the drilling bore. This sealing element is

contained in a body, and there is some means

provided to constrict or close up this rubber

sealing element so that it expands inwards until it seals the hole. ... Because of the

flexibility of this large sealing element


an annular preventer can close on any size

of pipe, drill collar, tool joint (which is

the threaded joint connecting two lengths

of pipe), or kelly which happens to be in

the bore of the preventer when it is closed.

The ability to" close on any size and shape

is the outstanding feature of the annular-

type preventer," (T4343) (iii) "Shear- type blind rams which can cut

through any pipe in the hole, These would

only be used for this purpose as a last

resort in emergency situations but it is

an important option for the driller to have.

A recommendation regarding shear type rams

is made in the answer to TR4. The Commission

is firmly of the view they should be regarded

as necessary equipment should drilling be per­

mitted in any part of the GBRP. Blind rams

may break the drill pipe even if not fitted

with shears, but they are not designed to do

so and are likely to suffer damage in the


1.8.8 Depending upon the problems likely to be encountered,

a number of individual BOP units can be bolted one above the other, constituting a BOP "stack" and on this subject also a

recommendation appears in the answer to TR4. On land the limi­

ting factor is the space between land surface and derrick floor. Off-shore, problems may be created by making the stack so high

that lateral stresses on it put undue strain on the point where

it is bolted to the well head (T3109). A BOP stack may weigh 40 tons (T2624).

Marine riser

1.8.9 This equipment which is virtually an extension of the

casing has to be used in off-shore drilling when floating drill­

ing vessels are used because they are susceptible to both ver­


tical and lateral movements due to tides and waves. The mar­

ine riser provides a sophisticated telescopic system attached

to the well head on the sea bed by means of a hydraulically

operated latch and it is suspended from the floating drilling

vessel. Upon completion of drilling or in the event that the

unit has to move off the well due to an emergency the latch

can be released and the entire marine riser recovered for fur­

ther use (T2622).

So that when a marine riser is used the well head is on the sea floor and the BOP stack is attached to the well

head. In fact a hydraulic latch is used for this purpose.

1.8.10 A similar latch at the top of the BOP stack is used

to connect a flexible joint which enables the marine riser

above to move through an angle of 5 deg. (T2623, T14753)· It is this latch below the flex joint which allows the marine

riser to be detached from the preventers.and raised to the

surface if the ship has to move away in bad weather (T2626).

The marine riser may simply stand as a column on top of the BOP stack or it may be supported from the vessel by a constant

tensioning device (T2628).

Generally 1.8.11 "Blowout preventers are supplied in a range

of sizes up to 20^" internal diameter and to

operate against well head pressures of up to

15,000 pounds per square inch, the choice of size and pressure rating being determined by

the expected conditions ..." (T2566)

When the BOP is on the sea floor the driller on the

platform cannot tell whether a tool joint is awkwardly situ­

ated near or opposite a pipe ram. Thus a calculating device

is necessary to take the place of visual inspection.

The necessary testing of BOPs must be done with

care and discretion and not over frequently because of the

wear on surfaces. A proper compromise was described by Mr

Thomas at T2658A.


Remote controls and also auxiliary controls are, In

the interests of safety, necessary. These are described later.

Not only must the annulus be capable of being sealed

by the BOP but also the drill pipe itself must be capable of

being sealed and for this purpose an "inside BOP" is used. It

is however not practicable to have an internal BOP in position

while drilling is going ahead normally. The method of its use

was described by Mr Stewart at T434? (where he also explained

the use of another shut-off valve called the "kelly cock") and by Mr White at T3005-6.

The "Christmas tree", the lubricator and wirelining

1.8.12 As the drilling stage is completed and when production

stage is about to commence the "Christmas tree" takes the place

of the BOP - which is a production well head valve assembly.

The changeover procedure was described by Mr White (T2999) :- "When the well is abandoned the BOP stack

is removed. If it is going to become a

producing well then the BOP stack is rem­

oved and tubing is run in the well. I

would add that at this stage the form­

ation is not open. Production casing

will have been run and cemented against

the formation and the formation will not

be put into communication with the well­

bore until the tubing has been run and

tested and then a perforating gun will

be lowered through the tubing. It will

be fired opposite the formation through

which it is intended to produce the oil and this will then enable the oil or gas,

as the case may be, to enter the wellbore,

to travel up the tubing, and be produced

through the flow manifold at the surface."

1.8.13 Valves on the Christmas tree control the rate of flow from the well or if necessary can cut it off entirely. The


Christmas tree may be removed and replaced by the BOP if occ­ asion such as some major work on the well, requires it. But

several necessary albeit minor tasks can be and are performed

by the wireline and an appropriate tool. The perforating gun

for example would be lowered perhaps by a 3/l6th inch wireline

whilst one required for logging might be 7/l6th inch.

1.8.14 These tools are inserted into the well by means of a

lubricator which is a tube about 30 feet long attached to the

top of the Christmas tree. It has a packing gland at its top

through which the wireline passes and through which it can move

without loss of pressure.

1.8.15 Mr Lowd (Executive Vice President, National Tank

Company of the United States) explained the important process

of "wirelining" and in so doing revealed the stages at which in the interests of safety much care is.needed. At T3317-8

he said:-"During the life of any oil well, it will

be necessary to effect down hole repairs,

replace artificial lift equipment, inspect

automatic down hole shut-in devices or per­

form bottom hole tests. For the most part

these operations are conducted by wire line

equipment inside the tubing flow string.

Therefore, it does not require the ser­

vices of a drilling-type rig. The well is not 'killed' and the operation is performed

under pressure conditions through the use of

a lubricator - or pressure lock - installed

atop the well head and of sufficient length

and strength to accommodate the necessary

tools and withstand the full well head pres­ sure. The head and its packing glands must be in excellent working condition and capable of preventing oil spray from occurring as the

wire line is running in or out of the hole.


When the well or wells being worked on are

on a platform containing process equipment,

a prudent operator will see that all per­

sonnel are alerted to the work being done

and appropriate valve shut-offs made and

automatic alerts or warning systems dis­

engaged during the well operation. No

unshielded fires will be permitted in the

area when such work is being done. Upon

completion of the work, all such devices

will be engaged and tested to make certain

they are operable and all personnel advised

that the operation is completed."

1.8.16 It is apparent that the use of wireline tools during

the production stage is an important facility for the operator.

It does, however, create some hazards as the lubricator gland

is a less secure container of hydrocarbons than a valve in the

production tubing or in the Christmas tree.

1.8.17 If the lubricator should be broken off as occurred through negligence in the Marlin A 4 incident (see answer to TR4)

a very serious situation exists. A wire line BOP is fitted for

use if the lubricator gland shows signs of wear, thus reducing

the risks of a blowout while wire lining.

1.8.18 Wire lining will be particularly hazardous if the oper­

ation involved is the changing of the down-hole choke or if the

nature of the tool to be lowered makes the removal of the choke

necessary. For example, Mr Ericson said (T1276):-"... in 1968 ... in Louisiana ... we were

changing the down-hole chokes ... and while

going in with a wireline or coming out with

it we had a fire and there was a blowout.

There was a gas well and a high pressure

one. It burnt the rig. This was the con­

tractor that was doing this work for us.


There were several fatalities but the blow­

out was subsequently cut off and there was

no pollution."


1.8.19 The time when a producing well has to be worked over

Is another which presents some difficulty. The well must be

killed with mud or some other workover fluid, BOP installed

and necessary work carried out. The task of control will be

made easier by the fact that the nature of the hydrocarbons

present should be well known. However experience has shown

that this is a time when a blowout can occur, (e.g. as in the

cases of the Shell fire incident and incidents in two unnamed

wells - see answer to TR4).



Causes of loss of secondary control

1.9.1 Usually dangers arising from loss of primary control

are averted by closing one or more of the BOPs. This is the

way secondary control is obtained. Further steps must be taken

before primary control can be regained and drilling can proceed but at least the situation is in hand.

1.9.2 A loss of secondary control can occur as the result of:

(i) inability to close BOPs

(ii) inability to insert internal BOPs

(ill) failure of BOPs

(iv) failure of well head or casing

As to (i) - Inability to close BOPs

1.9.3 This could result from having (for example) a tool

joint opposite the pipe ram. (As earlier indicated estimates

have to be made to prevent this when the BOP is on the sea bed

when a floating rig is in use). The drill string should be

raised by using the drawworks to remedy this. In one example

given by Mr Thomas (see Part 6 of answer to TR4) the drawworks

were disconnected from the drill string for the purpose of

effecting repairs to the swivel from which the kelly hangs at a time when the BOPs were obstructed. This was negligence on

the part of the driller. A dangerous gas blowout occurred and

the history of this incident shows how several acts of negli­

gence can occur in the one incident by an insufficiently trained crew.

Another possibility is that there may be a malfunction of the BOPs which prevents them closing properly. The seals

must be pressure tested but in so doing they are subject to

wear. One of the causes of a blowout described in paragraph


4.6.19 was that the supervisor allowed untested BOP equipment

to be used and It failed In an emergency. The Marlin A4 blow­

out (see Part 6 of answer to TR4) exemplified the necessity

for having alternative sets of controls as far away from the

well head as possible. Damage to the hydraulic control lines

could also render the BOPs inoperable (T14765).

As to (ii) - Inability to insert internal BOPs

1.9.4 This problem could arise if there is a blowout of

formation fluids up the drill stem itself.

The internal BOP or "drill pipe float" or "drop-in

back pressure valve" was briefly referred to earlier. Its use

is to seal off the drill pipe itself. It is "basically a check

valve to keep flow from coming up through the drill pipe, but

which will allow mud to be pumped downward through the drill

pipe" (Mr Stewart T4347). It sits in a receptacle designed for

it at the top of the drill collar (Mr White T3110).

Difficulties can occur in inserting the screw-in type

of internal BOP while the well is actually flowing. The risk

of explosion or fire may become great. At the Santa Barbara

blowout the attempt to insert an internal BOP was abandoned when gas began to flow at high pressure.

As to (iii) - Failure of BOPs 1.9.5 BOPs are designed to contain well pressures for long

periods of time and this applies not only to the ram type BOP

but also to the bag type or "Hydril".

But any constant reciprocating movement of pipe

through closed BOPs as the result of movement of a floating

rig is a potential danger. The drill string should be hung

off in the case of a ship-shape or semi-submersible rig. Such

a lesson was learnt from the Petrel and Barracouta blowouts

(Part 6 of answer to TR4).

Blind rams may fail because they are damaged when

closed over drill pipe or some other obstruction. They are not designed to cut drill pipe although they may do so (as in

the Barracouta blowout).


But shear type blind rams should do so and it is be­

coming common practice to fit them.

1.9- 6 In our view at least two bag type rams, two sets of

pipe rams and one of the blind (shear) type should be included

in a BOP stack used in drilling in the GBRP.

As to (iv) - Failure of well head or casing

1.9- 7 The well head and top section of the casing may be

included in secondary control. They are subject to high pres­

sures and to wear. They must be regularly tested and if prop­

erly designed and if wear bushings are replaced at proper in­

tervals failure should not occur at this point.

However situations can arise when such a failure might occur. Thus if BOPs were closed with the choke line

also closed, the well head could be damaged by the hydraulic

ram effect. Indeed there could be a formation failure at some point of weakness. This is referred to later.

In another case described by Mr Stewart at T4430 a

well being drilled for Shell in the North Sea due to a miscal­

culation penetrated the casing of an already completed well.

This resulted in a blowout through the casing and subsequently

through the sea bottom around and under the platform.

Formation failure outside well

1.9.8 Any natural tendency towards a formation weakness in the area outside and surrounding the well can be aggravated

with ultimate blowout effects by unskilful casing programmes and allied causes.

1.9.9 Several cases were examined by the Commission where

the ultimate blowout occurred not up the casing or drill string but outside the casing and up through some weakness in the sur­ rounding formation.

The causes were:-(i) an inadequate casing programme

(ii) inefficient casing setting


(iii) drilling too many wells too close

together from the one platform, thus

weakening the formation

(iv) excessive well pressures.

As to (i) - An inadequate casing programme

1.9.10 Since the Santa Barbara blowout in 1969 which demon­

strated the need for stricter casing standards in that area,

improved and more stringent casing requirements have been laid

down in the U.S.A. off-shore drilling procedure by OCS Order

No. 8 (see Part 9 of answer to TR4 and the recommendations con­

tained therein). In the Santa Barbara spill casing had only

been set 238 feet at a time when drilling had proceeded to almost 3,500 feet. The casing programme was also inadequate

in the Marlin well (see Part 6 of answer to TR4).

As to (ii) - Inefficient casing setting 1.9.11 Potential hazards to be avoided are that the cement

bonding may be defective or the casing shoe may be set in in­

competent formation. The Marlin A7 blow illustrates the latter

(see answer to TR4).

As to (iii) - Too close proximity of wells 1.9.12 Obviously the drilling of a number of holes within

a few feet of each other must weaken the formations being


Mr Thomas at T2776 dealt with this subject. He

said:-"Normally well heads are probably spaced, on

a production platform, between 6 and 8 feet

apart. One must certainly imagine that there is some disruption of the surface soil when,

first of all, the stove pipes are driven down and later when the conductor string is drilled

in and cemented. The full effect of how weak

the formation becomes would depend upon the

strata involved. However, it is a fact that


blowouts have occurred - so-called Internal

blowouts, If you like - presumably because

of the weakening of the upper strata with

the casing strings."

"In your opinion is the distance of 6 or

8 feet which you mentioned adequate, if

reasonable precautions against such an

event have been taken?"-- "I believe so.

It is customary, once one has reached a

depth of something of the order between

500 and 1000 feet to start deviating the

wells away to their selected positions in

the reservoir. Therefore, from that point

downwards each well is progressively get­ ting further and further away from its

neighbours. If we are looking at reser­

voir depths of 6000 feet or more we would

not, at that stage, expect any danger from

blowout if proper security precautions were

taken and so that we do not expose the shoes

of our conductor string to any great pressure

from blowout down below."

It may be possible to meet this problem in part by

casing to a point beyond the point of deviation before contin­

uing drilling into possible hydrocarbon-bearing zones (see

Marlin A? paragraph 4.6.8).

However this may not provide a sufficient answer,

and it may be that the number of holes and distance apart should

be more restricted than has sometimes been the case. In Bass

Strait there are typically about 20 wells deviated from a plat­

form (T12762, 12765).

As to (iv) - Excessive well pressures

1.9.13 Excessive well pressures are caused by excessive mud

weight or too much back pressure from pumps. The Marlin A7 gas

blowout (paragraph 4.6.8) which took place in the Bass Strait

on 2 December 1968 whilst drilling ahead at 4857 feet was des­


cribed by Mr Stewart (T436?) and Mr Lipscomb (Area Production

Manager, Esso (Australia) Ltd. Gippsland). The latter thought

that some mistake had been made in the manner in which the pro­

cedures were carried out (T12679-80). He said the possibili­

ties were firstly, the pump still turning over when the rams

were closed. The second possibility was incorrect regulation

of the choke when the pumps were started again. "... too great

a restriction effect, therefore too much back pressure held on

the mud column causing the mud to disperse into the surrounding

formation" (T12681). It was a deviated hole.

"The kick off point for the first deviation

was at about 1150 just below the casing?--Yes."

He added:-"On the other platforms the surface pipe is

run past the kick off point or past the point

of initial deviation."



Petroleum production

1.10.1 Mr Thomas dealt with "development planning of an oil

or gas field" at T2706 and said:-"Following the success of an exploration

well in discovering a potentially commer­

cial accumulation of hydrocarbons, a pro­

gramme of appraisal drilling is undertaken,

the purpose of which is (i) to establish

that the accumulation is commercial, (ii)

to derive physical data pertaining to the

accumulation on which a development dril­

ling and production programme may be based.

At least one, but usually more, appraisal

wells are drilled with the object of def­ ining as closely as possible the values of the following parameters:

a. Limits of the reservoir(s) i.e. areas

and thickness of the 'pay'.

b. Distribution of fluids i.e. gas, oil

and water within the reservoir(s).

c. Characteristics of fluids i.e. gas

gravity, composition and viscosity,

oil gravity, type and viscosity.

d . Reservoir pressures and temperatures.

e . Expansion (PVT) characteristics of

fluids from original reservoir con­

ditions to atmospheric conditions ..." 1.10.2 He added;τ "our main concern at this time is to

be able to deduce from a surface measurement

of oil and gas how these substances will

actually exist within the reservoir itself.

... if one is above the bubble point then


you only have oil, single phase, within

the reservoir. Obviously by the time any

oil has flowed up a tubing string and into

production facilities its pressure will

have been far below its bubble point (i.e.

the reduced reservoir pressure at which

gas will break out of solution from the

oil and by virtue of its expansion qual­

ities will assist in driving both the oil

and itself towards the producing wells -

T2700) and it will be in a two-phase stage

- you will have gas and you will have oil


It is important to know how these two sub­

stances, the gas and the oil, combine to

form the actual fluid within the reservoir

so that you may then be able to forecast

the performance of the reservoir and in

fact derive the actual amount of useful

oil in place in the reservoir."

1.10.3 Other data obtained include rock characteristics

such as porosity and permeability and from the data thus ob­

tained important information may be obtained as to reservoir

volumes, recovery efficiencies and expected well productivity

The next stage would be to make estimates relating to trans­

portation, production costs and other financial factors. Mr

Lowd (T3261) and Mr Rochelle (T2895) elaborated on these fac­

tors and stages.

Production wells 1.10.4 The decision to produce having been made an approp­

riate number of holes will be drilled for production purposes in the same manner in which they are drilled for exploration

purposes. Directional drilling, described above, is normally

used. The "completion" of these wells may be either "open

hole" completions or set through perforated completions.


In the open hole completion, the production string

of casing is set and cemented immediately above the "pay zone"

or production strata. This method is used only when the res­

ervoir formation is strong and will not slough or cave into

the well bore. Mr Thomas said that it is confined almost com­

pletely to fractured limestone reservoirs (T2596).

1.10.5 Of the set through perforated completions, Mr Thomas

said at T2596-7:-"This category refers to those cases, by

far the most common in modern practice,

where the production string is set through

and cemented over the pay zone or zones.

Thereafter the casing through the pay zone

is perforated using what is in effect a

multi-barrelled gun fired electrically from

the surface. Precise depth control is possible

and shots may be spaced as required by the oper­ ator. Penetration of the casing and the cement

sheath at any given shooting point is effected

by a steel bullet or by the jetted flame of a

shaped charge. The latter device produces a

jet of hot gases travelling at some 30,000 feet

per second and exerting an impact pressure of

some 4 million pounds per square inch on the


Secondary recovery

1.10.6 E-arlier Mr Thomas when speaking of fluid expansion

or depletion drives had said (T2700) :-"However, due to the much lower viscosity

and hence the higher mobility, of gas than

oil, the amount of gas produced in proportion

to the oil increases rapidly and energy dep­

letion is still rapid with the result that

the recovery efficiency of a depletion drive

reservoir by primary means is very low. Dep­


endent upon oil properties and reservoir

rock characteristics records reveal that

only 5 per cent to 35 per cent of the

original oil in place can be recovered.

Do those latter sentences mean that even

when the bubble point is reached and gas

starts to be formed in the reservoir, this

will not help greatly because that gas will

be drained off faster than the oil?-- Yes."

1.10.7 He then dealt with fluid displacement and the sec­

ondary method of recovery, i.e. by water or repression of

gas. He said (T2701):-"(a) Natural Water Drive. Where an oil res­

ervoir is in hydraulic connection with a large

aquifer,, the pressure energy contained in the

water will cause expansion of the water as the

oil pressure is reduced so that the water will

displace oil and drive it towards the wells.

Some residual oil may be trapped by capillary action as the water sweeps through the rock

but in many cases of significant water drive

of light crude oils, it is not unusual to re­

cover up to 70 per cent of the original oil

in place.

(b) Natural Gas Cap Drive. Where an oil body

is overlain by a large gas cap the consider­ able elastic energy contained in the pressur­

ised gas offsets to some degree the energy

lost by withdrawal of oil and by expansion

assists in sweeping the oil towards the pro­ ducing wells. Under favourable conditions

up to 70 per cent of the original oil in

place may be recovered.

(c) Artificial Drives. By pumping of water

or gas from the surface down injection wells

to the requisite points in the reservoir the


natural forces described above may be aug­

mented and by such secondary recovery methods

the recovery from the reservoir may be in­

creased significantly."

Underwater completions

1.10.8 A number of other techniques are being actively in­

vestigated for operations in excess of 400 feet, such as sea

floor templates and sub-sea' habitats, also single sub-sea com­

pletions linked by flow lines and control systems to a collec­

tion platform in shallow water. However, having regard to the

comparatively shallow depths within the GBRP it is sufficient

to give a reference to the evidence of Mr Thomas at T2709 et

seq although Mr Lowd referred to the Second Report of the

President's Panel following the Santa Barbara oil spill (Ex.

398) which recommended that much greater use be made of this

technique. Mr Lowd added (T3416) :-"Subsequent developmental activity in the

sub-sea production area has led to the con­

clusion by some, including the witness, that

there are ample economic as well as environ­

mental reasons for pursuing underwater pro­

duction processing even in depths so shallow

as to allow the alternative consideration of

building a fixed platform - that is, in water much LESS than 400 or 500 feet deep. From the

standpoint of protection to the environment,

there is, of course, little difference within a production processing system itself with

respect to safety and pollution, whether the

facility is located above the air-sea inter­

face on a fixed platform or somewhere beneath the interface. All the procedures, rules,

and prudent operational requirements are the

same - in principle. It can be said, however,

that oil released either in & random or aggra­

vated way, into the mid-water is fundamentally


more 1 containable1 than that released from

above onto the air-sea interface or that

which accumulates on the interface as a

result of separation from disposed waste

water. The most difficult problems with

respect to conventional surface oriented

spill-oil containment devices accrue from

the tremendous forces applied by wind and

wave. These forces of course, do not exist

at depths very far below the interface.

Therefore 'containment', in actual fact,

can be easier IN the water than ON the sea."

Production control

1.10.9 This topic covers the various automatic and manually

operated devices which control and if necessary shut off the

flow of petroleum through the production process.

Processing 1.10.10 On the platform the production problem is to separate

the full stream flowing from a well into two parts, usable oil

and usable gas. Mr Lowd said (T3263):-"But the separating is complicated, in part,

by the fact that the oil and gas from the

well contains vari'ous contaminants. These contaminants must themselves be removed to

a greater or lesser extent in order to ob­ tain usable or saleable oil and gas. Thus

many separation processes are required, not

only to segregate the gas and oil but to

remove the contaminants."

1.10.11 The steps of processing (which is continuous) were

given by Mr Lowd as follows (T3267 et seq) :-"(i) Gas-liquid separation The total well head fluid flows first through

one or more gas-liquid separation steps. The


function of these separations Is the econ­

omic segregation of gas and oil. The two

basic streams - liquid and gas - then flow

to a series of purification steps.

Raw petroleum is not a pure substance, nor

is it simply oil and gas mixed in various

combinations. Raw petroleum is, in fact,

a mixture involving hundreds of different

chemical compounds of carbon and hydrogen.

These compounds have different boiling

points, all the way from far below room

temperature up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher. Thus the well fluid mixture

does not have a fixed 'boiling point' in

the usual sense. Instead, at any given

temperature and pressure, some portion of

the petroleum mix will be vapour - or boil -

and the remainder will be liquid. In gen­

eral, the higher the temperature, the higher

the percentage vapour. Generally speaking,

producers can obtain a maximum amount of oil

for use or sale per unit of total hydrocarbon removed from the reservoir - and thus assure

the optimum benefit from this natural resource

- if the pressure is released from the raw well

stream in orderly and proper steps. But diff­

erent well streams of crude petroleum will show

different responses to the pressure and temp­ erature steps in separating gas from oil. This

indicates the importance of carefully obtaining

and studying samples of the raw crude before

the processing plant is designed.

(ii) Stepwise gas removal

1.10.12 "The liquid from the initial gas-liquid sepa­

ration is therefore subjected to one or more

subsequent gas-separation steps to render it


a saleable product. Each such step takes

place at succeedingly lower pressures and

additional small amounts of gas evolve ...

these streams of separated gas from succes­

sive steps are then combined and further

conditioned for use or sale.

(ill) Free-water removal

1.10.13 "The liquid oil which is separated from the

total well stream may contain water in two

forms; free or emulsified. Free-water, as

the name indicates, separates easily from

the oil mostly because it is heavier. This water falls to the bottom of the free-water

separating device and is segregated from

the oil stream. Sand or other solids are also removed at this step of the process.

(iv) Dehydration

1.10.14 "Oil dehydration, or 'treating' as it is

often called, is the removal of that por­

tion of the water still remaining in the oil in emulsified form. An emulsion is a

complex of tiny water-oil droplets that

will not settle out from the oil, regard­

less of time. In spite of the best efforts

by producers to prevent them, emulsions of water in oil from the well head are common.

(v) Desalting

1.10.15 "The water accompanying oil has been ref­ erred to as 'water'. Actually it usually

is salt water or brine. If the salt con­ tent of this salt water is excessive, then

the oil refiner can expect troubles. This

is because salt deposition during (sic) high

temperature processing will 'boil off' the


remnant water and leave solid salts in his

refinery process facilities. Thus to have

a useful or saleable oil, the initial pro­

ducer may have to remove this salt by wash­

ing the oil with fresh water, and then accom­

plish essentially total removal of the water

in a process called 'desalting'.

(vi) Hydrogen sulphide removal

1.10.16 "Hydrogen sulphide gas (H2S) may remain dis­

solved in the oil at concentrations higher

than desired. The H2S is toxic and corro­

sive ; its removal may be required. To do this, sweet natural gas is bubbled through

the oil. Sweet gas contains essentially no

H2S . The sweet hydrocarbon gas acts to ab­

sorb the H2S out of the oil in a process

called 'cold stripping'.

(vii) Storage

1.10.17 "The oil is now a saleable product and is

placed in temporary storage. From storage,

the oil must be pumped into a pipeline to

shore or into a barge or tanker."

Sub-surface safety devices

1.10.18 During the production stage the down-hole choke or

device which is capable of closing off the well at a depth of

at least 200 feet below ocean floor is an important safety dev­

ice. It is the last line of defence in such an emergency as the platform being in danger of destruction by fire or cyclone.

1.10.19 Speaking of what is now regarded as the somewhat old

fashioned "storm choke" Mr Stewart said (T4361):-"This is basically a loaded valve which is

kept open by a calibrated spring. Acting

against this spring is the force resulting


from the upward flowing pressure of the

producing fluid. (Such valves) are des­

igned to be sensitive to decreases in

tubing pressure or pressure differential

across them created by an increase in flow

rate. In the event of a failure of the surface connections (line break, accidents,

etc.), then when the volume of production

through the storm choke exceeds a pre-deter-

mined rate, it will close automatically shut­

ting the well in. The well will remain shut

in until the operator opens it ..." He went on to discuss the piston type safety valve:-

"This safety valve is similar to the storm

choke except that it is hydraulically con­ trolled from the surface.

The surface control unit is equipped so that

the valve will instantly close if the Christmas tree is damaged or if the flow line pressure

increases (shut valve on-shore) or decreases (broken flow line) beyond predetermined limits

1.10.20 He also spoke of a ball-type safety valve which is a

type preferred by Mr Thomas who supported a design which could

be controlled hydraulically from the surface if danger threat­

ened (T2845).

1.10.21 Surface controlled sub-surface safety valves are

dealt with in the answer to TR4 and are the subject of one of

the recommendations therein.

1.10.22 The remotely controlled valve can be operated in the event of fire, or approaching cyclone or imminent collision.

Shut-down procedures

1.10.23 These can be of a routine, storm or emergency nature.


Highly trained personnel are necessary to instigate or deal

with a shut down as, whether it is of a routine nature or due

to an emergency, the situation is potentially dangerous (Mr Lowd T3315).

1.10.24 The routine shut down is for repair or maintenance

work, the life of a production well being 15 years or more.

The storm shut down is in anticipation of severe weather con­

ditions and may involve evacuation of personnel. The emergency

shut down occurs suddenly and with little warning. Mr Lowd s ai d : -"It is usually the result of a malfunction

of equipment or a line break that portends

an uncontrolled oil or gas flow somewhere

in the system. Such a shut down is usually

instigated by automatic controls and pre­

ceded by audible and visual signal warnings.

Prompt, effective action by all personnel is

mandatory if the situation is to be kept under

control. Every man must know his position and

duty responsibility. Communications with the

outside must be quickly accomplished for poss­

ible aid and prompt assistance in cleaning up

a spill if such should have occurred. An emer­

gency shut down may occur as a result of an

instrument malfunction or other minor misreading

of conditions. In any event, start-up proceed­ ings will not begin until the cause is positively

identified and rectified." (T3316)

1.10.25 Testing of controls regularly is part and parcel of

prudent management. Mr Lowd stressed that to facilitate such testing all control sensors and devices must be equipped for

testing with an external source of pressure so that both the

control response and the action of the final control valve may

be observed, verified, witnessed and duly recorded on approp­

riate inspection forms - and he particularised the details of


control testing. Mr Thomas also dealt with Inspection and

testing of well head fittings and sub-surface equipment at

T2752 et seq.

1.10.26 Some of the fluid components produced with petroleum

are highly corrosive whilst the sea and the atmosphere produce

corrosion in most metals.

1.10.27 Mr Lowd said (T3316 et seq) that as the effect of

corrosion is usually insidious, protective measures must be

thorough and constantly monitored. He detailed methods of

detecting internal and external corrosion and said that rates

of corrosion are determined without dismantling the well head

by the insertion of metal corrosion "coupons" into the well

head. He added "Every practical means to reduce the effects

of corrosion is necessary if spills or other

dangerous situations are to be avoided.

Emergency situations during production

1.10.28 Mr Lowd explained the risk of oil spills during the

production stage in these terms (T3262) "It is particularly during the production

stage that both 'Aggravated’ and 'Random' pollution must be guarded against. The

potential of either type is ever present.

The production stage covers a span of 15

years or more. During the time span,

equipment is subject to storms, break­ downs, erosion, obsolescence and replace­

ment. Additional facilities such as pres­

sure maintenance or artificial lift equip­

ment may be required. Personnel must be

retained and wells worked over."

1.10.29 He tabulated a number of possible emergency situ­ ations which can and do occur during the many years of the


production stage and in short form these were:-(i) Flow line rupture (the pipe between

the well head and the inlet to the first

separator on the platform)

"The flow line from the well head to the

manifold choke may be a few feet long or

a mile long depending upon the relative

locations of the well head and the pro­

cessing platform. A break or rupture of

this flow line, however long it is, con­

stitutes the greatest possible aggravated

threat to the environment. Theoretically,

the entire contents of the subsurface

petroleum reservoir could flow through

the rupture into the sea, contaminating

everything in its path. Without safety

devices, all the other wells connected

to the common production manifold could

flow backwards through the choke and

through the ruptured flow line, thus

hastening the cumulative pollution." (Τ330Ό)

(ii) Plow line plugging

In this case the well cannot produce.

The emergency situation so created should

be automatically dealt with by the closing

of the well head shut in valve.

(iii) Production manifold rupture

"Without safety controls, a rupture of the

piping or valves in the production manifold

would permit all the wells to flow through the rupture, covering the platform with oil,

creating a fire hazard, and possibly pollu­

ting the sea if drip pans are overloaded.

However, any such rupture would cause an

abnormally low pressure in all the well flow

lines, thus closing all the well head shut-in


valves." (T3301)

(Iv) Manifold choke failure

All wells have their own individual manu­

ally-operated choke valve mounted on the

production manifold (T3301) the purpose

being to permit manual control of the

individual well flow rates or to permit

shut-in of individual wells at the plat­

form. Without safety controls the excess­

ively high production rate might overload

the separator causing high fluid level or

high pressure or both.

(v) Separator oil dump valve failure

(vi) Separator gas valve failure

Failure of these valves leads to various

irregularities in the separator and resul­

tant hazards.

(vii) -Instrument air failure

"Loss of instrument air or supply gas pres­

sure may be caused by supply line rupture,

plugging, regulator failure, compressor failure or the inadvertent manual closing

of a valve in the system." (T3303) (viii) Improper manual valve manipulation

Abnormally high or low pressures and/or fluid

levels may result. Safety control devices

should monitor and automatically eliminate

such a man-made hazard.

(ix) Failure of the safety shut-in valve

But as Mr Lowd said:-"After all, little can go wrong with a com­

pressed heavy metal spring ... Therefore unless the internal fluid ports of the valve

have been eroded or unless solids have lodged

between the internal valve sealing surfaces

the valve must fail in the closed or safe

position." (T3304)

1.10.30 The damage which can be caused -to the production

system by the build up over a period of internal scale and by

sand erosion with attendant serious dangers were stressed also

by Mr Thomas who added (T2754):-"... the above dangers are well known to

the oil industry and both operators and

government bodies lay down strict routine

regulations, often supplemented by A.P.I.

codes, regarding quality and design of

fittings and their proper care and main­

tenance. It is therefore very rare indeed,

and has not occurred, in my personal exper­

ience, that a well has blown out of control for lack of routine maintenance."

Fire prevention and control

1.10.31 Quite a number of fires have occurred at on-shore

wells and a few at off-shore wells, the largest and longest in

point of time being the Shell fire in the Gulf of Mexico which

began 1 December 1970 and which was killed four months later

by pumping mud into directional wells (T6992 et seq). The

Chevron fire began 10 February 1970 and lasted for seven weeks.

It also was killed by drilling relief wells (T6984).

1.10.32 Mr Lowd said (T3319):-"Although every effort is made to keep the

hazard of fire to a minimum, the possibility

of fire may not be discounted. The potential

loss of life, damage to natural resources, to

the environment and to property is a constant

incentive to the industry to design and install the best fire-control systems that modern tech­

nology can devise."

1.10.33 Mr Lowd also said (T3318):-"1. The best method of fire control is prev­

ention. Fuel, heat, oxygen and combustion


reactions are the four components of a

fire. No simple diagram will adequately

represent the complex phenomena of fire.

However, prevention is based on keeping

the fuel, oxygen and heat separated. The

proper design and operation of an off-shore

crude oil production installation will mini­

mise the possibility of the triangle closing

with resulting combustion.

2. The principal design considerations

given to keeping the fire-supporting com­

ponents separated are:

a. The judicious placement of equipment

in relation to other equipment and to

the prevailing wind directions.

b . The isolation or insulation of all

flame and heat devices from combus­

tible vapours.

c. The use of automatic safety devices

to prevent leaks or breaks from devel­

oping or to minimise the loss of fluids should leaks or breaks occur.

d . The use of non-combustible materials

wherever possible.

e. The containment of all combustible

fluids in closed vessels."

1.10.34 He added (T3319) "The two main differences between an on-shore

and off-shore installation are the density of

equipment and the accessibility to mobile fire­

fighting equipment. It is impractical to reduce equipment density on a platform. Since an off­

shore installation may be located as much as

100 miles from shore it must rely on its own fire-control system and personnel to use the



An accepted rule Is that an untrained oper­

ator of fire-control equipment is only 40

per cent as effective as a professional.

Therefore, every effort is made to increase

personnel skill by practice and training


1.10.35 Later Mr Lowd dealt at some length with various fire

control systems, personnel training, detection of fire by auto­

mated means and the use of flame arresters and internal firebox

heat detectors on fired equipment such as an emulsion treater

(T3447 et seq).


1.10.36 The withdrawal of the production tubing to enable necessary maintenance work to be carried out will be necessary

from time to time over the long production period (15 years or more).

1.10.37 But although necessary, this procedure involves a measure of risk of a blowout. The hazards involved and the

degree of care that must govern well repairs throughout warrant

a reference in some detail to Mr Thomas' evidence at T2750-2 and this evidence and the accompanying questions and answers speak for themselves:-

1.10.38 "Well pulling

In many older completions PTWC (i.e. perm­

anent type well completion) equipment has

not been installed and any well repairs

require that the tubing is pulled to allow

access to the producing intervals. Tubing pulling is also often necessary in multiple

completions or in cases where the tubing

string has become plugged with foreign mat­

ter thus rendering the use of PTWC repair

techniques impossible. The task of these


full scale well repairs is carried out by

a well pulling unit built on the same prin­

ciples and utilising the same type of equip­

ment as a drilling rig, but on a smaller and

lighter scale since the loads to be handled

and the pump circulation rates necessary are

far smaller than those encountered when dril­

ling a well. Since a well pulling repair

commences with a live well, that is a well

containing oil and gas, great care must be exercised to ensure that the well is killed

or otherwise incapable of production prior to the removal of well head fittings and the

pulling of the tubing string.

The well can be killed in one of two ways.

The first simply entails squeezing suffic­

ient work-over fluid down the tubing string to force all hydrocarbons into the formation.

The second, and preferred, method is to open a circulating sleeve or valve just above the

production packer and, by reverse circulation

with work-over fluid, force all the hydro­ carbons in the tubing string out through the

Christmas tree to be safely disposed of in the production collection facilities. This

method thus ensures that both tubing and casing are full of fluid of sufficient weight to restrain the reservoir pressure.

MR WOODWARD: We will have another look at

this. In the first instance you put suffic­ ient work-over fluid down the tubing string

to force all the hydrocarbons back into the formation?-- Yes.

The word squeezing is the one that troubles

me a little. Does that mean force it under

pressure?-- That means pumping out under high

pressure. The second method is to open a valve

or circulating sleeve just above the pro­

duction packer. The production packer is

the packer at the foot of the shoe of the tubing string?-- Yes.

Which is above that and by reverse circu­

lation, that is by sending this work over

fluid down the casing through this valve

at the foot of the tubing string and thus into the tubing?-- Yes.

You thus force upward any hydrocarbons that are sitting in the tubing string?--Yes.

And dispose of them through your ordinary

facilities?-- Right.

So in other words you are saying it is

easier, since you want to get rid of the

hydrocarbons in the string, to do it by

forcing them upwards with the work over

fluid than it is by forcing them downwards?

-- Yes. It is quicker simply to squeeze the fluids down the tubing.

But not as satisfactory?-- Not as satis­

factory. To my mind it often leaves small bubbles of gas and so on still left in the

tubing string or in the casing just below the tilting string.

THE CHAIRMAN: In your preferred method it

is tacit I suppose that the hydrocarbons are blocked off at the shoe at the foot of

the tubing?-- Yes. They are packed off from

escaping to the end of this.

You force what happens to be left in the

casing up the well?-- Yes. My Statement


After killing the well, the extra precaution

of fitting a screw in plug into the top of

the tubing should be taken prior to removing


the Christmas tree and installing a set

of blowout preventers.

MR WOODWARD: I note you say that that

is a step which should be taken?-- Yes.

That means it is not always?-- I have qualified that by stating that I have

known occasions when it has not been

done. My statement continues:

Once the BOP stack has been fitted and

tested, the tubing string can be pulled and the necessary well repair carried

out, after which the tubing and well

head equipment can be replaced and the

well brought back into production."


Nature of chronic pollution

1.11.1 Chronic spills (and intermittent or random spills)

are forms of pollution which in the view of some experts (for

example Mr Lowd) are greater threats to the environment than

occasional instances of blowouts or "aggravated" pollution,

that is to say blowouts or major oil spills. In such a complex

biological field as the GBRP - an area which is believed to

contain a multiplicity of interdependencies, this may be cor­

rect although in the present state of knowledge of the effects

of oil on the GBR communities there can be no certainty. There

is however no doubt that chronic pollution within any part of

the GBRP would at the least be both damaging to the eco-systems

therein and a serious interference with the enjoyment by man of

the environment. Generally on these aspects see answer to TR2.

1.11.2 The aggregate risk of chronic and random pollution

in their various forms is greater than that of a blowout.

1.11.3 The dangers of chronic pollution are probably greater during the production stage than during exploratory drilling.

1.11.4 The coloured films of the marshes on and close to the

foreshores of Louisiana shown to the Commission by Dr St Amant (Louisiana State Assistant Director, Wildlife and Fisheries

Commission) vividly illustrated the extensive nature of chronic

pollution which can occur in the absence of industry co-oper­

ation (T4004-5 et seq). Such phrases as "biological desert"

(slides 51 and 57) and "not very pleasant to look at" (slide

6l) appear in Dr St Amant's description given during the screen­

ing. The coloured slides are part of Exhibit 230 and were taken

in 1970 (T4112). It is not however suggested that such a degree

of chronic pollution would occur in the governmentally control­


led waters of the GBRP should drilling be permitted therein

but for reasons to be given a measure of chronic and random

pollution could probably never be eliminated.

1.11.5 During drilling operations the use of a mud and oil emulsion would be very undesirable in the GBRP and in the

answer to TR4 we have recommended that its use should require

express approval of the DA and that its discharge into the

GBRP be prohibited.

1.11.6 During production the separated water should not be

allowed to be discharged into the sea whatever might be its

oil content. As appears later we recommend that no substance,

solid or liquid, be disposed of into the waters of the GBRP

(with three specified exceptions).

1.11.7 The Commission is of the opinion that there are special conditions obtaining in the GBRP which distinguish it

from such areas as the Gulf of Mexico and that restrictions

and standards acceptable in that area might not be acceptable

in the GBRP. Such special conditions include (1) the compara­ tively shallow nature of GBR waters, (2) their containment with­ in the outer Reef, (3) the large number of reefs and islands

within the GBRP of scientific and environmental interest, (4)

the nature of the currents and prevailing winds, and (5) the extensive, complex and delicately balanced ecosystems which exist throughout the length and breadth of the GBRP.

It is now proposed to discuss the various forms of

chronic pollution.

(a) Oilfield brines

1.11.8 On this subject Mr Lowd said (T3348):-"It is important not to overlook the omni­ present nature of this water. The original

carboniferous deposits accumulating within,

or at the edge of, ancient seas constituted

the beginning of petroleum formations. It

therefore follows that some remnant part

of those ancient seas will be produced

with the oil and gas today. This, of

course, Is the case. As a result, upon

disposition of that water, potentially

damaging oil pollution can be ... yet

need not be ... carried Into the seas.

So one of the problems of potential ran­ dom pollution by waste water carrying

remnant particles of oil, relates to

the quantification of the meaning of

'clean' or 'oil free' water. Such def­

inition, In turn, relates to toxicity

and other possible adverse effects of raw petroleum on marine life and Its environment ..."

1.11.9 It can be said of Mr Lowd that he was more optimistic

about the ability of modern technology to separate water from oil than In regard to the extraction of oil from sand (Tl66l6)

and the general view Is that the use of a mud and oil emulsion

need not and should not take place In connection with any dril­

ling In the GBRP and In our answer to TR4 we have so recommen­ ded .

1.11.10 Later Mr Lowd said (T3376):-"1. If a prudent benchmark level of remnant

oil contamination In waste water Is set

at the trace level of 100 ppm, a further qualifying question still remains: 'Can

this degree of cleanliness be achieved by equipment available today and usable

on off-shore platforms?' The answer Is Yes.

2. It Is Important, however, to recognise

that such conditioning of the water can­

not be attained directly from oil pro­


cessing vessels on the marine platforms

without special cleaning devices and


3· There are two pieces of equipment, ref­

erred to in previous sections, whose

job is primarily to remove contamin­

ating water from the oil. These are

the so-called emulsion treater and the

free water remover or freewater knock­

out. These processes are not, however,

water treating processes. Therefore,

the water separated from the oil by

them may have a rather significant contamination of a remnant oil in it.

In most processing situations, such water could not be disposed of into

the sea without significant damage to the mid-water and surface biota in the

area or to natural surface mechanism

as a result of toxicity and/or a con­ centrated slick development."

1.11.11 In his summary Mr Lowd added:-"The remnant oil in 1 clean waste water1 must be assured as a non-separable element in a

stable emulsified form, at least for a period of time greatly exceeding that required for

bio-degradation. Were such water disposed of

into the unrestricted universe of ocean water ... a typical procedure for oil field producing

operations ... it would thus result in no accum­ ulation of oil into a surface slick with its

associated possible damaging effects." (T3378)

1.11.12 However in TR4 we have firmly recommended that, with

three specified exceptions, no substances whatsoever, whether

solid or liquid, should at any time be allowed to be disposed


of into the waters of the GBRP. Our specified exceptions

require DA approval. If this recommendation is accepted it

will be unnecessary to fix a minimum permitted oil content how­ ever low.

1.11.13 (b) Gases

There was no evidence put to the Commission which proved or tended to prove that in general terms hydrocarbon

gases constitute a pollution hazard comparable with oil al­

though hydrogen sulphide (HgS) which is poisonous either in

solution or in the atmosphere, can be present in variable

quantities. At 133^9 Mr Lowd said:-"I think that it is probable that some of

the oil, if it were produced on the Barrier

Reef, would have a significant quantity of

hydrogen sulphide as part of its total con­

tent. I say that because, generally speak­ ing, in production around the world a signi­

ficant quantity of the oil produced is assoc­

iated with hydrogen sulphide. I think it

would be well to say if you were a producer

that you could expect on average to deal with

hydrogen sulphide in a third to a half of the cases.

However, the quantity of hydrogen sulphide

that will be present in this third to a half

of all the cases is small on average. ...

... we know around the world that a small

proportion of the total amount of oil ...

transported by tankers ... requires the rem­ oval of hydrogen sulphide, that is the limi­

tation of hydrogen sulphide is the poisonous

effect that it may have on the crew members

and the operators generally of the ship."

Whilst at T3277 he said:-"... Hydrogen sulphide is absorbed from the

oil or gas and then burnt in a flare or pro-

2 h 7

cessed into an elemental sulphur.

1.11.14 Mr Lowd later gave details of the amounts of hydro­

gen sulphide which are flared in practice, and how the H2S is

separated off in the separators at the early stages of the

platform process and he said that where only oil is sent to

shore, such H2S as is in the natural gas will, together with

all the other gas, be vented and flared at the platform (T3425).

1.11.15 The following important evidence on this subject was

also given by him (T3426-7):-"If then the burning at or near the platform

of gas which contains this concentration of H2S is not acceptable to persons whose opin­

ions are entitled to respect, what is the solution?"-- "The solution then would be to

process the natural gas contaminated with hydrogen sulphide in such a way that the final product derived from the contamination

of hydrogen sulphide would be sulphur. This

sulphur could then be moved to shore in a


"Presumably another answer would be the con­

struction of a pipeline to take gas from the

platform to shore for the purpose of venting

it or processing it there?"-- "That is cor­

rect. I was simply assuming that this case

was a 'no pipeline' case."

"Is it possible in your opinion to have on

the platform in effect a refinery process

which decontaminates the natural gas of H2S and in the process produces elemental sulphur?" -- "It would always be questionably feasible. It would certainly be abnormal. It would prob­

ably require the building of an adjacent plat­ form. However, I am sure there could be a cul­

mination of circumstances if there was indeed


hydrogen sulphide contamination where it

could be seen as feasible."

"On the other hand do I understand you

to be saying that the particular circum­

stances of the locality coupled with the

concentration of t^S known to be present

in the natural gas might cause or might warrant some authority forbidding the

flaring of gas at or near the platform

and requiring it to be piped to shore

to be dealt with there?"-- "Yes, sir;

this is very possible and the require­

ment would be either piping ashore or

not doing this type of processing on platforms."

1.11.16 But piping ashore may produce its own problems in the absence of proper design and maintenance. This subject is dis­ cussed elsewhere.

1.11.17 The production processes carried out on a platform

have been referred to above. Mr Lowd said (T3263)

"In essence the production problem is simple. The producer must simply sepa­

rate the full stream flowing from a well

into two parts, usable oil and usable gas.

But the separating is complicated, in part,

by the fact that the oil and gas from the

well contains various contaminants. These

contaminants must themselves be removed to

a greater or lesser extent in order to ob­

tain usable or saleable oil and gas. Thus

many separation processes are required, not

only to segregate the gas and oil but to

remove the contaminants."

1 .11.18 Later he added (T3268) :-

Stepwise gas removal

"The liquid from the initial gas-liquid

separation is therefore subjected to one

or more subsequent gas-separation steps

to render it a saleable product. Each

such step takes place at succeedingly

lower pressures and additional small

amounts of gas evolve ... these streams

of separated gas from successive steps

are then combined and further conditioned

for use or sale." His comments on hydrogen sulphide gas we have given

in paragraph 1.10.16 supra.

1.11.19 As regards gas blowouts however lengthy in point of

time the evidence gave no substantial indication of damage to the environment. Whether such result would flow in the case

of a gas blowout within the waters of the GBRP cannot be asser­ ted with complete confidence on the evidence before us.

(c) Sand and sludge

1.11.20 It was universally accepted in evidence before us

that the deposit of sediments and so of sand and sludge on

benthic organisms within the GBRP including coral constitute

a serious and special hazard. If drilling were to be allowed

within the GBRP special precautions and control measures would

be essential during both drilling and production procedures.

1.11.21 Of sand Mr Lowd said (T3277):-"MR WOODWARD: In figure 11-4 you set out

the kind, source, and disposition of random

wastes, in simplified column form, and you say that water may be removed from either

oil or gas and is cleaned and put into the sea or, as you have just told us, it may be

reinjected into a well or pumped to shore?

-- Correct.


Most usually It would be put into the sea?

-- Yes. In the case of sand,that would be removed from the oil of course and it will

be cleaned and put into the sea or sent to

shore? -- Correct.

Again that would be a question of the distance between the platform and the shore

I take it? -- Not entirely in this case

because the technology is not really adequate

to clean sand in every case. It must be

cleaned before it can be put into the sea.

Therefore, there is a technological constraint

that forces us to have the sand sent to shore.

So that cleaning oil out of sand is a significant

problem so far as protection of the environment

is concerned? -- It is.

One with which the industry is still having

technical problems in trying to solve? --Correct.

1.11.22 And of sludges (T3277-8):-"You refer next to sludges. What is meant by sludges

and what types are there? -- Sludges are in two

general categories, natural sludges and man-made, created sludges. A mixture of oil, paraffin, wax - the items I mentioned just above - would be an

example of a naturally occurring sludge, either

liquid or gas with no possibility of processing.

A man-made sludge would be, for instance, the oil-wetted flocculent material at the top of the

water processing unit.

MR WOODWARD: Is this a process whereby you float

some substance off through water in order to remove

remaining traces of oil from it - the oil wetted

flocculent material? -- Correct.

So that the water will be clean enough to be


released?-- Yes. And you say that may produce

a sludge at the top of the tank that has then

got to be disposed of? -- Correct.

And you have said this may come from oil and/or

from water and will be taken to the shore? --Yes, it should be taken ashore unless it is such

that there can be a separation and it can be

returned to the system but usually it is a

matter of taking it ashore."

(d) Oil and chemicals

1.11.23 One of the sources of chronic pollution which can arise from platform operations is the spilling of chemicals

and lubricants which are in constant use. Mr Lowd spoke of

collecting them and returning them to the system "if they

are compatible with the process going on " (T3278).

"And if not, as you have said in your footnote,

they would be taken to the shore? -- Exactly."

(e) Fresh water

1.11.24 On this subject Mr Lowd said:-"However clean it is, when it comes down as rain

onto the producing platform, it is contaminated by the dirtiness of the platform and so on, and

the oil, and so it must be collected, cleaned of

oil and disposed of in the sea." But within the GBRP the suggestion of cleaning it

and disposing of it into the sea does not appear attractive.

The recommended total ban on the disposal of all substances, liquid or solid, referred to in paragraph 1.11.12 above and

in the answer to TR4 would, if adopted, embrace such water.

(f) Garbage and industrial wastes

1.11.25 On garbage Mr Lowd said (T3278) "Trash - supplies and consumables - must be

collected and incinerated and taken ashore,


as must also be garbage resulting from

food preparation, and sewage from the

sewerage system or resident facilities

on platforms must be handled by a

conventional chemical treatment and put

into the sea.v On industrial wastes Dr St. Amant said (T3988 et seq):

"In the early days, and we are attempting to

control this now - when these rigs were put

into position, it is quite a large structure

and it requires some additional work after it

is put into position - welding, pipe cutting; there is always occasional pieces of cable and

drums of oil emptied, and they either get lost overboard or are thrown overboard. If a rig

has been in position for, say, a number of

years you can expect around the perimeter of

it to have various types of things on the bottom. It might be a piece of pipe; it might be an old cable, something they lost overboard.

Then, when they are drilling for oil, some of them had a tendency to throw Baroid sacks over­ board - this is a tradename. Perhaps you should use the term drilling bentonite but this material

was shipped out to this rig in 100 pound bags ...

They use hundreds of them mixing up the mud and

this bag would just be thrown overboard. This paper does not dissolve as quickly as you might think. They tend to get waterlogged and go to

the bottom. You might have hundreds of them lying around on the bottom. In shallow water you have the bags actually floating up into oyster beds until the oysters are smothered.

Again, offshore, they tend to get on the bottom

and drag around with the tide and a man would

get a netful occasionally and complain rather


bitterly about it. This type of thing can be

controlled and with the recent interest in the

environment and because of complaints by the

fishing industry we have managed to set up,

I would say, satisfactory surveillance and

enforcements. But some of the old stuff is

still there and we still have a problem."

(g) Drilling mud

1.11.26 This has been referred to in Part 5 (supra) and see

also answer to TR4.

In the U.S.A., OCS Order No.7 (Exhibit 401 p.7.2)

provides:-"Drilling mud containing oil or toxic substances

shall not be disposed of into the ocean waters." (T14526) But in the GBRP the regulation must go much further

because of the special hazards created by sedimentation, sands and so on (see supra). Accordingly, we recommend that

drilling mud should not be allowed to be disposed of into the sea whether it contains oil or not.

1.11.27 Mr Basire said (T2367)that he understood that in the case of the Mackay No.1 well (about to be commenced by Japex in Repulse Bay at the time this Commission was established) the Japex Company was instructed that drilling fluids must be

discharged into a tank and disposed of ashore and that they

were not to be discharged overboard. The further interesting

problem as to how and where they would be disposed of "ashore"

was not canvassed.

1.11.28 Dr St.Amant stressed the risks of injury to marine

life arising from the disposal of oil contaminated drilling muds into the sea. The risks in the GBRP are considered to be much greater than in the Gulf of Mexico of which Dr St.

Amant was speaking.

(h) Storage failure

1.11.29 References have been made to this subject In the

answer to TR4 when dealing with government regulation and

safety precautions but the present further references have

in mind the aspects of spill risks.

The collection of large quantities of oil in one

container can create a hazard leading to pollution on an

appreciable scale. If the storage is on the platform it

could be damaged by cyclone, collision or fire. If the

storage is in a moored barge or tanker moored in the vicinity

of the production platform such container could conceivably

break away and be holed under extreme weather conditions.

Even submerged storages are not entirely free from hazard.

1.11.30 The storage of oil is a necessary part of the

transportation of crude oil from the production well to the

shore if the system of transportation by tanker or barge is


1.11.31 There are two methods of transporting petroleum from off-shore production wells to the shore receiving depot

namely by pipeline or by vessel. Mr Lowd elaborated the

situation as follows:-"The options available to the marine producer for disposing of crude ... include:

a. The building of a pipeline to shore with

its continuation to a refinery.

b. The building of a pipeline to shore followed

by the transport of oil from there to a

refinery by ... tanker.

c . Movement of the oil to a refinery by export tanker or export barge train.

d. Movement of the oil to shore by a disposition

tanker, or barge train, and thus to refinery by pipeline or export tanker." ( T3324)


1.11.32 As distances from the shore depot Increase, batch

storage and the use of tankers or barges become more economic

(T3328). Water depths and production rates will also have a

bearing on the selection of the mode of transport. If drilling

were permitted in the GBRP the choice between pipeline and

transportation by tanker or barge would also turn on the

locality of the production well and its proximity to reefs and

islands. It is not practicable to be more specific at this


1.11.33 Mr Lowd expanded aspects of the storage of crude oil. In so doing he referred to the use of tankers, barges, "shuttle

storage", "dumb" ships or barges and submerged storage facilit­

ies to which reference is made later.

At T3322 et seq he said:-1. The production processing of crude oils starts

with CONTINUOUS flow from a series of wells.

Finally that same oil moves through a CONTINUOUS

distillation process at a refinery. Thus, for

ideal balance, the intermediate movement of crude ... between the producing locations and the

refinery ... should also be a continuously flowing system. In a marine oil field, such

system would be a pipeline to shore and onward

into the distillation process at the refinery.

2. However, the distance from the marine producing

location to the shoreline, the water depth, or the nature of the fluid may demand that ...

NONCONTINUOUS, or batch-type, transportation

be used in certain links between the well heads and the refinery instead of a pipeline. There

are two particular situations in which a batch- type flow may be involved:

(a) When a pipeline from the marine producing

location to shore is unfeasible then

batch-type transportation by floating


vessel, from the location to some

shoreline, will be required.

Associated with this type transport­

ation must be a temporary accumulation

of oil in static storage at or near

the producing location.

(b) When oil is transported to shore by

floating vessel, an additional

decision between the options of

continuous flow from that shoreline

point onward by pipeline, or by tanker,

must be made. In any event, at the shoreline point there will exist a

need for large-scale storage either to hold the oil in waiting for the discrete

scheduling of tankers or to provide surge

for the pumps at the inlet to the onward flowing pipeline."

1.11.34 Metal tanks used for storage purposes are subject to

corrosion and must be carefully and periodically inspected.

Mr Biglane elaborated on the collapse of the tank at Sewaren

at T6599. He said:-"One of the largest ones we have had in the States

was in 1969 when one tank lost about 8,000,000 gallons of crude oil. Again here is an equipment

replacement consideration ... brines are heavier

than the oil; they will then accumulate on the bottom of the tank and will act as a corrosive

agent on the bottom on the steel plates. ... This

tank up in Sewaren, New Jersey, was approximately forty years old and the bottom plates were sufficiently pitted and had enough holes in them

that when the tank was filled for the last time one plate absolutely gave way. The tank imploded ..."


1.11.35 Another warning given by Mr Biglane was In respect

of the "shout and holler"control method when leading or

discharging from tankers and barges. He said (T6598):-"Off-shore storage of produced products brings

about all of the problems associated with oil/

water separation, product loss from over filling,

and storage tank failure ... In our reporting procedure of course we ask for what caused the

accident and human error absolutely predominates

... I would hope we would soon get away from the

shout and holler technique ..." "... Would you expect to find the shout and holler technique used in an off-shore storage platform?

-- "You may very well. If a barge pulls up to offload oil from the storage tank, for instance..."

1.11.36 Batch-type marine transportation and the necessary

size of storage facilities were discussed by Mr Lowd at T3330.

He said:-"... whenever the decision is made to use some

sort of batch-type marine transportation, either

to the shoreline or directly to a refinery, there is a requirement for fixed oil storage unless the

shuttle storage shipment method is used temporarily.

Fixed storage must accommodate enough oil to load at least one full cargo unit on to a tanker or barge. Also the storage must be large enough to

accumulate all the oil normally produced during

the waiting time between tanker loading periods. Otherwise, the continuous flow from the wells would have to be interrupted. Therefore the

amount of oil storage required must be equal to

the size of the largest probable unit of full

cargo, plus a quantity equal to the probable maximum daily flow rate times the maximum

number of days between the arrival of successive


tankers. The economic decisions here involve

a balance of probable tanker arrival time

versus the risk of having to shut in the field.

It is a complex economic and operational trade-off."

1.11.37 He then dealt with the options available as to types of storage facilities and said there were three basic altern­

atives, namely:-"a. Storage in conventional tankage located

on a fixed structural platform.

b. Floating storage using various types of

moored ships or barges as containers.

c. Submerged storage in either a closed unit

or an open-bottomed bell structure rigidly

fastened to the ocean bottom." (T3331)

1.11.38 He stressed that the most frequently used temporary storage at the producing location is floating and he

described the various choices available such as the use of

a dumb ship or dumb barge (T3331-3). Mr Roe also pointed out

that oil from off-shore fields is either carried ashore in pipelines or stored for shipment. This, he said, has hitherto

been done in (a) moored tankers, (b) underwater crude oil tanks

and (c) on an artificial island (T4133).

1.11.39 Mr Lowd also stressed the risks of leakages from mistakes and over-sights and undoubtedly these occur from

time to time. Some methods are safer than others. He said

C T 3 3 3 8"): -"... batch methods involve greater risks of

pollution, that is because we are accumulating a tremendously large volume of static oil in one

place. We have to start the flow, we have to stop the flow, we have to make interchanges and

connections, and we have to deal with the opening

and closing of valves and so on. Thus, the


incidence of possible mistakes, leakage and

other damage is relatively high. I think that

is probably the sum and substance of it."

1.11.40 Another description of storage methods came from

Mr Basire at T2346 and Mr Thomas at T2708A. The former said:-"It is often the case that the oil is piped

direct from the platform to a tanker. In the

Middle East a disused tanker may be anchored or

moored near the production platform and used

as storage. Oil is then pumped from the storage tanker into another tanker which transports it to

the nearest refinery. This would depend very

much on circumstances and the position of the discovery; if near the shore, maybe the product

would be piped ashore and stored there for

transport by tanker to the nearest refinery.

There are other cases in the Middle East where

tanks have been constructed; then completely

submerged, sitting on the bottom of the ocean,

and used for storage ... The water would be

relatively shallow, say, 100 feet."

1.11.41 Mr Lowd described in some detail the various

types of off-shore storage, the selected type being based

on operational or economic requirements.

1.11.42 Fixed platform storage is costly but is sometimes

used in very shallow water.

1.11.43 Floating storage using various types of moored ships

or barges as containers is most common.

1.11.44 "Dumb" ships or barges are usually converted tanker

hulls into which the oil is flowed directly from the producing

platform. They are equipped with pumps for off loading purposes.


Violent storms are a potential danger.

1.11.45 Single point mooring which allows the ship to swing

is expensive but more satisfactory. Such mooring must of

course include a rotatable fluid flow system within the

ground tackle system.

1.11.46 Other floating storage systems exist and were

described by Mr Roe and others. One illustration will

suffice (T4133):-"A large underwater storage (500,000 barrels)

in 160 ft. of water has been built 58 miles

off Dubai in the Persian Gulf, it has no bottom as the oil floats and displaces the

sea-water. Control of over filling is done by an automatic measuring device. The structure

is affected by natural phenomena, and by failure

of automatic devices."

1.11.4? Prom the foregoing it seems that if petroleum

drilling is permitted within the GBRP a measure of pollution arising from the storage of crude oil for transportation

purposes must be expected and that such pollution will be of

a chronic albeit intermittemt nature. The quantum of such pollution will depend partly on the degree of skill and care

of the operating personnel, partly on having correct designs and proper maintenance, partly on freedom from external

causes such as cyclones, collisions and fires and partly on the degree of governmental regulation and supervision. ( i )

(i) Pipelines

1.11.48 This subject is also dealt with in Parts 7 and 9 of the answer to TR4 when safety precautions and the provisions of Ex.68 are being considered. The present further references

have in mind the aspects of spill risks.


1.11.49 As to pipelines Mr Rochelle (Project Engineer, Brown

and Root Inc.) gave technical details of pipeline design and

construction and dealt with pipeline spills the main causes of

which are:-(a) ships' anchors being dropped on or

dragged into the lines (b) shifting from storm forces.

1.11.50 But proper burial of the lines in appropraite areas (shallow waters and shipping channels) should be a safeguard

against both. If pipelines are ever permitted within the GBRP

strict precautions and supervision will be desirable.

(c) bad design

(d) bad maintenance Both are avoidable.

1.11.51 An example of pipeline failure was the oil spillage

at Botany Bay on 21 December 1970 described in Exhibit 364 being a report by the Maritime Services Board. Apparently an

18 inch fuel shipping pipeline fractured when a welded footing had carried away, possibly with contraction, and then had

jammed preventing the normal expansion and contraction of the pipeline. A rupture of about 10 inches by 3 inches resulted

and caused a large quantity of oil to escape (T9557)· The remedial steps taken are also set forth in Exhibit 364 and at


1.11.52 As Mr Rochelle said (T2949):-"If the maintenance programme for the line is properly implemented, logged information, such as the volume of internal scaling removed during

cleaning operations, will give an indication of the condition of the pipe. The systematic

analysis of these data will allow the operating

company adequate time to introduce corrosion

inhibitors, reduce the operating pressure, or if


necessary even replace the section of line."

(e) absence of control valves

Mr Rochelle said (T2949):-"Spillage from a line ruptured by storm forces

may be limited to a given volume of gas or

liquid by the placement of control valves in

the line and by the implementation of emergency procedures whereby during extreme storm

conditions the flow of oil or gas is curtailed."

1.11.53 The question whether automatic shut-off valves should be put in all sub-sea pipelines was a matter of some

doubt to Mr Rochelle (T2952).

1.11.54 Mr Lowd dealt with the question of pipeline valves

at some length. He said (T3327):-"In the United States, and I believe this is

representative of world-wide operations, there

are only two valves of two different types installed in the line between the platform and the shore. One is the shut-in valve downstream of

the pumps at the location. It was the one that

had the orange colour on the model. This valve is one that senses reduction in pressure in the line indicating a leak. It shuts the line off

and also shuts down the pumps. The other valve

that is traditionally put in a prudently operated

pipeline is at or near the shore end, and against the possibility of the facilities at shore being

at some point of relatively high elevation there is usually a large check valve so that a break

would not allow oil to flow backwards in the line and out should the break occur close to shore.

These are the only valves that are traditionally

installed. In the outer continental shelf area


of the United States, they are required, at

least the one at the platform is required,

by law."

1.11.55 Mr Lowd said in answer to a question relating to the

quantity of oil that might be spilled if a ship's anchor

fractured a pipeline, for example 100 miles long:­

" ... the risk of 100 miles of oil coming into

the water, no, because assuming that the line is

shut off so that we are not pumping the oil out of

the line, the head of water is great enough to seal the leak and stop the flow out of the line once the

system is static." (T3328)

Later he spoke of the sensory device "The first thing that would occur is that there

would be a leak of oil from the line if the line is filled with oil, regardless of our controls.

I think it follows if the line is ruptured across

its diameter, for instance, there is going to be an escape of some oil. Assuming that the line is

protected in the way that I believe we should certainly strongly recommend, there will be a valve

at the inlet end of the line near or at the platform; there will be some sort of sensory device that will

recognise the leak on the basis of the reduction of pressure which will be associated with the leak.

This sensory device will do at least one and, hopefully, we would have it set up to do two things.

It would certainly shut down the pump and it would certainly shut in all the wells. It must do this.

In addition, we would expect that it would also

close a valve on the inlet to that line." (T3^31) "Is there any relationship between the size of the sub-sea leak and the activation of the automatic

platform control to which you have just referred?"

-- "There is, indeed."


"What is the relationship?" -- "The relationship

is that the larger the leak the more specific

is going to be the sensing of pressure reduction."


"Just to understand you, the sort of sub-sea

device you are now talking about is one which

upon a reduction of pressure at its location

perhaps some miles distant from the platform

would shut in the pipeline at that distant

point? -- "Yes".

" ... the real problem is one of sensing; the

problem to be met is how to sense the fact that

a rupture has occurred.

The real weakness of the best that is done now

in good practice is solely a weakness in sensing,

as you have said, when the rupture occurs at some

extended distance." (Τ3^33)

1.11.56 Other aspects of pipeline spillages included the

effect on the escape rate of leaked oil of the hydraulic head

of water. Thus:-"The leakage usually can be characterised almost

as a seep of oil to the surface and not a

cataclysmic discharge of all the oil in the line, and the reason for this is that there are some

counter forces at play ...

These are, for instance, the head of water. We

have salt water and it is heavier than oil. That

is bearing down on the oil at the point of the leak. We have a slightly higher head of oil

from within the line pushing against the water ...

... your escape rate would be quite slow because

of the hydraulic head of the water (Τ3^3^) ...

and also by the fact in a packed liquid line with

a pipe shut off by the valve at the platform and

a pipe shut off by the check valve at the shore,


there is a situation set up where it is difficult

for the oil to flow because there is no way for

a gas pocket to take place behind it. That is,

there is a sucking action, if you will, created

by the two closed valves." (T3^35)

"... One of the things that minimises the rate

of leakage is the hydraulic pressure exerted by

the water tending, if you will, to close off the

hole. If this were under 200 feet of water -

200 feet of water is roughly 90 lbs. per square

inch of weight - so on the hole where the oil

tends to emerge we have a 90 lbs. per square inch

push ... downwards." (T3^36)

1.11.57 On another aspect related to the "replacement

process", Mr Lowd was asked:

" ... no matter how deep the ocean, the oil

would come to the top because oil is of lesser

density than water and the pressure exercised

on the oil would not make it any denser compared

with the water which just lies above it, and the oil just tends to rise. What would happen is that it will be greater with more depth of water and

the oil will accelerate as it gets to the top,

just as a submarine will, because of the lessening

density of the water."

to which he replied:-"I think that is an excellent explanation of what

I have just referred to as the replacement process

- yes." (T3439) "Does the rate at which that replacement occurs vary

with the depth and the water pressure at the point

where the replacement is occurring? -- "No, sir." "The replacement will be merely a function of the

respective densities?" -- "It will be a function

of the respective densities and the nature of the


rupture of course."

"Have you, in this example, taken into account

the pressure that might be exercised by gas in

the line? -- "This is an excellent considerat­

ion. If this oil is over-saturated at the

pressure of operation, and the pressure on the

system reduces, which shuts the valve, then the

reduction in pressure will liberate gas (T3440).

If this occurs then there will be very large

forces at play essentially overriding the

other considerations which will tend to

displace rapidly and in large quantities oil

through the hole in front of the expanding escaping gas." (T3441)

1.11.58 Then Mr Rochelle spoke of methods of repairing

a damaged pipe and they were mechanical connections and welding. He described these methods in some detail (T2954 et seq).

The first task however is the location of the leak. Mr Rochelle said:-"Should the leak be oil, early visual sighting will

give an approximate location. The exact spot then may be located by divers. Another method often

used is the insertion of a knocker or pinger pig

into the line so that it may be transmitted through the line by differential pressure until

it reaches and becomes lodged at the damaged

section. This sound producing device is tracked

to its location by hydrophone direction and ranging equipment. Still another method of

detection is the pumping of sea water loaded with

dye into the line. This dye-loaded water will

escape at the leak and may be visually sighted

from the air. The final location of the leak

may then be made by divers ." (T2952A)


1.11.59 He added that the water depth exerts one of the most

significant influences on the selection of a repair method.

If the water is shallow enough and if there is enough slack in

the line it may be possible to pick up the whole line from the

bottom with davits and make the repair aboard the lay barge.

1.11.60 The factors of corrosion, proper methods of const­

ruction, inspection and testing and maintenance were canvassed

by the expert witnesses.

Mr Rochelle said (T2946):-"The best deterrent (sic) against leaks after construction is the systematic implementation

of a well planned maintenance and inspection

programme which meets or exceeds code standards."

Of inspection and testing he said (inter alia)

T2930) "Throughout the pipe laying process great care

is taken to insure against leaks and harmful deformations in the pipe. At the very beginning,

in addition to visual inspection throughout the

process, the chemical and physical or strength properties of the pipe are monitored at the pipe

mill. Later, all coatings applied both at the

shore base and on board are electronically inspected for imperfections. Also every single

weld is x-rayed as the line is assembled."

Finally of burying the line (T2936):- "If a pipeline is to be buried, the usual cover

for this protection is three feet. Very special attention is given to burying the line through

areas of potential damage such as beach approaches, through shipping lanes and around platforms. In

these instances the depth of cover is increased to

a depth of 10 or more feet." "Another item of construction which is most

important in preventing leaks is the burial of the


line through areas such as beach approaches,

areas of high currents and potential anchorages.

This proper depth of cover on the line is good

insurance against damage." (T2946)

1.11.61 Dr St Amant said that in the U.S.A. both Federal

and State regulations required burial in shallow waters and

in navigational straits to a minimum of 3-6 feet below the

sea floor.

1.11.62 There is no doubt that burial is quite essential

but the minimum depth in which burial should be compulsory

is uncertain. Furthermore the presence of rock or coral

would make burial impracticable and the whole question of

the use of pipelines within the GBRP will turn on the particular location and perhaps on the acquisition of further

bathymetrical and geological knowledge of this still comparat­

ively little known area.

1.11.63 They are of course used on shore e.g. from Moonie to Brisbane (190 miles), from Roma to Brisbane (280 miles)

and from Moomba to Adelaide (490 miles) whilst off-shore in the Bass Strait about 100 miles of underwater lines of

various diameters have been laid to bring crude oil and gas

to the treatment plant at Sale and other lines have been

laid to Melbourne, to Westernport and across Port Phillip Bay. These figures may be compared with some 40,000 miles

of pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico and even more in adjacent

marshes of Louisiana (T4053A). But the underwater terrain of the GBRP will require an appreciable amount of surveying

before pipelines can be permitted and the proximity of

numerous reefs and islands to a production site may alone

prohibit their use in special cases.

1.11.64 The actual laying and burial of pipelines may also

constitute a hazard. This aspect was referred to by the


Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources In

Its report (Exhibit 450). Paragraph 13.262 thereof reads

"The construction of pipelines can also cause

disturbances to the Reef both through the

removal of sediment sufficient to bury the

pipeline and through the possible need to

blast holes In Reefs so that the pipeline can

pass through It. Mr Camm, Queensland Minister

for Mines, In his Second Reading speech on the

Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill Indicated that

It was unlikely that there would be need to blast

holes In the reef due to the large number of

natural channels between Reefs. Professor Burdon-

Jones however, considered that:

'This to me Is something that would never work In practice. The pipelines have to be laid on

the sea bed, and undoubtedly the first thing

that Is likely to take place will be to blow

a hole In the Reef to allow the line to go through.1" - but the Commission Is opposed to the

use of explosives In the GBRP and has made a recommendation

against their use In seismic surveys (paragraph 4.7.49).

1.11.65 From the foregoing It will be seen that pipelines for a number of reasons constitute a real potential for oil

leaks which In the aggregate properly fall within the descrip­ tion of chronic pollution. As In most other cases of potential

spills, they can In theory at all events be reduced to a

minimum by careful planning, testing and maintenance, and by

the delineation of corridors approved by the appropriate

governmental authority based on comprehensive hydrographic

and bathymetric surveys.

1.11.66 The APEA point of view on pipeline hazards was

given by Mr Jeffrey QC during his final address (Synopsis on

TR1 submissions pages 38 - 40):-


"It is known that a necessary condition for

the construction of a sound pipeline is an

adequate survey of its route. The route

chosen will, as far as possible, avoid

areas of heavy shipping and topographical

features which might cause undue localised

loading on the line. The survey will include -

the assembling of hydrographic and meteorol­

ogical data.

Navigational systems exist which enable

bottom contours to be correctly measured and obstructions avoided.

The survey having been made, the design of

the pipe will be based upon proven experience

and code practices. Factors receiving particular

attention will be the provision of proper grade

pipe with sufficient wall thickness, a proper

corrosion protection system and burial where possible. There are a number of means whereby

corrosion protection may be supplied and among which the designer will choose for that most

suited to the particular situation; experience

shows that, with a properly designed system,

corrosion may be virtually eliminated. It is also known that a most important factor in preventing leaks is the burial of the line

through areas such as beach approaches, areas

of high currents and potential anchorages.

Where a section of pipeline is to be buried a

calculation is made of the specific gravity required to keep the pipe from shifting on bottom. Burying a pipeline reduces the

likelihood of damage to it by 90%. The result is that there is a strong trend towards burying such pipelines.

Specialist advice can be given to any operator


upon the design considerations which are

important for his particular activity.

1.11.67 In the construction of the pipeline, industry has

available what are virtually complete sea-going

assembly plants. Different methods of pipe-laying

suited to various conditions are available. The

construction process is completed with a rigorous

inspection and testing of the pipe as laid.


1.11.68 Industry is acquainted with the need to implement

a well planned maintenance and inspection programme

after construction. This programme employs various maintenance techniques such as periodic

internal cleaning, corrosion inhibiting, periodic

pressure testing, external inspection by divers, the maintenance of pressure drop surveillance

equipment and the inspection and calibration of

shut-down and relief devices. Such a maintenance programme has the capacity to prevent the occurrence of leaks from a properly designed pipe.


1.11.69 If a break in a line should occur, a pressure drop in a valve downstream of the pumps at the location will shut the line off and shut down the pumps. Another available device having the same effect,

but more sensitive to any loss of oil from the pipe,

is one which involves two meters, one at the platform and one on shore, which are interrelated by a communications system and can detect any

difference between the volume of oil being pumped into the pipe and that coming out.

If damage has been done to the pipe, one or other

of the available methods of pipe joining - mechanical


connection or welding - will be chosen according

to conditions at the site. Elaborate equipment

has been designed to enable one or other of these

types of repair to be effected.

By the employment of these technical resources,

the likelihood of a pipeline leak can be greatly

reduced and effective means employed for dealing

with it, should it occur."

1.11.70 But is must always be borne in mind that the geograph­

ical and other conditions of substantial areas within the QBRP

are vastly different from those obtaining (say) in the Gulf or the North Sea and whether pipelines are appropriate to be laid

and sunk and maintained in portions of the GBRP is debatable.

l . H .71 It must be borne in mind also that pipelines have been

responsible for large quantities of oil having escaped into the sea on a number of occasions in various places overseas

in recent years. Mr Keith tabulated these at T5581 to T5586.

There were various causes of the spills which were mainly

small but included some medium and large spills.

I.II.72 As regards spills from vessels whilst loading at or near the production platform, the submissions of A.P.E.A. will

again be quoted (Synopsis p.4l):~ "Means exist to prevent any overflow of oil

whilst loading. Shore loading pumps can be instantly stopped from the ship where necessary

and when the valves on the pipeline controlling

the flow of oil to the ship are closed, the oil cannot run out if the pipeline is sound.

Observance of standards of inspection and testing

can ensure that this condition is fulfilled.

Part of the experience leading to the development

of techniques to prevent spillage while loading is

the recognition of the inadequacy of the much


criticised 'shout and holler' technique.

So there has been drawn up by industry an

International Oil Tanker and Terminal Safety

Guide. This sets out the steps which can,

and should, be taken in loading and discharging

operations for the purpose of eliminating vessel

spillage. It is within the capacity of industry

to observe the practices there laid down.

In like recognition of the possibility of discharge

of unacceptable quantities of oil into the sea from

ballast tanks, industry has devised the 'load on

top' procedure which is now observed by more than

90% of the world's tankers. So even a 70,000 ton

ship need not discharge one drop of oily ballast.

If tanker transportation from locations in the

Great Barrier Reef to Brisbane occurred, the

carriage of ballast in separate tanks could be

made a requirement thereof.

The capacity to avoid a maritime casualty arises

from the variety of navigational aids which are available, aided by the systematic accumulation

of hydrographic data which would accompany the

presence of vessels in the waters. Advanced systems of sounding apparatus can be carried to reduce the risk of grounding. It would only be in acceptable weather conditions that a tanker would

remain at a buoy mooring."

1.11.73 But notwithstanding these views which we have quoted in full, the evidence showed that spills during loading-

and unloading - operations continue to occur from time to time.

(j) Tankers,barges and flexible hoses 1.11.74 The subject of flexible hoses is also dealt with in

Parts 7 and 9 of the answer to TR4 when safety precautions and

Exhibit 68 were being considered. The present references have


in mind aspects of spill risks.

It has earlier been shown (paragraph 1.11.30 supra)

that one of the methods of transporting crude oil from the

off-shore production platform to the shore receiving depot

is by the use of tankers or barges.

1.11.75 Mr Crane (Marine Engineer and Manager Shell Co.of

Australia) gave evidence which included the number and size

of tankers which would be involved if oil in substantial

commercial quantities were found within the GBRP and the

mooring and flexible hose problems which are consequential to

tanker or barge storage and transportation.

He stated that of more than 1550 ships which traverse

GBR passages annually about 380 are tankers and that tankers

coming to Brisbane have an approximate draught of 39 feet.

1.11.76 It will be remembered that the tanker 'Oceanic Grandeur' struck bottom with resultant large scale pollution

in Torres Strait waters on 3 March 1970. (Exhibit 194 and see

answer to TR2). Its maximum draught was 38 feet 4 inches and

it was fully loaded with 55,015 tons of heavy crude and in the locality where it ran aground high tide was necessary for its

passage. The cause of the incident was probably a small

unchartered reef on the sea bed.

1.11.77 Mr Crane indicated that to handle a production rate of 300,000 barrels a day in the GBRP two additional tanker

passages a day over and above the existing tanker traffic would

be necessary. He was assuming ships of between 35,000 and 60,000 DWT (T5023). (There are approximately 7 barrels to the


Mooring 1.11.78 Mooring is one of the main problems to be overcome in

transferring crude oil from a production facility to a tanker.

Mr Crane explained the different methods employing either


conventional buoys or single buoys and the different

conditions of wind and current which they respectively suit.

1.11.79 Loads exerted by winds and currents acting beam on

to a vessel may be ten times as high as those resulting from

head winds and currents (T5037). Mr Crane listed the advant­

ages of the S.B.M. (single buoy mooring). He said:-"1. Mooring forces are much less than at a C.B.M.

(conventional) resulting in a larger vessel

being able to utilise, in safety, an off-shore


2. Once moored, a vessel is able to remain in the berth under much worse sea and weather

conditions than that at a C.B.M. Only

extreme conditions resulting in an average

wave height of at least 15 feet will require

a vessel to vacate the berth.

3. Loading or discharging operations can be

continued under conditions which it would be impossible to do at a C.B.M. Experience indicates that cargo operations can be continued under conditions of average wave

heights up to at least 10 feet.

4. Should it become necessary to vacate the

berth, the vessel can do so without any assistance from outside.

5. No tug assistance is required for either

berthing or unberthing." (T5039) Asked whether such a system would be more likely to

be used in the Reef Province than conventional mooring, Mr

Crane said (1502*0:-"I could not express an opinion. It would depend

entirely on the results of the hydrographic survey

of the area." Asked about the holding properties of different

bottom conditions, Mr Crane replied


"... a good holding ground would be clay. Heavy

mud is quite good. Sand is also quite good if it

is deep sand. Silt on a hard surface is not very

good. The anchor can drag through it. Rock is

very poor because it does not give the anchor a chance to sink in. It is laying on the surface."

"What about reefal material?"-- "If it is fine I

believe it is similar to sand, if it is fine coral

material of fair depth. It is reasonably good

holding ground."

"What if it is not fine? What if it is not a coral

sand but is rather reef rubble?" -- "The same

remarks would apply as to rock. However, if these are outcrops, and we are talking about moorings

that are permanently laid, an anchor which

embedded itself in or behind such an outcrop could be judged to be a good holding anchor but

if you were using the ship's anchors as well you

would not want this situation to arise. You could

possibly lose your anchors." (T5032)

Flexible hoses

1.11.80 Flexible hoses are an integral part of the transport­ ation systems and attract consideration. On this subject Mr Crane said (inter alia):-"The end of the fixed submarine line near the

mooring is generally fixed by a large concrete

clump to prevent movement by the tide or lateral

displacement by a vessel in the moorings ...

The connection to the ship's manifold is made by means of a string of flexible hoses. These are

generally of the same construction as the hoses

used for handling oil over jetties. They are of

oil resisting rubber, reinforced, electrically

continuous and flanged ...

The principal difference is that the outer rubber


sheath is considerably thicker than that on hoses

intended for normal usage. This is to resist the

abrasive action that will occur when lifting and

lowering and also when the hose is moved on the

sea bed under the effects of ship movement or

current." (T4980)

1.11.81 Asked about the length of such hoses, Mr Crane said

that in the case of an S.B.M. system for a 200,000 ton tanker

the hoses could be 700-800 ft.long. He explained that with

this mooring system the hose must pass through the buoy

itself. (T4994) The length of the hose is designed so that it

does not touch the sea bed, because if it did, the continual movement of the buoy would cause constant abrasion.(T4992-3)

He went on:-"The connection from the buoy to the ship is by

floating flexible hose. Those hoses generally

are of normal construction but have floats

cemented on. When not in use the hose string floats freely, streaming from the buoy. In

this way they are ready to be lifted on board

when the tanker moors bow to the buoy. In some locations authorities do not permit hoses to

remain afloat when not in use.” (T4994) Whichever mooring system is used, the hose has

to be brought aboard the tanker to be connected to the ship's


Inspection, testing and maintenance of hoses 1.11.82 The hose is of such importance and is subject to

such abrasive and other strenuous forces that in order to prevent leaks and pollution strict inspection and maintenance are at all times necessary. This subject has been referred to

elsewhere (paragraph 4.7-25) and the following passage from Mr Crane's evidence may at this stage usefully be requoted:-

"A line in regular use would be examined at three


monthly Intervals and the hose strings brought

ashore for thorough examination every 1. months

... Particular note would be taken of chafing or

damage and the position of individual hoses in

the string would be changed to spread the wear

over the entire string. Complete logs of hose

inspections are maintained."

"Do you know of cases where they are not examined

as frequently as that?"-- "Yes, I do."

"In Australia?" -- "Yes,in Australia, at Barrow


"What is the period of inspection there?"-- "About

six monthly intervals." "Do you know of other instances where the examination

is more frequent than every three months,?"-- "Yes,

I know of a case at Port Stanvac in South Australia

where the line is inspected every time it is used

and also at 30-day intervals." (t 4981)

"... There is no governmental regulation of these matters in either of those two cases?" -- "That

is correct." (T4982)

(k) Prevention of spill from hoses

1.11.83 The hazards both of fire and pollution exist from the use of hoses if loading operations are not at all times

properly and carefully controlled. This is another example of the risks of pollution which can exist due to human frailty.

But trained and careful personnel can and do suppress the risk.

Mr Crane said when speaking of production procedure:- "... It is usual to station a shore officer

(loading master) on the vessel and he is in

radio communication with the shore pumping installation and thus controls the rate of loading and stopping and starting of the shore

loading pumps. In some instances, shore loading

pumps can be stopped under emergency conditions


by means of a direct radio signal from the

loading master's transmitter, without having

to rely on voice communication.

On completion of loading, the valve on the

shore end of the pipe is closed. The hose at

the ship is slung and raised in such a manner

as to permit draining of the last length of


... When the valves on the pipeline controlling the flow of oil are closed if there is no air

getting into the pipeline, the oil cannot run

out. In the case of the very long lines such as we have with single buoy moorings and as shown

on the film there are valves at the seaward end of the steel line, these would be the valves that

would be closed under these condtions. The hose

is then lifted slightly so that it will permit

drainage. The flange bolts are eased back and the oil remaining in that length of hose will drain into the driptray provided underneath the

tanker manifold." (T4995) "We saw in yesterday's film a slug of oil leave the

pipe as the disconnection occurred?" -- "That is

correct." "Was that a normal occurrence?" -- It could be but

this would be in the nature of a few gallons ...

The flange connection is then broken, the small quantity of oil flows into the permanently fitted

drip tray, beneath the manifold valves. This tray can accommodate upwards of two hundred and

fifty gallons and can be drained away into one or another of the cargo tanks ..." (T4996)

Later he added:-"... occasionally minor spillages do occur. These are generally contained on deck. All tankers have

a coaming bar around the edges of the main deck that


will contain small quantities of oil. When at

sea openings are provided so that any seawater

coming on deck can run overboard again; but in

port, before commencing to load, these holes are

closed either by mechanical devices or by wood

plugs cemented in.

During all cargo operations great care is taken

to prevent spillage as there is, with most

products, a very real hazard from fire and

explosion if overflow or leakage of cargo occurs.

Any oil spilled is not only a threat to ecology

but also a very real threat to the lives of the

operator and the remainder of the crew all of

whom therefore have a very real incentive to

carry out their duties in a competent and

responsible manner, and prevent incidents that

may give rise to spillages." (T5022)

1.11.84 Asked who was in charge of the loading operation,

Mr Crane replied (T5053):-"... any of the three deck officers do

navigation work and cargo work."

"Does the officer concerned have any manual

to turn to?" -- "There is a similar manual in use on board the vessels to the one that

was produced this morning ... This manual was produced by the International Chamber of Shipping,

concurrently with the IOTTSG so that all the

instructions or recommendations in it are compat­

ible with those made in the red book."

Mr Crane had earlier been asked (T5026):-"... has the industry drawn up some document

which in fact is called the International Oil Tanker and Terminal Safety Guide?" -- "That

is correct."

"Does that constitute a number of steps which


can and should be taken In these loading and

discharging operations?" -- "Yes, that book

represents very good general practice required

in any port in the world."

"When was it drawn up?" -- "It was given

circulation last year,1970." "Was there nothing like it before?" -- "No,

previously there was nothing referring specifically

to terminal operations."

"That is what this is concerned with?" -- "This is concerned with the operation of the terminal

and the work that goes on whilst the ship is at

the terminal." "What prompted the drawing up of these guide lines?"

-- "A series of very severe explosions on vessels loading cargo in the Persian Gulf, I think, as long

ago as 1964. They were all within a period of three

months all with serious fairly heavy loss of life

and material damage. As a result the operators of

those terminals decided that they would have to review their terminal operations. After commence­

ment of the review the scope of the review was widened to include all the major oil companies

throughout the world..." "Are there any governmental regulations comparable

to these guide lines applying at any of these Australian terminals?" -- "No, not as far as I

am aware."

1.11.85 He referred also when dealing with loading procedures

to the choice which has to be made between leaving the hoses

full of oil or replacing that oil with water (Exhibit 363, T9555-7)· To clear the hoses the ships pumps are used, pushing the oil until the hose line is full of water and then

the valves are closed off. The reverse process raises a

problem of disposal of oiled water. The ship should be fitted


with a slop tank or the load on top procedure adopted

(T5055)· Mr Crane's evidence included the following

passage:-"How would the ship deal with that slug of water?"

-- "Ifthe quantity was not excessive I could forsee circumstances when it could be retained

on board particularly if the vessel was fitted

with a slop tank, when the initial slug of

water could be directed into the slop tank and

retained in this space. However, if all the

cargo space was needed to load the requisite

quantity of cargo, we would then have to load

oil on top, or continue to load oil on top

of this slug of water. Alternatively, if it

could be kept segregated -again, it could be

kept segregated only if the place in which it was segregated was not needed for cargo - it

could be pumped back into the hose string."

"In any event, there is a problem in finding

a place to put this extra slug of water?" --"Yes."

1.11.86 From the foregoing there appears to be little doubt

that skill and unremitting care are required in the handling

of flexible hoses and the filling of tankers and barges if the perils of fire and explosion and the damage caused by chronic pollution are to be avoided. Unless great care is

exercised, the process of uncoupling hoses is one in which minor spillages can occur. These should be caught on board

by a drip tray. In fact any spill on the deck of a tanker

should be contained on the deck if the outlets from the

coamings are plugged as they ought to be. It seems to be universally accepted that minor spills do occur from time to time and occasionally substantial spills have occurred

during such operations.




(a) Wind and currents

1.12.1 These have been considered in the "Principal

Introduction" (supra).

They can both be strong within the GBRP (T14697) and

can create hazards if a floating rig is used. Moorings, anchors

and buoys even though multiple can be damaged or moved in

exceptional weather conditions with consequent lateral movement

of the floating rig.(T14696) This in turn could lead to a

blowout in the case of a development or production rig unless

immediate avoiding action can be taken. Evidence was given

about the 'E.C. Thornton1 which had six 20,000 lb. anchors and two 18,000 lb. anchors and which drilled the Capricorn 1 well

in November 1967· A suggestion has been made by a witness (Mr Cantley)

to the effect that there had been a 300 yards lateral movement

due to anchors parting but Mr Ericson (T14732) said this was not

so and that there had been a deliberate winching of the ship

over a distance of 170 feet to a new drilling site to overcome certain technical difficulties. At all events there can be no doubt that very strong winds and currents can constitute a

hazard to ship-shape drilling. We have elsewhere recommended

(in the answer to TR4 and see paragraph PI.3-11) that ship -

shape rigs using only conventional anchorages should not be permitted in the GBRP.

(b) Cyclones

1.12.2 There is general practice in the industry to design drilling platforms to withstand storms of a maximum known strength over a given period. The longer the period the more

costly is the construction. If drilling were permitted within the GBRP nothing less than a 100 year storm should be allowed to

govern the design of a platform for drilling followed by production or a movable rig designed for use over a number of

years. In the case of an exploratory drilling platform in


shallow water Intended to be dismantled after some weeks

exploratory drilling It Is arguable that a lower standard

might be acceptable.

Mr Rochelle (of Brown and Root Inc.) Indicated

that some companies might design for something less than

a 100 year storm .(T2969) The fact that platforms can be severely damaged

by cyclones was stressed by Mr Lowd (National Tank Co. of

U.S.A.) at T3316.

1.12.3 Moreover whatever the design standards may be, the

predicted storm forces may be exceeded. In such cases the

rig might suffer damage leading to a blowout If hydrocarbons were present. This could occur If the rig were of a type

which allowed the BOP's to be above sea level. If the BOP's

were on the sea bed there would probably be sufficient warning

to hang off the pipe string and close the BOP's.

1.12.4 Mr Thomas dealt with the emergency action necessary with floating rigs when a cyclone Is threatened. He spoke of the hydraulic latch which Is just below the flex joint

which Is In the marine riser. At T2626 he said:-"The purpose of this particular hydraulic latch

which Is just below the flex joint is to allow the marine riser to be detached from the preventers and raised to the surface In the event of bad

weather so that the ship Is then free to move In

any direction or If necessary, even to sail away

out of the path of the Impending cyclone, leaving behind the lower preventers which would be left

In a closed position ...

The whole of the drill string is not withdrawn. The drill string is withdrawn until the bit is in the

shoe of the last casing string where no formation may form around it. It is then hung off from the

preventer stack itself and only the drill pipe


above the blowout preventer Is unscrewed and


1.12.5 Asked why the drill string Is withdrawn to the extent stated, Mr Thomas said:­ "... in the event of a cyclone approaching,

it may be some days before we can return to

carry on drilling. It is a well established fact

in the oil industry that an open hole section that is left standing will unfortunately deteriorate

in character and is quite likely to start slough­

ing in or falling in. If the bit and the drill

string were deep down in this open hole we might

be faced with finding the bit and the drill string

surrounded by collapsed formation when we returned

to the site, which may, in actual fact, preclude us from withdrawing the drill string at all and we

would call that 1 losing the well'."

1.12.6 At T4528-30 Mr Stewart outlined an alternative

procedure for dealing with approaching cyclones, which involved

the complete withdrawal of the drilling string and the leaving behind in the hole of a cement plug. He said that this could

be done in 6-7 hours.

At T14754 Mr Ericson said:-" You would have several alternatives. If it was decided that you could not maintain the pipe in the

hole you could pull the pipe up into the blowout preventers and suspend it in the blowout preventers

and close your blowout preventers. If you did not

have time - if the motion became so severe and you

felt you had to move your vessel to save your vessel and you were not able to pull all your pipe out of the hole, you could close your blowout preventers on the pipe. The blind rams would shear

the pipe, the pipe would fall to the bottom, your

blowout preventers would be closed and you would


move your vessel off.

Which would be the safer method of drilling

If a cyclone were in the offing, namely, from

a floater or from a fixed platform? -- You

have the advantage with a floater that you

can get away from the cyclone. For myself

I think I would prefer to have a platform

assuming that it has been engineered to resist such forces. I think you would be

in better shape in that situation, but I

must qualify my remarks by saying that these

are impressions.

You are not an engineer? -- I am not an


1.12.7 In the result it can be said that if sufficient warning of an approaching cyclone is given it should be

possible to move a floating rig away from the site leaving

behind a securely closed BOP stack and perhaps a cement plug.

Other forms of rigs, e.g. a fixed platform, must be designed

to withstand the severest cyclone known to have occurred in Coral Sea or GBR waters.

1.12.8 Exhibit 280 (sources unknown although it is probably a U.S.A. Governmental publication -T5528) gives a number of examples of blowouts and storage losses due to


(c) Design of structures

1.12.9 Mr Roe (of Cullen and Roe, Consulting Engineers of Brisbane) gave evidence for the purpose of demonstrating

to the Commission "that the design of structures in the sea involves

more uncertainties than for structures on the land

and that for detailed work the information

available for many areas of the Great Barrier Reef


Province is limited." (T4ll4)

He referred to the meteorological data which is

available and to the problems which would be encountered in

designing pipelines, storage vessels and off-shore problems.

He quoted an article in the magazine "Offshore" of April 1967

written by one F.G. West and which purported to give statistics

of platform casualties over the preceding 10 years. They were

31 in number and included hurricanes (8), excessive top side

weights and improper ballasting (5), blowout and fire (5) and

derrick structural failure (2).

1.12.10 His conclusions were:-"1. The wind, wave and storm data available is

insufficient in length of record or closeness

of stations to give first class predictions of maximum design conditions.

2. The actual site of the platform should be

checked carefully for adverse features before the design of a platform is finalised. This is also necessary in determining the suitability

of a drilling rig. (The U.S. Coast Guard in fixing sites for light towers surveys one mile in radius and discards sites where sharp drops

or abrupt shoals occur).

3. Pollution could be caused if the loss occurred

at the time oil or gas was found in a drilling rig, or if automatic valves failed to close

under a production rig." (T4137-8)

Later, (at T4196), he said:­ "... I think my main message is that in designing

these structures in the sea we have to assume a storm -industry seems to have taken the 100 year storm which seems very reasonable - but that this

storm will from time to time be exceeded. If it is exceeded greatly the structure could be lost. There

are uncertainties in designing structures in the sea


that we do not come up against on land.

(d) Vessels colliding with a platform

1.12.11 Mr Lowd said it was not uncommon for small vessels to

collide with a platform but that he had not known of a major

collision although the possibility could not be ruled out .

(T3417) He was asked questions as to the possible effects

thereof and he spoke at some length on' the reliance that

would be placed in such a contingency upon the sub-sea valves

some hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth at the

bottom of the sea. The signals that would be transmitted by

such a collision would he said, "all be in the direction of

shutting in the wells and the platform." But there can be

little doubt that the pollution effects of such a catastrophe could be very large.

1.12.12 Obviously a platform cannot be designed to withstand

the stresses produced by a large vessel colliding with it.

Mr Roe said (T4196):-"One item that is always a possibility is a ship

hitting a structure at sea. So when you consider

any fixed object in navigable waters there are more dangers to it - at least there are several

unknown dangers that are not allowed for in its

strength design. These may never occur during the time it is there, but they do exist."

1.12.13 Mr Ro.e also referred to tidal waves within the GBRP and said that a tidal wave could strike the outer Barrier and break 10 feet over it. The design of any platform within about one mile of the Barrier reefs should allow for this.


1.12.14 Instances have occurred of freighters colliding with

drilling or production platforms on Lake Maracaibo in


Venezuela and In the Gulf of Mexico (Exhibit 280) . In one of

these a 14 day gas blowout occurred on a well which was

apparently being drilled and in another a fire was caused

with the loss of 2,559 barrels of storage oil.

1.12.15 The risk of a collision in GBRP waters though

considered to be in general almost remote could to an extent

depend on (a) the location of the rig, (b) visibility

conditions and (c) winds and currents. For example, an

"untoward set" was responsible for a large freighter (ss.

'Paloma') contacting a reef close to an island near Mackay

on a clear night (T325) whilst mist or fog can appear in large areas of the GBRP. But the shipping routes running

northwards and southwards are in general close to the coast

and the outlet passages to the Coral Sea in the outer Reef (suitable for substantially sized ships) are very few. It is

unlikely, should drilling be permitted in the GBRP, that it

would be allowed in or near a shipping channel. Probably the most likely event would be that some service vessel might

misjudge its approach to a rig in the same way that ships have been known to cause damage to wharves. But such an event

would be unlikely to cause a blowout.

1.12.16 But good lighting and other warning and navigational

aids would be imperative.

At T323-4 Captain Hildebrand (Port Master, Department of Harbours and Marine) was giving evidence and the following

took place:-"It would be possible, I suppose, for areas of the Reef'which are at this moment not frequented by

large vessels, to be made safe for their navigation

if further aids were provided and investigations were carried out? -- Oh yes. Suppose for example than an oil drilling platform were constructed in

some part of the reef waters away from the

established shipping lanes, and suppose it were


desired to take vessels, say in the order of

39 feet draught, to that platform or as near to it

as could safely be done. What would be the

conditions that would need to be fulfilled to

render the navigation of the vessel to such a

point safe? -- This would involve an intense

hydrographic survey of the area between the

known shipping route and the suggested platform

and, after this survey has been carried out, the

erection of the necessary navigation beacons."

and a little later (T325):-"But with all those benefits might it still not

be possible, indeed probable, that as you approach

a reef the currents are getting stronger and that

a ship might swing, and even with all the navigat­

ional aids, could get out of control? -- Yes.

One would have to ensure that there was plenty of

room between reefs in this area. It would be most

unwise to try to handle and swing big ships in narrow passages between the reefs."

(e) Fire risk

1.12.17 This matter has been referred to under "Fire

Prevention and Control" - Part 10 paragraph 1.10.31 supra.

Past experience suggests that fire is the most likely cause of a production well blowing out. Fire is both

more likely to occur and potentially more serious if it does

occur on a production platform because of the supply of fuel

which the various wells can provide. On the other hand there will be very much less pollution of the environment by oil if

oil is escaping. This was certainly the experience in the cases of the Shell and Chevron fires in one of which (Shell) the fires

were said to have been deliberately allowed to burn for many weeks from the deserted platform until the escape of oil had

been stopped by directional drilling. In this case the fire

was estimated to be consuming 80% of the escaping oil.


The hazards of fire, explosion and pollution exist

when hoses are being used during loading and transportation op­

erations but fire can occur in other situations and cannot be

entirely ruled out at the drilling stage, although with modern

technology such risk must be classified as very small.

Mr Crane gave evidence of fire risk in the loading

of tankers which may illustrate the general nature of fire

hazards when oil and gas are being contained or loaded. The

following is a brief extract (T5021)

"As you are loading the tanks the oil is

displacing the air and gas that was

previously in the tanks?" -- "Yes."

"You have told us some sort of vent has

to be provided to permit that mixture of

air and gas to escape?" --- "Yes." (T5020)

"These vents rise some distance above the

deck of the vessels. What distance typically?" -- "On the modern type I

have mentioned where there are individual vents on each tank of large diameter -

these are at least 8 ft." "It does mean that at a height of 8 ft

above the deck you have a vent - a number

of them - discharging a mixture of air

and gas to the atmosphere?" -- "Correct."

"Is that a flammable mixture?" -- "It

could be." "So if someone were to strike a match

at any time on the deck of a vessel

which is loading, a resultant explosion

and fire would be by no means unlikely?"

"Correct, though the extent of vapour

concentration within the flammable limits has been fairly carefully assessed and,

in addition, it is becoming a more common practice on ships fitted with the low

vents to fit a constant orifice type of valve which will permit a fixed velocity 292

of gas exit to be maintained which will

shoot it a considerable distance into

the air and so disperse the gas more

readily." "To disperse it at a greater height above

the deck?" -- "Yes." "So the concentration, within a height of

10 or 12' above the deck, is not flammable;

is that the object of it?" "It is the object..."

1.12.18 Another possibility is that a blowout from some

other cause may result in a fire which then causes blowouts

from other completed wells.

1.12.19 Elsewhere Mr Crane said (T5003) that those in

charge of the operation ensure that there are:-" drip trays with volatile

products around the tanker manifold

when the connection was being broken.

Naturally the hose that has conveyed

and contained oil is not going to be

gas free, but I am trying to imply that

before the hose connection is broken all possible sources of ignition or fuel must

be removed from that area."

1.12.20 Once a fire has started the existing fuel source cannot be removed but additional feed to the fire can be

stopped by the closure of appropriate control valves. The

sub-surface safety valve is the final safeguard. Mr Lowd

however said (T3321) "But while there is no finite point of distinction as to when an operation

should be attended or unattended, it is a reasonable certainty that skilled

personnel can cope with some emergencies


better than remotely automated equip­

ment can. People can think and make

judgments on the basis of the situation

at the moment. Obviously, a poor judg­

ment decision or a miscalculation may

make matters worse, but this simply

emphasises the fact that proper train­

ing and repetitive drills are vitally

important. The superiority of people

over automated machines in fighting

and controlling fire on an exposed

platform must not be overlooked. Two experienced fire fighters with proper

support equipment and system can more

quickly control an incipient blaze with less extraneous disruption or damage

to equipment than can the best conceived automatic devices. This is one reason

all safety shutdown systems are equipped

with manual alternatives."

1.12.21 As pointed out earlier, Mr Crane at T5022 said in

relation to tanker operations that "occasionally minor spillag­ es do occur. ... During all cargo operations great care is

taken to prevent spillage as there is, with most products, a

very real hazard from fire and explosion if overflow or leakage

of cargo occurs."

1.12.22 The foregoing shows that a risk of spills due to

fires is another small but appreciable hazard properly coming

under the general subject of "risks". Like most of the other

risks it can be avoided (except in exceptional circumstances)

by the exercise of scrupulous care and the use of modern and correctly designed and maintained equipment. For example, although as Mr Biglane said no fail-safe mechanical device is

completely fail-safe, a desirable feature to avoid damage from

fire is to have fusible material in the hydraulic lines so


that in the event of fire there would be automatic applica­

tion of the shut-in device as soon as the relevant section of

the line had melted (T6989). Unfortunately however as in

most other walks of life, human error continues to occur and

he would be an optimist indeed who thinks it can be eliminated

in oil drilling which is so to speak a care-intensive industry.

1.12.23 Finally mention should be made of another potential

hazard - the presence of hydrogen sulphide (H^S) in hydro­

carbon gases. Mr Lowd said (Part 11 paragraph 1.11.13 supra):- "I think that it is probable that some of

the oil, if it were produced on the Barrier

Reef would have a significant quantity of

hydrogen sulphide as part of its total

content. ... I think it would be well to

say that if you were a producer you could

expect on average to deal with hydrogen

sulphide in a third to a half of the


He spoke of various processes and methods of dealing with

this gas.



Human error and mechanical failure

1.13.1 Human error has been the major contribution to the cause of most blowouts and spills. Such errors have on

occasions afflicted even the wealthiest and most experienced

operators and whilst they have been employing highly trained

crews. The submission put to the Commission from two quarters

(the Queensland Minister for Mines and APEA) that the risk of

a spill or blowout from petroleum drilling in the GBRP would

under modern conditions be "nil" or "negligible" is unaccept­ able. As Mr Thomas (General Manager, Beach Petroleum NL) said,

the technology of preventing blowouts from production wells has

advanced more rapidly in the last 10 years than that relating

to exploratory drilling but the human factor can never be

excluded:-"One must accept the chance of a blowout

occurring wherever one is drilling."


1.13.2 Another appreciable cause has been mechanical failure

and again this has on occasions been a contributing cause even

in operations conducted by the most experienced operators. Sometimes there has been a chain of causation and on rare occasions external violence (hurricanes and collisions and

abnormal pressure formations have been the cause). So far as

geological knowledge of the GBRP presently extends it seemed

to be the accepted view of expert witnesses that abnormal form­

ation pressures are unlikely to be encountered in the GBRP although geological knowledge of large portions of the GBRP is

known to be comparatively small.

1.13.3 Human error has manifested itself in a considerable

variety of ways such as - by way only of example - faulty


casing design, faulty erection of important equipment, lack

of sufficient or proper equipment, lack of proper maintenance

and testing, failure to observe safe practices, failure to

take prompt or appropriate action when danger threatened or

a combination of a number of these and other forms of error.

1.13.4 We will now summarise the various situations in

which blowouts and spills can occur. Most of the material in

this summary has been elaborated in the foregoing Parts. The summary will be made under two headings, namely (A) the

drilling stage and (B) the production stage. The summary

does not and cannot purport to tabulate the various ways in

which human negligence has in the past or may in the future

manifest itself such as using a demonstrably inefficient and

dangerous method when erecting the lubricator (Marlin A4

blowout) or leaving the platform to have morning coffee when a serious emergency was clearly imminent,(the Shell fire)

(A) The drilling stage

1.13.5 (a) Less of primary control (Parts 5, 6 and 7) (i) Formation pressures

Abnormal pressures suddenly encountered during

drilling constitute a well known hazard and attract prompt

action if primary control is to be retained.

1.13.6 A good deal of evidence was given on likely pressur­

es in the GBRP and Dr Chapman (Senior Lecturer in Geology,

University of Queensland) considered that abnormal pressures

were quite possible in the far north (the Papuan Basin) but unlikely elsewhere in the GBRP. This evidence was subjected to considerable cross-examination and it is very doubtful

whether sufficient geological surveys have been made to

support his conclusions. He said that abnormal pressures are encountered under one or other of three conditions:-(a) Areas of thick and rapid sedimentation

(still going on or only recently stopped),

(b) Areas that are being or have very recently


been subjected to tectonic loading, and

(c) Areas in which gas reservoirs attain

vertical thicknesses of several thousands

of feet.(T3496)

Areas with abnormal pressures due to rapid sedimentary

loadings exist for example in the Gulf of Mexico,

Areas of tectonic loading occur in California

including the Santa Barbara area.

1.13.7 He added (T3-498 -9) as regards the GBRP:-

"A. Surveys completed indicate that only

in the far north (north of latitude 10°S)

are young sediments likely to be more than 10,000 feet thick, and so only in the far

north are significant abnormal pressures

to be expected, if there are thick impermeable sequences of rocks.

B. The Great Barrier Reef is not an area of rapid

sedimentation, nor has it been in the recent past.

C. The Great Barrier Reef is not tectonically active

nor has it been in the recent past.

D. Thick gas reservoirs under the Great Barrier

Reef are extremely unlikely ..."

"There are therefore good geological reasons for

expecting a normal hydrostatic pressure gradient

in the interstitial fluids of the rocks beneath the Great Barrier Reef area, except possibly in

the far north.

Drilling in the Great Barrier Reef area to date

has followed expectation ..." But as the quantity of drilling to date in the GBRP

has been extremely small and nearly all of the GBRP remains

undrilled, it is a little difficult to appreciate the force

of this remark. Furthermore, the comparatively sparse number of seismic surveys hitherto undertaken within the GBRP was

stressed by Mr Robertson (Supervising Geophysicist of the


Bureau of Mineral Resources).

1.13.8 Later Dr Chapman was pressed in cross-examination

about references by others, particularly Rhodes Fairbridge, to

rapid sedimentation in Reef areas. Dr Chapman explained that

there was reference to sedimentation in limited areas, not in

a geological basin. If they meant any more than this, then

he did not agree with the statements. The following

passages are relevant in this connection:-" ... I suppose you would disagree with the

statement that rapid accumulation of sediments

is now in progress in the Queensland Barrier Reef?" ... "From the geological point of view

I would disagree." (T3539) " ... Taking the area as a whole I do not regard

the Great Barrier Reef as an area of rapid

sedimentation. Taking isolated parts of the

area there are indeed parts where rapid

sedimentation is taking place. (T3540)

... the areas between some of the reefs are

areas of relatively rapid sedimentation, but

that these form an insignificant proportion of

the areas under consideration." (T35^1)

1.13.9 Dr Chapman agreed under cross-examination that his purpose was to advocate for petroleum drilling in the GBRP.

(T3550) This statement remained unqualified during his

lengthy re-examination by Mr Bennett QC a few days later.

At T3582 he said that the risks incurred from drilling operations "are out-weighed by the scientific advantages of

allowing the search for oil."

1.13.10 Dr Maxwell had earlier given evidence on sedimentation

which Dr Chapman claimed conformed in its entirety with his

views. Dr Maxwell said (Exhibit 2 p.224) that three types of

information support the view that negligible sedimentation is


occurring on the Reef, namely (a) large areas of the marginal

shelf reef zones have hard sediment-free floors, (b) bathymetric

and sedimentary analysis concerning ancient strandlines and

strandline deposits and (c) echogram patterns - by using a low-

frequency sounder it is possible, he said, to obtain deeper

penetration of the bottom sediment and to produce a reflection

from the hard surface under-lying the unconsolidated sediment.

He said that a traverse along the central part of the inner

shelf from Cairns to the Whitsunday Group had shown that for

the greater part there was a sediment cover of less than 15


1.13.11 The seismic stability of the GBRP has been discussed

in the Principal Introduction supra.

1.13.12 But in the present inadequate stage of geological

knowledge of the GBRP (also discussed in the Principal

Introduction) the Commission is not prepared to agree with

Dr Chapman's positive view that operators within the GBRP

are unlikely to encounter abnormal formation pressures. It

may be observed that, in two of the four gas blowouts which have occurred in Australian off-shore drilling operations,

abnormal pressures were present. In any event although

abnormal pressures tend to increase the risk of blowouts

because they test the skill and care of drilling personnel

and the efficiency of equipment and safety devices, blowouts have occurred with normal and with sub-normal pressures.

(ii) Hole not kept full of mud

1.13.13 The absence of abnormal pressures does not of course mean that risk of a blowout is eliminated. As has been shown

earlier, there are many other hazards and situations which are

potential sources of blowouts. One of these is the failure to maintain at all times the hole full of mud of the correct weight

in order to maintain primary control. Loss of circulation may

arise from a weakness in the formation which permits drilling


mud to run away to such an extent that circulation back to

surface ceases. A paramount requirement is to watch the

mud level in the tank and to have modern warnirtg systems

visual and audible. In most cases a lost circulation zone

can be dealt with by adding to the mud some solids which

can be of a curious variety. (T2655-6) But primary

control may be lost if supplies of lost circulation materials

kept on hand are insufficient. Loss of circulation may also

result from the piston action described by Mr Thomas as

resulting from running in the drill string too fast and

thereby creating a pressure surge ahead of the bit and

creating a piston effect.(T2643 quoted and referred to earlier)

1.13.14 In the same way swabbing of the well while withdraw­

ing pipe (said by Mr Thomas to be the most prolific cause of blowouts) can produce a loss of circulation result because a

vacuum may be created below the bit into which hydrocarbons

if present may flow.(T2643)

1.13.15 Failure to fill up with a correct quantity of mud

when removing a drill string (as in the Santa Barbara blowout) or to observe and take appropriate action to meet a thief zone,

or failure to watch the mud level when circulation is suspended

for maintenance work and in general failure to keep the hole full for any other reason may all lead to dangerous situations

as the case histories of blowouts given by Mr Thomas and

referred to in the answer to TR4 exemplify.

1.13.16 Coring is a necessary operation when exploring but

some risk can be thereby incurred as by swabbing and Dr

Chapman said (T3517) that a number of blowouts around the

world have been caused indirectly by coring. He said:-" ... If you have cut a core you have in effect a solid piece of metal and rock in the hole which,

as you pull it out, can act as a piston and suck


in the formation fluid while displacing the mud,

whereas if you always core in a size smaller than

the hole you are drilling, the maximum extent to

which you can do this is over the length you have


This may be 10 feet or 12 feet.

... The risk of swabbing the well in, if you core

in a size smaller than the hole that has been

drilled, is reduced virtually to nil."

The Barracouta blowout (paragraph 4.6.11) occurred while coring.

Coring consists of replacing the bit by a special

core head which allows the driller to cut and remove from the bottom of the hole a cylindrical piece of undisturbed

formation up to sixty feet in length by four inches in diameter

a close examination of which by a geologist or engineer with

the appropriate apparatus can yield vital information.

(ill) Inadequate mixture or weight of mud

1.13.17 Inadequate mud mixture resulting from miscalculation

or careless mixing, was a possible cause of the Marlin A7 blowout, (paragraph 4.6.8) Absence of barytes or any inability

to provide heavier mud promptly could be of critical importance in some circumstances.

(iv) Kicks

1.13.18 A drilling break frequently precedes a kick which is a warning requiring immediate corrective action if primary

control is to be retained.(Part 6 paragraph 1.6.1. supra) Ignoring a break can be particularly dangerous if

the fluid is gas because it expands rapidly as it rises and

pressures decrease. The presence of such gas will reduce the

weight of the mud column and thus enable more fluids to enter.

1.13.19 A rig engaged in exploratory drilling is fitted with

modern detection systems to which reference has earlier been made.


Instant detection of changes of mud level in the tank

whether up (a kick - due to sudden influx of formation fluids)

or down (possibly a thief zone) is of the first importance.

The Marlin A7 blowout (paragraph 4.6.8) is an example where

an incipient blowout situation was not detected nor was the

blowout prevented due either to inadequate detection

equipment or individual negligence or both. However not

every kick is preceded by a drilling break and another crew

might receive no warning. Lessons from the Marlin A7 which

took place in December 1968 were said by Mr Lipscomb (Esso

Area Production Manager) to have resulted in the following

improvements: (a) top level supervision when drilling into

potential reservoirs, (b) a smaller tank - i.e. one more

sensitive to changes in mud levels and (c) greater attention

given to drilling breaks.

(b) Loss of secondary control

1.13.20 This subject is dealt with in Part 9 supra. The

causes include (i) inability to close BOPs, (ii) inability

to insert internal BOP, (iii) failure of BOPs, and (iv) failure of well head or casing.

1.13.21 These situations may in turn arise from (i) bad

design, (ii) unsafe practices, (iii) inadequate testing,

and (iv) equipment failure.

1.13.22 Usually human error will be involved as indicated

in the references to various blowouts and their causes given

in Part 6 of the answer to TR4. Two of the examples there given will be sufficient to illustrate: (a) the draw works disconnected from the drill string for some purpose of

maintenance. This should never occur whilst the BOPs are obstructed. (b) due to miscalculation a well being drilled for

Shell in the North Sea penetrated the casing of another already



1.13-23 But combination of circumstances can occur In a loss

of secondary control situation in which no blame could be

assigned to anyone.

(c) Formation failure outside well

1.13.24 This is dealt with in Part 9 paragraph 1.9.8.(supra)

Any natural tendency towards a formation weakness in the

neighbouring area outside the well can be aggravated with

blowout effects by unskilful casing programmes, drilling too

many wells too close together from the one platform and allied

causes deriving from human error. Blowouts due to such causes

have been referred to in the answer to TR4.

(d) External forces and fire

1.13.25 These are discussed in Part 12 paragraphs 1.12.2 and

1.12.7 (supra).

External causes include cyclones and collisions.

Fire is more likely to occur at the production stage

(e.g. the Chevron dealt with in paragraph 4.6.13) but cannot be ruled out at the drilling stage. A blowout from some other cause may result in a fire which then causes blowouts from

neighbouring completed wells. There are various ways in which fires may originate.

(e) Chronic pollution 1.13.26 This subject is dealt with in detail in Part 11 supra

This is more likely to occur during production than

when drilling yet much damage during the drilling stage can be

done by oil cut muds, cuttings, sand, sludge, diesel oils, unwanted metal, bags and garbage. Depending on the particular locality of the permitted drilling, this type of damage could and probably would in more or less degree be more severe on the environment and its marine life in the GBRP than in say the

Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea.

(f) Human error

1.13.27 No summary of the causes of oil spills could omit

human error which is by far the most common cause. It has

been discussed in several places earlier, for example at the

beginning of this Part 13-

(B) Production Stage

(a) Failure of production processing and safety


1.13.28 The subject of production processing and controls

including gas-liquid separation and sub-surface safety

devices were examined in Part 10 supra.

A further brief reference to these controls will

now be made because there are many such controls on an off­

shore production platform and, as with other mechanical and

electrical devices malfunction will occur from time to time.

But although the evidence on production controls given by

Mr Lowd was extensive, no evidence was led of the occurrence

of any incident or spillage of oil as the result of such

malfunction: The necessity, however, of remote control of safety devices has been stressed elsewhere particularly in the

answer to TRM.

1.13.29 Mr Lowd began by identifying two different types

of controls (T3293):-"a. Process controls, which are essential to

the normal, minute-by-minute control of

process variables.

b . Safety controls, which must perform preventive, corrective and informative functions in the event of an off-normal or potentially dangerous

situation." He went on to outline what he described as: -

" ... some of the process and safety controls

which a prudent operator will use on a typical


off-shore oil producing facility to ensure

safe operation and to deal with all possibilities

of environmental pollution."

He said:

" ... the basic segregation of a raw petroleum

wellstream into saleable oil and gas, and the

removal of unwanted contaminants, such as water

and sand, takes place primarily in pressure

vessels, such as separators, surge tanks and

stripping columns. Proper functioning of the

physical and chemical processes occurring in

these pressure vessels requires that certain

physical variables be held constant or within

specified allowable design limits.

Typical process variables are:

a. The pressure within a vessel.

b . The temperature within a vessel.

c . The height of various liquids within a vessel,

or the position of the interface between two immiscible liquids, such as oil and water.

d. The rate of flow of oil, water, gas, chemical solutions or contaminants entering or leaving

a vessel.

The function of process controls is to monitor and regulate these four variables ..."

As regards safety controls he said (T3294):-

"Safety controls are in most instances identical to

process controls in that they monitor pressures, temperatures, liquid levels and flow rates. The

basic difference is that their output signal is not

essential to the fundamental operation of the process. Rather, the signal is used to perform a

preventive action, a corrective action, or an

informative action.

a. Preventive actions are those such as sensing an

abnormally rising liquid level in a process

vessel and closing the inlet valve through

which fluid is entering the vessel, thus

PREVENTING an emergency high level from


b . Corrective actions are those such as sensing

a pressure that is too high and opening a

valve to relieve the excess pressure, thus

CORRECTING the abnormal condition.

c. Informative actions are those which INFORM personnel that an abnormal or emergency condit­

ion exists or has existed."

1.13.30 He then gave details of the "control theory"


He said that all controls whether process or safety,

and whether for pressure, temperature, liquid level or flow

rate must have a sensing element, a logic element and a final

control device (T3294) and he elaborated each of these.

Then he spoke of the control system known as "fail­

safe". Of this he said (T3295-6):-"It is commonly understood and accepted in the

petroleum industry that control systems must be

designed so that in the event of failure of any part of the control system, the controlled process

will remain in a safe condition. This is expressed by the term 'fail-safe'.

For example, if a level control monitoring high liquid level in a vessel should fail because of

loss of control supply gas, the producer wants

the control action of the final control element to be such that the liquid level can go no higher. This means that level control failure must close

the vessel inlet valve.

By selecting a normally-closed valve (one requiring

a control signal to open it), loss of the control

signal would cause the valve to close on its own


accord. Therefore, we say the control system is

'fail-safe ' . "

1.13.31 Mr Lowd went on to explain that a complete off-shore

production facility would have many process vessels and hundreds

of controls and valves. He gave details of one small but

important section of the process namely that which takes the

well fluids from the well head through the flow line, the

production manifold, and finally through the production

separator where the wellstream fluids are disengaged from one

another and discharged as oil, water and gas. (T3297)

1.13.32 As to this chosen section he gave details of the

so-called process controls and later of the safety controls.

The following short excerpts are taken from this evidence:-"We will examine first the so-called PROCESS

controls, describing their functions and

exploring what might happen if they should fail.

Later we will examine the SAFETY controls and

see how they are capable of dealing with failures

of the process control systems ...

The OIL OUTLET. VALVE on the production separator

is controlled by a liquid level controller which

monitors the height of oil within the separator.

This valve is normally closed and will not open

unless it receives a pneumatic signal from the

level controller. (T3297) ... If this valve (meaning the oil outlet valve)

failed in the open position, all the oil would be

free to leave the separator, and a LOW-LEVEL alarm condition would exist. If the valve failed in the closed position, no oil could leave the separator

and the oil level would increase. This would cause

a HIGH-LEVEL alarm condition - It may mean there is

a bell ringing, but we are using the word 'alarm'

simply to mean an anomaly is present, a problem


situation has developed ...

The WATER OUTLET VALVE on the production separator

is controlled by an identical type of level

controller, which monitors the height of water

within the separator.

... The GAS OUTLET VALVE on the production

separator is controlled by a pressure controller

which monitors pressure within the separator.

(T3 29 8) ... The remainder of the controls ... are SAFETY

controls, not absolutely essential to the process

but necessary to insure safe operation and deal

with all possibilities of environmental pollution.

The WELL HEAD SHUT-IN VALVE is located on the well head, immediately downstream of the manual shut-in

valve. This device is commonly called a high-low

shut-in valve because it automatically closes when

pressure in the flow line is either abnormally high or low. This valve is spring-loaded normally-

closed and requires a positive pneumatic control

signal to hold it open.

... This valve cannot re-open itself; someone

must actually go to the valve and manually reset

the controllers.

... The SEPARATOR INLET VALVE is also a normally-

closed valve requiring a positive pneumatic control

signal to hold it open. Loss of the control signal or loss of supply pressure will cause this valve

to close (T3299).

Four controllers, monitoring high and low separator

liquid levels and high and low separator pressures

are installed ... (T3300) ... The previously described safety control devices

will monitor any of these abnormal conditions and automatically eliminate the potential man-made

hazard." (T3303)


1.13.33 In summarising his evidence on production process

controls, Mr Lowd said (T3307):-"Typical product design of facilities will assure

that failure of any part of the processing facility,

or failure of either control system leave the

platform in a SAFE condition. It will, in most

situations, result in the SHUT-IN of all the

affected wells at the well head."

1.13.34 The general conclusions of Mr Lowd on the efficacy of these various controls should be set forth in some detail.

At T3307 he was asked:-"Is there any situation in which there could be a

significant escape of oil or gas from the system

without the shut-in of the affected well?" to which he replied:-"No. Anything that would involve a significant

release of gases or liquids to the environment

would result effectively in the shut-in of the

well. I say effectively because under, let us say, some serious condition where one of the

well head valves itself might not shut in, there is another valve ... in front of the separator,

and down through the manifold, and that would shut,

and one or more of these, some place, would always shut in in this case."

1.13-35 Of this passage Mr Jeffrey QC (for A.P.E.A.) said (T16876):-"It has to be said at once that Mr Lowd was there

speaking of the best equipped production platform which the existing world technology can at the

present time provide. It must be acknowledged

also that over the 20 or 30 years of significant

off-shore production of petroleum not all production

facilities have anywhere attained this level of


safety control.

Of course, the Commission is directed to take

into account existing world technology and that

is why it is permissible for us to look at the

highest technical standards which industry in

this area is capable of attaining."

The Commission agrees with Mr Jeffrey's comments

but a residue of risk though small relating to processing

and safety controls must be deemed to remain.

1.13.36 It should be added that earlier, under "Emergency situations during production-" (paragraph 1.10.28) attention

has been given to the possibilities of failure in relation to

various valves and controls and Mr Lowd's evidence was the

source of the Commission's remarks therein.

(b) Failure of sub-surface safety devices

1.13.37 This subject was mentioned in paragraph 1.10.29 supra.

In addition to the various controls designed to

lead to the shutting in of the well at the manifold immediately

downstream of the Christmas tree - and in an emergency the

valves on the Christmas tree itself can be closed manually as

was done by Messrs Lipscomb and Beall in the Marlin A 4

incident of 19 May 1971 - there are down-hole safety devices which must be fitted in every producing well. These should

shut in automatically in the event of a change in pressure or in rate of production.

In the case of the Shell fire of 1 December 1970 a

number of these valves failed to operate, apparently when the well heads collapsed and the casings became crimped. In the case of the Chevron fire of 10 February 1970 it appears that

sub-surface safety valves had been removed from 136 wells in

the Main Pass Block 41 field at various times without an approved waiver and were not in the wells at the time of the

fire on "C" platform (T6988). Other serious breaches of OCS


Order No.8 were also discovered (T6989).

The Chevron Oil Company was fined $1,000,000 in

respect of 500 of these breaches (T6925).

1.13.38 Mr Thomas gave examples of the effective operation

of these sub-surface safety valves which of course must be

tested at regular intervals and replaced if necessary. He said

(T2808):-"On two occasions in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela,

well heads were struck by passing tankers. Our

method of completion in the lake was a single 30

foot platform for each single well. The well head

itself was not struck by the ship, the platform was,

and on one occasion the flow line connection at the

well head was shattered; on the other occasion

merely the line to the ball valve itself was

shattered. On both occasions the wells immediately

closed themselves in. In the shattering of the flow

line, there was a very small spillage of oil; I have

no idea of the quantity, but probably only one or two barrels. But the valves functioned."

1.13.39 It can be said therefore that well conditioned and

periodically inspected sub-surface safety valves are essential

in the avoidance of hazards and production incidents. In addition to working automatically they must have remotely

situated manual controls. The subject of surface controlled sub-surface safety valves is considered in the answer to TR4.

(c) Wirelining

1.13·^0 This process was described in Part 8 paragraph 1.8.12

supra ("The Christmas tree, the lubricator and wirelining").

The use of wireline tools is an important facility for the operator.

"The well is not 'killed' and the(maintenance)

operation is performed under pressure conditions


through the use of a lubricator - or pressure

lock - installed atop the well head and of

sufficient length and strength to accommodate

the necessary tools and withstand the full

well head pressure." (T3318)

However the process contains hazards since the

lubricator gland is a less secure container than a valve in

the production tubing or the Christmas tree. The Marlin A 4

blowout (described in paragraph 4.6.9 infra) illustrates this.

(d) Workovers

1.13.41 This type of necessary maintenance work is

described in Part 8 paragraph 1.8.19 supra in which the

accompanying potential hazards are also discussed. The Shell

fire and other blowouts described in the answer to TR4 illust­

rate some of these hazards.

(e) External forces and fire 1.13.42 These include cyclones and collisions and some

types of fire. The hazards are discussed in various paragraphs

of Part 12 (supra).

As pointed out in paragraph 1.12.17 supra fire is

more likely to occur at the production than at the drilling


(f) Chronic pollution

1.13.43 This subject is dealt with in detail in Part 11


In most of its forms it is more likely to occur

during the production than the drilling stage although several types of chronic pollution can occur during the

drilling stage and in all cases the hazards of chronic

pollution are such as to make governmental control by

regulation, direction or terms of lease imperative.


(g) Storage failure

1.13.44 The hazards of storage failure are In general

peculiar to the production stage. They have been described In

paragraph 1.11.29 of Part 11 (supra).

That hazards from such source exist was conceded by

Mr Lowd and Illustrations of loss of oil from storage were given

by Mr Keith although they were few in number.

(h) Tankers, barges and flexible hoses

1.13-45 These are dealt with in paragraphs 1.11.74 et seq

of Part 11 (supra).

Failure to observe leaks, faulty hose connections, failure to adjust valves properly and voice control ("shout and

holler") have from time to time led to spillages. Allowing oil

to overflow (in some cases for appreciable periods) has also

caused spills whilst the process of uncoupling the hose is one in which minor spills can occur.

1.13.46 In transit ballast water may be released at or near

the loading point. This must be rendered virtually oil free by

use of the "load on top" technique to which earlier reference has been made.

1.13.47 Another consideration especially in relation to the waters of the GBRP relates to associated navigational hazards. Something will on this aspect turn on the location of the

production site. As has been pointed out earlier Reef waters are often not deep and currents can be strong and weather

uncertain. Clearances may be reduced near reefs and islands

by the movement of large bombies or niggerheads - coral boulders - following storms. Any repetition of the 'Oceanic Grandeur' incident involving as it did the loss of many tons of

oil into the sea (T14029) could be particularly damaging if it occurred in the more southern waters of the GBRP.


(i) Pipeline failure

1.13.48 Pipelines are dealt with in paragraphs 1.11.48 et

seq of Part 11 supra.

The risks of pipeline failure are just as apparent

as those of storage failure. In practice they have proved

to be more significant and large quantities of oil have

escaped into the sea on a number of occasions in various

places in recent years. Mr Keith tabulated a substantial

number of these and they are set forth at T5581 to T5586.

(j ) Human error

1.13.49 As in the "Drilling Stage" (supra) the most common

of all causes of oil and gas spills during the production

stage, namely human error, must be included in a summary of

causes. See (for example) Paragraph 1.13.1 of this Part.



Introduction to answer

1.14.1 From the foregoing it is clear that a blowout can

occur only if there is a combination of circumstances. There

must be a natural condition (namely the presence of hydrocarbons)

combining with either an equipment failure or a human failure or both.

1.14.2 Both primary and secondary control must be lost.

Human error has been by far the main cause of blowouts but

occasionally equipment failure has been a contributing cause.

External and natural forces have caused or contributed to

drilling and production incidents.

1.14.3 World technology is improving although the number of

major improvements effected in recent years has been small.

Lessons learnt from past experiences and blowouts have however

been incorporated into improved drilling procedures and

improved safety precautions and warning and safety devices.

There appears to be a general recognition by the industry of

the necessity for improved training standards of drilling personnel. A world wide governmental recognition of the

necessity for modernising the control and regulation and the

supervision of all operations has been demonstrated for example by the amendments made to the American OCS (Outer Continental

Shelf) "Pacific" Orders made after the Santa Barbara blowout and the draft regulations (Exhibit 68) prepared by Australian

authorities in 1969 and in respect of which we have made many

recommendations for amendment and improvement in our answer to TR4. These recommendations have derived directly or indirectly from the evidence given before us, and our assessment of the

risk is based on the assumption that these and other recommend­ ations appearing in our Report are adopted.


1.14.4 The Increased sense of responsibility of the

industry derives no doubt in part from the enormous expense

involved when blowouts occur (we were told that the cost of

the Petrel gas blowout off the north-west of Australia

aggregated $15 millions) but partly also from a growing

recognition by the industry of its duties to the environment.

This has been illustrated by the contingency planning of the

Esso-BHP group which began some years ago and which is

evidenced by Exhibit 174. (There is now an all-industry plan

produced by P.I.E.C.E. - Petroleum Industry Environmental

Conservation Executive referred to in Part 3 of the answer to

TR4). The industry has advocated to us its sincere belief in

the doctrine of "co-existence" .

1.14.5 The risk of a gas blowout is greater than the risk of an oil blowout as both the overseas and Australian

statistics illustrate. The reasons for this are set forth in

Part 2 paragraph 1.2.2. supra. At the time the Commission .rose

to prepare its Report, the evidence showed that the ratio of off-shore gas blowouts (there had been four) to successful gas wells sunk off-shore in Australian waters was 1 1 %. This high

percentage has now decreased somewhat as since the hearing ended there have been newspaper reports of some additional and

successful off-shore gas wells sunk apparently without incident.

The evidence showed that lessons have been learnt and improve­ ments made both in drilling procedure and in the taking of

safety precautions since these blowouts occurred. Moreover if our recommendations for the improvement of Exhibit 68 made in

our answer to TR4 are adopted, the risk should be appreciably


1.14.6 There had been no off-shore oil blowouts from a

total of 88 successful oil wells drilled in the Australian

Continental Shelf as at March 1972. The overseas figures

were recognised as incomplete and indeed a full record was

said to be unobtainable.


1.14.7 In off-shore drilling in the U.S.A. the evidence

appears to show that the percentage of oil blowouts to success­

ful wells drilled in recent years up to 1969 was about 0 .13? or

as Mr Jeffrey QC put it about 1 or 2 per 1,000 wells, but three

major blowouts occurred in American waters since 1969·

1.14.8 It might be thought that the progress which has been

made and which is still being made in world technology in

relation to safety precautions would have the ultimate and not

far distant result of eliminating all risk but with this the

Commission cannot agree. One only has to turn to the very

recent fires and blowouts experienced in U.S.A. and Australian

off-shore waters by some of the largest and wealthiest oil

companies in the world to be forced into acceptance of the

proposition that a risk of blowouts however small will ever

remain. As Mr Woodward QC said in his final address to the

Commission:­ " ... the more recent Shell fire is disturbing

in its implications - that the most modern equipment cannot always prevent a major oil

spillage from a production platform."

1.14.9 The reason for the permanence of the risk is that human error seems incapable of being entirely eliminated in

most forms of human activity - and successful petroleum drilling if it is to be free of incident requires not only well-designed, efficient and well-maintained mechanical

equipment and safety devices but the sustained vigilance and

skill of highly trained drilling personnel.

1.14.10 It is to be borne in mind also, that within a

comparatively short time of petroleum being discovered in commercial quantities within the GBRP there would probably be

a multiplicity of wells in various localities of this vast area with attendant barges and tankers and/or pipelines.

Although it is not suggested that the degree or measure of


risk is a mathematical factor of the number of wells

nevertheless the larger the number of wells the greater must

be the risk. Perhaps more importantly the larger the number

of wells the greater the risk of a degree of chronic or

random pollution.

1.14.11 The evidence as a whole tended to indicate that

drilling in the GBRP would be unlikely to involve the

encountering of such special hazards of nature as tectonic

instability and gas reservoirs of great vertical thickness,

but on this aspect and perhaps especially in respect of

another hazard, discussed by some witnesses, namely the

absence of abnormal formation pressures, it would be inadvisable to express any firm or confident views because

the evidence showed that geological knowledge of the GBRP is inadequate, that seismic surveys have not been made of a

large part of the GBRP and that all wells hitherto drilled in

this vast area could be numbered on the fingers of one hand.

1.14.12 The geographical and hydrological features of the GBRP are however appreciably different from those obtaining

in most of the off-shore areas elsewhere around Australia and

in most overseas waters.

Currents can be strong, cyclones occur and much of

the water is comparatively shallow. A large number of reefs

and islands exist and depending on the locality there can be

navigational hazards. These and allied factors make special

claims on the design and stability of the platforms and on

drilling skill and equipment and also on the method selected for the collection and transportation of the crude oil to shore receiving depots, whether by pipeline or tankers. Thus

ship-shape floating rigs of the type which was about to be

used in Repulse Bay at the time the Commission was established seem inadvisable however economical for large scale explorat­

ory work their use may be in such a large area as the GBRP.

We have elsewhere made a recommendation against their use in


any GBR locality but this recommendation is not intended to be

inflexible - see paragraphs 1.4.8 and 4.6.23· These factors

are considered to affect the risk factor generally.

1.14.13 Although the types and causes of risk differ between

the drilling and the production stages and therefore for

practical reasons we have summarised the causes of spills

during these stages separately (see paragraph 1.13.4 supra),

there seems to be no point in attempting to assess the risk

separately because it is the totality of risk which is the

subject of the enquiry and in any event you can't have

production without drilling or - generally speaking - success­

ful drilling (which is the only type under consideration)

without production.

1.14.14 The various ways in which human error has manifested

itself in the loss of primary and secondary control have earlier

been stated and discussed. We have also made it clear that some necessary operations both in the drilling and production stages

(the workover, testing, wirelining, to quote but a few) contain

potential hazards if there is any departure from high standards

of skill and care. Inadequate design and maintenance of

equipment and defective casing programmes also contribute to

the hazards as the history of blowouts demonstrates.

1.14.15 External forces and storage failures, abnormal formation conditions and the risk of fire are other components

of the total hazards. Failure to install ultra-modern platform and sub-surface safety devices and operational mistakes

such as failure to hang-off, failure to open the choke line,

failure to test BOPs properly, an inability to close a BOP, and generally any inability to take prompt action when an emergency

situation suddenly presents itself, are amongst the proved contributions to the quantum of risk which must be considered

when risk is being assessed.


1.14.16 Theoretically, all the various ways which give rise

to risk must be given weight in order to make an overall

assessment of risk, but as earlier quoted, Mr Woodward QC said in his final address : -"There is a danger that reference to the number

of ways in which mishaps can occur may lead to

an unduly gloomy view of the risks involved in oil drilling."

1.14.17 One way to redress the balance is to recall the

ratio of actual blowouts to successful wells drilled over the

years. But in turn statistics do little more than give an

impression of risks because (and again we adopt Mr Woodward's words):-"(a) standards of competence and of governmental

supervision vary from place to place and from time to time;

(b) technology advances with steady strides;

(c) on the other hand advancing technology leads

to tackling more difficult engineering feats; (d) off-shore drilling presents some special

difficulties which vary greatly with depth of water and other local conditions; and finally

(e) the risks of gas blowouts are very much

greater than those of oil blowouts (although

of course an initial gas blowout may become an oil blowout, as at Santa Barbara)."

1.14.18 Although with proper equipment, proper governmental supervision and control and proper training of personnel

chronic and random pollution should and can be reduced, yet in the view of some expert witnesses including Mr Lowd (Vice

President of the National Tank Company of the United States)

chronic and random pollution present a greater threat to the

environment than occasional instances of "aggravated" pollution,


i.e. blowouts and major oil spills.(T3259) If correct this

would apply In much stronger terms to the GBRP than (say) to

the Gulf of Mexico because of Its many eco-systems and the

presence of so many coral reefs and Islands.

1.14.19 As we have earlier shown (Part 11 supraX the ways In

which chronic or random pollution can occur are numerous. Some

are the result of deliberate action, some are the fruits of

negligence or lack of skill and some can and do occur without

any carelessness or default. The compilation and enforcement

of statutory and regulatory controls together with the insert­

ion of appropriate terms and conditions in all drilling leases

should contribute to reduction of risk of such pollution.

1.14.20 During the drilling stage such sources can include

the disposal of drilling mud, sludges, sand and chemicals into

the sea. Various types of garbage and industrial wastes such as unwanted metal and bags if disposed of into the sea would

be more undesirable in the GBRP than in more open waters. The

disposition of oil-cut mud and cuttings ( a necessary product

of petroleum drilling) are included amongst the hazards. In

our answer to TR4 we have recommended that except in three specified cases and then only with governmental approval no

substances of any type whether solids or liquids should be allowed to be disposed of into the waters of the GBRP.

1.14.21 During the production stage the risk of chronic

pollution is greater than during the drilling stage (Part 11 paragraphs 1.11.3 et seq). Separated water discharged over­

board from the production platform, gases (which may contain hydrogen sulphide), storage failure, pipelines, tankers and

hoses (used during the reception, collection and transportation to shore operations of the production stage) are all potential

sources of chronic pollution, as the records of petroleum drilling and production clearly show. As regards tankers it

should be added that they are also regarded as a major cause of


massive spills - see paragraph 4.7.2. Other hazards have

proved to be cyclones, fire and collisions.

1.14.22 A platform designed in accordance with the best

standards of existing world technology will have safety controls performing corrective action and should ensure that

in the event of failure of any part of it the process will

remain in a safe condition. Data necessary for the establish­

ment of a satisfactory design for platforms include ocean

current profiles and directions, wave and wind magnitudes, long

and short-term storm characteristics and sea bottom elevation

contours. In many localities within the GBRP such data does

not presently exist and as has been elsewhere recommended

platform construction and drilling should not be permitted in any locality until proper surveys of that locality

sufficient to furnish the necessary data shall have been made.

A similar recommendation has been made with regard to the siting and construction of pipelines.

1.14.23 As an illustration of the effect of proper control

systems it was said that anything that would involve a significant release of gases or liquids to the environment

would result in the well being "shut in". A significant leak of oil in a flow line should cause a sufficient decrease in

pressure to activate the well head shut-in valve.

The answer to TR1 1.14.24 In arriving at our answer to this TRl we have taken

into account world technology as examined in earlier Parts and

the safety precautions discussed and recommended in our answer

to TR4 (infra) and we have endeavoured to give due weight both to statistics and the various hazards of exploratory drilling and production which we have enumerated and discussed above.

As indicated earlier the phrase "oil or gas leak" appearing in TRl has been construed as meaning and including

both catastrophic blowouts and chronic (and random) smaller


spills. The nature and causes of all types of such spills

have also been examined.

We will answer the question under the two headings,

namely "Blowouts" (which will be deemed to include fires) and

"Chronic and Random Spills."

The form of the question would not appear to require

us to assess separately the risks of oil and gas blowouts. On

the evidence the risk of the former is less than that of the

latter, although as the Santa Barbara blowout evidences, a gas

blowout can develop into an oil blowout.

Our answer cannot be given in precise or mathematical

terms because the degree of risk (and the quantum of any

pollution) will vary with and depend inter alia on such factors

as (a) the care and skill of drilling and production personnel and of all concerned with the collection storage and transport­ ation of oil from the well to shore, (b) the design, inspection

and maintenance of all equipment, (c) the efficiency of

governmental regulation and supervision, (d) the number of wells, and (e) external forces. We have assumed that our

recommendations relating to safety precautions as summarised in Part 10 of the answer to TR4 will substantially be adopted.

We answer the question as follows:-A . Blowouts If petroleum drilling be permitted within the GBRP,

there will be and remain a real but small to very small risk

of blowouts.

B . Chronic and Random Spills It is almost certain that some measure of chronic

and random spills and leaks of oil will from time to time occur. The amount of pollution caused thereby will range from small to

substantial, that is to say from a few gallons to hundreds of barrels - or more if a leak from a tanker during loading

operations near the production site occurred.



"What would be the probable effects of

such an oil or gas leak and of the subse­

quent remedial measures on:-(a) the coral reefs themselves

(b) the coastline

(c) the ecological and biological aspects

of life In the area?"


The Interpretation placed on this term of reference

Is to be found in paragraph PI.3■4 and the nature and sequence of the subject matter treated in TR "2, are set out in the

Table of Contents.

In summary, the subjects dealt with bear on the

following questions:

What are the compositional characteristics of crude

oils and their physical and chemical properties; when oil is spilled at sea how does it behave; in what ways is it changed with the passage of time and for what reasons; what are the

effects of oil on marine organisms and eco-systems when fresh­ ly spilled and in its successive stages of change (weathering);

and to what extent are these effects influenced by the differ­ ing physical states in which oil may be presented to organisms

and by the differing vulnerability to oil exposure of the many

kinds of situations inhabited by marine organisms?

Parts 1-6 review these questions mainly in the light

of the large body of information given to the Commission which derives from overseas experience of the nature and effects of

oil releases on marine life mainly of temperate waters.

Parts 7 and 8 review more briefly the nature and

effects of gas releases and of the various remedial measures that have been used to mitigate the adverse effects of oil



Part 9 gives preliminary consideration to the prob­

able effects of oil and gas releases (should they occur in the

area of the Great Barrier Reef) and makes use for purposes of prediction, where in the opinion of the Commission it is justi­

fiable to do so, of information and data drawn from Parts 1-8.

In Part 9 some account is also given of information reported in

evidence that bears directly on some special conditions obtain­

ing within the GBRP that are relevant to the answer, and re­

views the few experiments and observations on the effects of

oil that have been made on corals and other GBRP organisms.

Part 10 contains the answer to TR2.


(a) Chemical composition 2.1.1 The following account derives, mainly from the evi­

dence of Professor Clark (T 3598 et seq), Mr Keith (T 5534-5)

and Dr Connell (T 7015-7043).

Crude oils are formed by the decomposition in buried sediments of animal and vegetable remains. They consist almost

entirely of hydrocarbons that at normal temperatures and pres­ sures may be gaseous, liquid or solid according to the complex­

ity of their molecules, and which may contain from 1-38 carbon atoms combined with varying numbers of hydrogen atoms, and in a

variety of molecular shapes. The carbon atoms may be linked

together to form straight chains, be joined together in single or multiple systems of triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons or hexagons, and be branched or unbranched. They may be sc de­

signed with a sufficiency of hydrogen or other types of chemi­

cal attachments as to be in some measure resistant to chemical

change in which case they are said to be 'saturated'. 'Unsat­

urated ' compounds which are chemically more active and change­ able also occur in crude oils. Straight chain hydrocarbon

molecules are referred to as normal paraffins, branched chain

paraffins as isoparaffins and ring type structures as cyclo­ paraffins or naphthenes. Only saturated molecules of these


three types, together known as alkanes, are found In crude oil.

A further class of compounds present in crude oil are ring com­

pounds made up of single or joined hexagons with or without

side branches. These substances are known as aromatics.

2.1.2 Various other compounds and substances may be present

in oils as impurities. They include sulphur compounds, nickel and vanadium. There is a considerable variation in the sulphur

content of crudes from different basins and regions of pro­

duction. Figures given by Mr Keith (Exhibit 415) show Austra­

lian crudes to be low in sulphur content (0.03-0.13% by weight)

with Kuwait and Boscan (Venezuela) crudes,amongst the oils

listed,having the highest sulphur loadings of 2.53% and 5-0%


2.1.3 Mr Keith in a supplementary statement (Exhibit 415)

to his main testimony, included a table which set out the per­

centage by volume of paraffins, naphthenes and aromatics

found, by analysis, to occur in different boiling point range

fractions of crude oils of different provenance. The follow­

ing data are abstracted from Mr Keith's table in respect of

the 8 oils (out of a total of 15) which were fully analysed.

They are presented in a somewhat different form from Mr Keith's



r £ c t i u m c t i

o 0

1 cti


£ c t i • H

£ c ti


m c t i £ • H Santa



- P £

• H r —1 c t i ! £

• H

£ O O


Spec. Gravity 0.^7 0 , .852 C ).850 0.^51 0.888 0.797 0 . ,8l4 ( -=r 0 C O

Volume % Butane & Lighter

2.5 1.6 2.5 0.7 1.7 2. b 2. b U .p

Gasolene . „ _

fraction C 5 - 375 F

25.5 26.9 26.8 14.8 24.0 40.2 33.1 39-1

Volume . ,

paraffins 18.6 20.1 17.7 8.9 12.5 21.7 16.6 22.5

15.6 naphthenes 4.3 3-8 5.6 5.4 10.3 15.3 13.9 aromatics 2,6 3.0 3-5 0.4 1.2 3.2 2.6 1.0

Kerosene fraction 375-450 F

8.0 8.2 7.7 6.5 7.0 8.4 7.7 10.5

Volume , „

paraffins 4.3 4.8 3.7 3.2 2.0 4.5 3.5 4 . b

naphthenes 2.1 1.8 2.4 2.5 3.0 2.5 2.7 4.4

aromatics 1.6 1.6 1.6 0.8 2.0 1.4 1.5 1.3

Gas oil _ „ .

fraction 450-600 F 15.8 15-3 15.3 14.0 13.5 17.6 19.6 19.4

Volume paraffins 7.4 6,6 7.5 7.6 2.7 9.5 10.4 9.5

naphthenes 4.5 4.4 3.8 5.0 6.7 4.2 4.5 6.6

aromatics 3.8 4.3 4.0 2.0 4.7 3.9 4.7 3.3

Heavy Distillate 600-1000°F 30.7 32.2 31.9 39-6 31-9 29.2 34.3 23.0

Volume aromatics Residue 1000 F

13.5 16.7 14.7 7.1 14.0 7.9 9.6 5.3

17.5 15.8 15.8 24.4 21.9 2.0 2.7 7.5

Cumulative aromatics up to 1000 F 22 25 24 10 21 16 18 11

NOTES: (1) The addition of the follows (a) + (b) (a) Cumulative paraffins

paraffins and. naphthenes results as

up to 600 F. 30.3 31.5 28.9 (b) Cumulative naphthenes 19.7 17.2 35-7 30.5 3b .« up to 600F .10.9 10.0 11.8 12.9 20.0 22.0 21.1 26.6

a + b 41.2 41.5 40.7 32.6 37.2 57-7 51.6 63.4

(2) The varied ratios of the several fractions in oils of


differing origin. Basrah, Minas and Santa Barbara, for example,

are classified commercially as heavy oils. Kingfish, Halibut

and Moonie (Australian) as light crudes.

(3) The different ratios of the paraffins, naphthenes and aromatic constituents. Kingfish, Halibut and Moonie are des­

ignated commercially as paraffinic/naphthenic oils; Middle East

oils have a slightly higher aromatic content.

(b) Physical properties 2.1.-4 The physical properties of crude oils are governed

by the character of the substances contained within them and

the proportions in which they occur. It is necessary for our

purposes to enumerate some physical properties that are of particular importance in determining the behaviour of' oil when

leaked into the sea and in influencing the character and rate

of progressive changes in the chemical composition and physical

state of oil, through its inter-actions with the atmosphere,

seawater and marine organisms.

(i) Specific gravity In Mr Keith's words (T12046) "This gives a measure of the buoyancy of the crude compared to water." Seawater at

normal atmospheric temperatures has a specific gravity approxi­

mating to 1.025. The SG of a number of crudes from different

sources (cited by Mr Keith (Ex 424) in terms of API units and

in Exhibit 415 in conventional SG units) vary from 0.797 for the very light Kingfish oil of the Bass Straits to the heavy

asphaltic Boscan crude (Venezuela) of SG 1.005. Most of the

crudes listed by Mr Keith are of SG 0.8 - 0.9. Since even the

heavier residuals of weathered oil such as tar balls (SG about

1.02) are a little lighter than seawater (Mr Cowell T11011),

oil in liquid sheets, water-in-oil emulsions, or in more solid

form will tend to remain on the sea surface unless weighted by

the attachment of sufficient quantities of inorganic particles

or organic debris heavier than water. In near shore areas and in shallow waters wave action and confused seas may contribute

to the sinking of oil.


(ii) Viscosity

Viscosity is "the resistance of a fluid to flow and

is an important factor in determining the eventual thickness of

a given oil film on water and the rate of spread" (Mr Keith

T12046). Mr Mansfield (T7184) dissected this definition a

little further. "Viscosity is not concerned with the ability

to spread. Spreading is determined, if one has a heap of oil, by the dissipation of the gravity forces and also at the peri­

meter there are the spreading forces." (These were later des­ cribed as due to the presence in oil of surfactants, i.e. sur­

face-tension reducing substances). "The gravity force and

spreading force determines whether a slick is able to spread.

The viscosity dictates, amongst other things, the rate at which the spreading will occur."

Generally speaking, the heavier oils are more viscous

than the lighter oils. The following examples taken from a

table headed "Physical Properties of Selected Crude Oils" (Mr

Keith Exhibit 415) illustrate this relationship. Boscan, Lagomar, Kuwait, Basrah, Iranian (heavy oils of SG 1.005-0.847) have viscosities (centistokes at 100°F) of 26,000-5.66. King- fish, Halibut, Moonie and Barrow Island (light oils of SG 0.834­

0.797) have viscosities (centistokes at lOO^F) of 3.3-1-85- The viscosity of an oil, which decreases with increasing tempera­ ture, is therefore important in influencing not only the form

which an oil slick will take but the extent to which the oil is

rendered susceptible to evaporation, solution and dispersion,

(ill) Pour point Pour point "is the temperature at which the crude ceases to flow under given conditions. Generally a high pour point indicates a high wax content in the crude. If the water temperature is below the pour point of the crude, a spill is likely to form lumps rather than spread in a thin film" (Mr Keith T12046). Crudes of differing origin and composition show

a wide range of pour points. Mr Keith (Exhibit 415) gave

figures varying from -25° to 95°F e.g. Santa Barbara (-25°F), Kuwait (0°), Moonie (30°), Halibut (50°), Kingfish (65°) and Minas (95°).


Pour Australian crudes (Kingfish, Halibut, Moonie and

Barrow Island) of differing composition are shown as having

pour points of 65°F, 50°P, 30°F and




(a) Evaporation

2.2.1 Mr Lowd, when describing refinery production process­

es by which crude oil is separated into cuts of differing gas

and liquid composition by temperature-pressure fractionation,

noted that crude oil "does not have a fixed 'boiling point' in

the usual sense. Instead, at any given temperature and press­

ure, some portion of the petroleum mix will be vapour ... and

the remainder will be liquid. In general, the higher the

temperature the higher the percentage vapour." (T3267) At

normal atmospheric temperatures and pressures some of the lower molecular weight hydrocarbons in an oil are, as Mr Keith (

1120*17) and other witnesses pointed out, at a temperature above their boiling point and therefore entirely gaseous. Hydro­

carbon compounds of higher molecular weight represented in

industrial terminology by the gasolene, naphtha, kerosene, gas oil and residual cuts are characterised by boiling point

ranges on the successively rising scale of 40-150°C, 150-200cC, 200-300°C, 300-400°C and>400°C (Professor Clark, Table I T36OI). At ordinary atmospheric temperatures the compounds within each range will be in some degree volatile and lose to

the atmosphere some part of their liquid phase as vapour, the rate of evaporation depending amongst other factors on the prox­ imity of the temperature to the boiling point of the liquid.

Mr Keith explained this in the following passage (T120*J8):-

Q. "...what I am interested in is the volatility

of the crude oil at temperatures that you get in seawater in the sunlight in the Barrier Reef area..."

A. "Let us say that gasolene materials will evaporate under ordinary atmospheric conditions. If you


spread gasolene on a piece of steel and

leave it outside it will evaporate very rapidly.

So will kerosene."

Q. "Less rapidly?"

A. "Less rapidly. The higher the fraction the

less rapidly it will evaporate" ...

"If you spread ... crude oil, the gasolene

fraction will evaporate, the kerosene fraction

will evaporate, but more slowly, the heavier

fractions will evaporate very much more slowly."

2.2.2 Mr Mansfield, at T7195-9, noted some circumstances

which promote the evaporation of hydrocarbons from an oil slick

at sea. He said, "At any one moment, the most volatile fractions

present at any particular part of the oil/air interface of this

slick evaporate preferentially, at a rate determined mostly by

the wind velocity, the surface temperature and the vapour

pressures of the components being evaporated." (T7195) Wind velocity is relevant to evaporation rate because

"What is happening when things evaporate is that molecules are leaving the oil and entering the air space above. Unless the

molecules are swept away, they will accumulate above the oil

and finally reach a vapour pressure which we call the equil­ ibrium vapour pressure, at which molecules are returning to the

oil from the vapour as fast as they are leaving the oil for

the vapour. If the wind is blowing these molecules are swept

away and more evaporation can occur, so that the faster the wind the more vapour is swept away and faster evaporation

occurs." (T7195/6) Temperature is relevant, for "As you increase the

temperature the vapour pressure rises. This means that if the

vapour can be swept away the rate at which more molecules move

out to try and reach this higher vapour pressure increases, so

evaporation of all substances increases with temperature - water,

oil and so on." Mr Mansfield confirmed, in this context, "... that in order to calculate the likely rate of evaporation


of any particular oil slick you would need to have some know­

ledge of the vapour pressures of the components of that slick."


A further requirement noted by Mr Mansfield is that

"For evaporation to continue we now have to bring more of these

volatile materials up to the surface." He explained that "The

rate at which the materials move to the surface depends upon

the nature of the compounds, upon their chemical composition,

on the temperature and, in the sense that it depends on the stirring within the layer, also on the wind velocity itself." (T7196) Also of relevance to evaporation rates are "the fluid­

ity of the oil ... and ... the local thickness of the layer."

(T7197) Further consideration is given to these various con­ ditions promoting the evaporation of oil in Part 9, paragraphs

2.9.13-1^ which deal specifically with the prediction of chang­ es in the composition of oils if spilled in GBRP waters.

2.2.3 The rate of evaporation of individual hydrocarbons from crude oil mixtures at atmospheric temperatures was not

made known in evidence and precise information of the rates of evaporation of oils of differing composition under varying

states of sea temperature and wind speeds does not appear to be available. Estimates have been made on theoretical grounds of the rates of evaporation of crude oil as a whole and Dr Nelson-

Smith (Exhibit 365 p.236) quotes Brunnock et al (1968) as say­ ing that "... it is estimated that about one-third of the 'Torrey Canyon's' cargo of Kuwait crude was lost by evaporation following the spill, equivalent in effect to the removal of all fractions boiling below about 300°C." And Mr Biglane, speaking

of the Chevron Platform C spill in the Gulf of Louisiana, 10

February 1970 said "It seems likely that at least 35 per cent ... of the total oil discharged would have evaporated within 48 hours." (T6717) Mr Mansfield, however, was of the opinion that for a

Moonie type oil in the waters of the GBRP about one half of the

original oil would have evaporated in about one day (T7199)·


The evidence given by several witnesses (e.g. Professor Clark,

T3609; Dr Grassle, T6l47) that evaporation from an oil slick

mainly depletes the lower boiling point components was not

contested. However, as Dr Grassle pointed out (T6l48), "... only the lowest boiling components in the gasolene range are

lost rapidly and completely. Thus, oil recovered from the

feathers of birds exposed to an oil slick off Martha's Vine­

yard Island, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in February, 1970, still

contained normal heptane and normal octane (Blumer, 1970, un­

published). Similarly a light paraffinic crude oil that

washed ashore on Martha's Vineyard in June 1970 was sampled

immediately and then again after eight days exposure on the

beach. The gas chromatograms of both samples were identical and extended in boiling range as low as n-octane. Even in

oil that has been exposed to weathering for several months

(tar balls from the Mediterranean Sea (Blumer et al., 1970,b), "tar" from the beaches of Santa Barbara) (Blumer, 1970, unpub­

lished), hydrocarbons boiling as low as n-decane can still be

recognised." Although, as was made clear from Mr Mansfield's

evidence (T7198 et seq), much work remains to be done on evaporation of oils at sea under differing conditions of tem­

perature and the play of winds, and from slicks of differing

thickness, the demonstratable retention by weathered oil of

some proportion of the low boiling point hydrocarbons, in­

cluding aromatics, is of evident importance in the considera­

tion later to be given to the persistence of hydrocarbons and

their potential toxicity.

(b) Solution

2.2.4 Mr Keith (T12056-8) introduced his evidence on this

subject with the following general statements "All hydrocarbons

are only very slightly soluble in water - in the range of parts per million." "The solubility decreases very rapidly with in­

crease in molecular weight." "Aromatics are more soluble than

paraffins or naphthenes." Dr Grassle (T6l47) confirmed these


generalisations, which were not contested, in saying that "Dis­

solution also removes preferentially the lower molecular weight

components of an oil. However, aromatic hydrocarbons are more

readily dissolved than alkanes of the same boiling point ..."

It therefore appears that the crude oil compounds which most readily dissolve in seawater lie within the same range of car­

bon numbers as those which most readily evaporate, and which

are most toxic (Mr Cowell T10912).

2.2.5 Figures for the solubility of individual hydrocarbons

within the paraffinic, naphthenic and aromatic series were pro­

vided by Mr Keith (T12056-7), Dr Nelson Smith (Ex 365, p .235) and Dr Connell (T7037) quoting sources dated 1924, 1948 and

1964. The most recent estimations of Freegarde, Hatchard and

Parker (Ex 362) are significantly lower than indicated by the

earlier analyses. Dr Connell (T7176) agreed that the more recent estimates were likely to be the more reliable and Mr

Mansfield) in subscribing to this opinion, thought that the presence of oil in fine droplets might explain the earlier de­

termined higher figures. Solubilities in parts per million

(temperatures not stated) were instanced as follows:

n. paraffins: in seawater (Freegarde et al Ex 362) pentane (38 in fresh water), hexane (11), heptane (4), octane (1), decane (0.15), the solubility falling at each stage by an approximate factor of three.

branched chain paraffins: somewhat more soluble than n . paraffins, Mr Keith (T12056).

naphthenes: in fresh water. No figures. Classified as 'insoluble 1, Mr Keith (T12056).

aromatics: in fresh water, benzene (700), toluene (500) ethyl benzene (100) xylene (insoluble) (Mr Keith T12056-7)·

2.2.6 The virtual impossibility of relying on these figures for making estimations of the amounts of hydrocarbons that are

leaked into seawater from a slick was explained by Mr Keith

(T12056) in the following questions and answers.

Q . "Each hydrocarbon is also soluble in the mass


of the oil so that for a given hydrocarbon,

part will dissolve in the water and part in

the oil?"

A. "Yes." "The amount that will dissolve in each

phase will depend on the relative solubility in

each phase and the volume of each phase. Hydro­

carbons are obviously much more soluble in oil

than water, but then in a spill, there is much more water present than oil."

Freegarde et al (Ex 362 p . 37), taking into account the solu­

bilities of individual hydrocarbons and their oil/water phase

distributions, conclude tentatively that "remembering the large volumes of seawater available, it seems likely that

solution of the kerosene fraction will be significant but that

solution of the lube oil and higher fractions will be quite


(c) Emulsification and droplet dispersion

2.2.7 According to Dr Pilpel, in a passage (Ex 298 p .12)

which was several times referred to in evidence, oil when

moved about on the surface of the sea by wind and.waves may be "converted into two types of emulsion." "The oil-in-water

emulsion consists of droplets of oil up to a few millimetres in diameter, which are stabilised by the presence on their surface of hydrophilic (water-seeking) groups ... present in crude oil but removed during refining. Oil-in-water emulsions

are readily miscible with seawater, and in this form the oil

spreads out and disperses quite rapidly in the volume of the

ocean ..." "The reverse type of emulsion, the water-in-oil

type, is not miscible with seawater. It consists of droplets

of water enclosed in sheaths of oil and is rendered stable by

the presence of various resinous and asphaltic materials which also occur naturally in crudes. These emulsions may contain

up to 3 0 % of water ... and, depending on their source, have a

consistency ranging from that of thick cream to road tar. They

may remain in a thick, greasy layer or may break up into lumps.


Some is washed ashore under the action of wind and waves, some

sinks, and the rest is gradually decomposed."

2.2.8 Dr Connell, in making a distinction between oil

present in solution and in a fine droplet emulsion, said that

"if it was dissolved it would divide up completely into individ­

ual molecules in the solution whereas the emulsion would be

very small droplets which can be filtered out or centrifuged

out by special procedures." (T7024) Mr Mansfield spoke of the

practical difficulties of distinguishing the border line be­

tween very fine droplets and molecular solution" ... the dif­

ficulty arises simply because these materials form very stable

finely divided emulsions or dispersions" ... "I would guess

from our laboratory experience that if one tried to measure the

solubility of material in the sea one would often measure the

amount of material dispersed in this fashion and so it would be

very difficult to decide what is the real solubility." (T7200) He noted, however, that in a solution containing droplets "As

time goes by the fine material either settles up or down de­ pending on whether it is less dense or heavier than water and

you approach with time the real solubility." (T7203) He re­

ferred, in illustration of this, to the experiments made by

Freegarde et al (Ex 362 p .37) in which, after shaking oil with seawater and analysing at intervals of time the oil content in

parts per million of the water, they obtained the following -


Time of settling 15 mins 1 hr 8 hrs 1 day 2.2 days 147 days

Oil content (ppm)31 4 3 5 3 0.6

Mr Mansfield added (T7203) "... as you can see from this table

these people found that they have to go for 147 days and they were still not quite sure whether they had reached the final

solubility ..."

2.2.9 The main point that Freegarde and his co-authors

make, however, is that "Fine dispersions containing more than 1 ppm can persist for several days and it seems therefore that,

in a choppy sea, significant amounts of oil could remain


dispersed long enough to be carried quite deep, and if sub­

surface currents were favourable it would then be distributed

far beyond the confines of the original slick." (Ex 362, p.37)

2.2.10 No quantification was given in evidence of the rates

of production from oil slicks of these fine droplet emulsions.

Dr Spillane (T12326) indicated however that, in the open sea,

forces are at work to create them. Although small water

ripples are absorbed "within a metre or so" of the edges of an

oil slick, "larger, longer waves ... travel through the oil and

as they do so cause the thin layer of water at the oil-water

interface to be stirred by small but intense turbulent motions. This action results in an oil-water emulsion being formed and

such emulsions ... may be very stable." While it was clear

that what Dr Spillane had in mind was the eventual production

of stiff water-in-oil emulsions, it was evident that the pro­

cess of stirring would produce some(unspecified)quantum of oil

in dispersed and transportable form.

2.2.11 Pew measurements have been made of oil concentrations

in the water column in the vicinity of a slick. The only

measurements in evidence are analyses made by Freegarde et al (Ex 362 Table IV). One hundred tons of oil experimentally

released at the surface in the English Channel formed a long thin slick along an east to west axis. The wind was light and

the sea calm. Water samples taken from 1-10 metres below the slick contained "significant amounts of oil", the maximum con­

centrations mainly coinciding with a southerly wind blowing transversely to the oil slick axis. The authors estimated that

under maximal conditions of concentration the quantities of oil

dispersed within an area of approximately 10 sq kilometres

might be about 5 tons.

2.2.12 Oil in dispersed droplets within the sea is directly

within the surround of planktonic organisms. There is evidence,

which is considered in more detail in a later section, that it


may become both attached to and eaten by planktonic organisms

and particularly by the numerous copepods in the plankton (see,

for example, Blumer (Exhibit 297); Freegarde et al (Exhibit

362) .

(d) Water-in-oil emulsions 2.2.13 In contradistinction to the oil-in-water dispersions

referred to above and consisting of small droplets of oil sus­ pended in large volumes of water, water-in-oil emulsions con­

sist, as Dr Pilpel (Exhibit 298) has noted, as water droplets

ensheathed in a mass of oil. The two states are interconvert­

ible. Droplets of oil may settle out of seawater to form a

water-in-oil film and, by mechanisms which Mr Stanphill (T4563) explained in detail, dispersing agents of various kinds when

beaten up with oil and seawater cause the oil to be broken up

into individual droplets suspended in seawater.

2.2.14 Many witnesses, including Professor Clark (T36O9),

Mr Cowell (T11012), Dr Straughan (Exhibit 28l, p ,335) and Mr

Grant (T12851), in a coverage of the 'Torrey Canyon1, Santa Barbara, 'Tampico Maru' and 'Oceanic Grandeur' spills, describ­ ed how oil released in these spills had become, at least in part, converted into viscid sticky water-in-oil emulsions

variously described as turbid, creamy or brown ("chocolate mousse") mixtures containing from 30% (Dr Pilpel Exhibit 298) to 80% (Mr Cowell, T11012) of sea water.

In all these instances, except for the 1 Tampico Maru1 dispersants were reported to have been applied to the oil and may have promoted its emulsification. However, as Mr Mansfield (T7183) and Dr Spillane (T12326) pointed out, crude oils always

contain surface-active materials which aid emulsification, and from the evidence received it appeared that some degree of emulsification and the production of sticky viscid oil-water mixtures must be regarded as an inevitable consequence of a

large scale spill.

2.2.15 The conversion of oil into water-in-oil emulsions


bears some consequences which are later considered further.

In particular:

(i) The weight and volume of the objectionable material are increased;

(ii) Sinking is made easier by water weighting, and by the more ready adhesion to the sticky mass of heavier than water particles carried in suspension or picked up when the material

is stranded on shorelines;

(iii) The diffusion of oxygen through it is, according to the evidence of Mr Mansfield (T7191), slower than through either oil or water alone;

(iv) Photochemical changes of oil are likely to be slowed down when oil "is in the form of rigid water-in-oil emulsions" (Freegarde et al Ex 362) .

(e) Photochemical transformation: Oxidation.

2.2.16 Evidence on the nature and magnitude of the chemical

changes that take place in oil exposed to sunlight was frag­

mentary and more revealing of deficiences in present knowledge than of facts upon which the Commission could justifiably rely.

The following statements which taken together are

not free from inconsistencies, may indicate the general charac­

ter of the information available, the need for future work and

some lines of investigation that might profitably be undertaken

for a better understanding of the chemistry of oils and of the possible consequential direct and indirect effects of these

changes upon marine organisms.

"Virtually all the constituents of mineral oils can

be spontaneously oxidized and the rate depends on the temper­

ature, intensity of sunlight and the physical state of the oil."

(Dr Pilpel Ex 298, p .12) "Oxidation may be catalysed by sun­

light or by trace metals, such as vanadium which are present in the oil." (Mr Cowell T11011)

"Chemical degradation would occur at a very slow rate and would probably not be a significant contributor to the

degradation of oil in the natural environment." (Dr Connell

T7031) However, "the total rate of decomposition to be expected


in sunlight is by no means negligible." (jFreegarde et al

Exhibit 362, p.40)

2.2.17 "Oxidation affects most readily the aromatic hydro­

carbons of intermediate and higher molecular weight; its

effects are recognised analytically by an increase in the in­

soluble polymer fraction ("asphaltenes") (Dr Grassle T6l48),

"The products may be water soluble or surface active and may

thus reduce the bulk of the slick or contribute to its

emulsification." (Mr Cowell T11011)

2.2.18 The little known and complex photo-oxidative changes

are productive in some instances of water soluble acids,

organic acids and esters, which may not previously have been

present in the oil (Freegarde et al Exhibit 362 Table V).

(f) Biodegradation ■

2.2.19 (i) General According to Dr Grassle (T6l89) "Hydrocarbons in the sea are naturally degraded by marine micro-organisms"; and Dr

Pilpel (Exhibit 298 p .12) was quoted as saying "The main de­

composition of mineral oil at sea ... is due to microbial oxidation." Professor Clark enlarged upon the process further

in stating that "... all classes of gaseous, liquid and solid hydrocarbons are susceptible to oxidation by micro-organisms.

Micro-organisms in this context include bacteria, yeasts, moulds and possible protozoa, bacteria probably being the most

important of these." (T3625) When outlining in more detail the part played by

micro-organisms in the biodegradation of oils Dr Pilpel (Exhibit 298 p .12) referred to their specificity of action in bringing about chemical changes in saying "Micro-organisms may be divided into several groups according to the classes

of hydrocarbons in an oil that they are capable of oxidizing. Some act on paraffinic hydrocarbons, ... others on aromatic

hydrocarbons ... and others on naphthenic hydrocarbons" adding that "The rate of oxidation is markedly influenced by


a whole range of environmental conditions;" and Professor

Clark, in partial amplification of the conditions of oxida­

tion, noted that "The presence of free oxygen is generally

necessary although nitrates and sulphates serve as hydrogen

acceptors for some hydrocarbon oxidisers." (T3616)

(ii) Evidence of biodegradation

2.2.20 The evidence relating to biodegradation was founded in the main on analysis of the hydrocarbon composition of

crude oils before and after they had been either experimentally

(e.g. Miget, Oppenheimer, Kator and La Rock Exhibit 304) or in

nature (e.g. Blumer, Sass, Souza, Sanders, Grassle and Hampson, Exhibit 238) exposed to bacterial attack. The methods,

sensitivity and interpretation of gas liquid chromatographic and mass spectrometry analyses of hydrocarbon mixtures were explained by Dr Connell (T7066 et seq) and the features in the

chromatographs of weathered oils indicative of the biodegrada^-

tion of some of the compounds originally present in the un­ weathered crudes were demonstrated by Dr Grassle (T6150 et seq). It was not questioned in evidence that biodegradation does occur.

(ill) Biodegradation and molecular structure 2.2.21 Several witnesses spoke of the differential suscep­

tibility to biodegradation of hydrocarbons according to the chemical structure of their molecules and their molecular weight.

As a broad generalisation the statement that "In general, aliphatic hydrocarbons (straight and branched chain paraffins) are oxidised more readily than aromatic or naphthen­ ic compounds, and, within limits, long-chain hydrocarbons are

attacked more readily than similar compounds of low molecular weight" (Professor Clark Τ3βΐ6) was not contested in evidence.

2.2.22 The differential susceptibilities of hydrocarbons of

differing chemical structure and molecule size were however

elaborated In greater detail, and not without some inconsis­

tencies, by other witnesses.

Dr Connell, relying on work by ZoBell (1964) said

that "ZoBell has found that straight chain paraffins or

alkanes are degraded (T7025) ··· Branched chain hydrocarbons

are not as readily degraded ... as the straight chain compounds

(T7030) ... Degradation of the naphthenes by micro-organisms

proceeds at a similar rate to the normal paraffins ..." (T7032),

and aromaticity "confers additional chemical stability ...

making it less susceptible to degradation in the environment." (T7038)

Dr Grassle, while agreeing that "bacteria attack

the n alkanes (straight chain paraffins)" added that "we have

not been able to detect that bacteria attack the aromatic

components of the oil ... " (T6120) However, in quoting from a paper written by Dr Blumer and others, and of which he him­

self was one of the co-authors (Exhibit 238), he reveals variations in respect of the biodegradation of aromatics and of the relative susceptibility of naphthenes to biodegradation

in that he intimated that "Cycloalkanes (naphthenes) and

aromatic hydrocarbons are more resistant and disappear at a

much slower rate" (T6l47) than normal and branched paraffins.

2.2.23 In summary, though all three witnesses were in agree­

ment that the hydrocarbons most susceptible to biodegradation are the normal (straight chain) paraffins and that the hydro­ carbons most resistant to biologically induced changes fall

within the aromatic series, the relative susceptibilities of branched paraffins and naphthenes occasioned some differences

of opinion. The differences may perhaps reflect the effects in different experiments of the presence of differently constituted populations of bacteria and other micro-organisms, or, be due to other undefined causes. There is clearly room for further investigations in this important field and

particularly for a more precise determination of the rates at which biodegradation of different types of hydrocarbon com­

pounds takes place under natural conditions.


(iv) Biodegradation and temperature

2.2.24 Very little information was forthcoming on the rate

at which biodegradation occurs in different situations in the

sea or of the proportions of oil that can be destroyed by bio­

logical processes, though Professor Clark provided some useful

literature references on this subject (T3621). Under laboratory

conditions designed to produce maximal rates Miget et al·· Ex 304

reported a 35-55% reduction in oxidisable oil after 60 hours

at 32°C, and Dr Connell (T7025) quoted ZoBell as having found

that straight chain paraffins suffer up to 83% reduction over

35 days. However, as pointed out by Dr Pilpel in Ex 298 pp.

11/12, conditions in nature may be quite different in that "The

rate of oxidation is markedly influenced by a whole range of

environmental conditions" in which he instances, among other

factors, temperature, and salinity of the water and the number

and variety of the bacteria it contains. He adds as other

important variables - "the source of the oil and.its specific

gravity, degree of refinement, quantity and physical condition."

2.2.25 In respect of temperature Professor Clark was in­

volved in the following questions and answers (T3905)■







"The speed at which degradation takes place can be affected also, can it not, by the temperature of of the water?" There has been very little "One would imagine so.

study on this matter." "You ... are familiar with the work of Dr ZoBell are you not?"

"Yes, in part." "Does he not suggest that the processes of bio­ degradation are very much increased with the temperature?"

"Yes, in general this is certainly true." Professor Clark added, however, that different forms

of bacteria might have different temperatures of optimal ac­ tivity "I have been told that some bacteria ... have an optimum

temperature of around 5°C ... so it is quite possible in very

cold waters that there are bacteria which can operate at


extremely low temperatures. Nevertheless I think the suspicion

is that degradation in very cold waters is slow ... degradation

is probably faster in warmer waters than in cold." In this

connection Dr Pilpel (Ex 298 pp. 12/13) noted that "Below about

5°C it is rather slow and thus hardly proceeds at all in lat­

itudes beyond 75°N or S . In equatorial regions, on the other

hand, the rate of oxidation may be several hundred grams of

oil per cubic metre of contaminated seawater per year."

(v) Biodegradation and nutrient materials

2.2.26 The effects of variations of water salinity were not discussed but among other environmental conditions that were

instanced as being of importance in promoting an accelerated

rate of oil destruction, particular mention was made of the

concentration of nutrient salts present and of oxygen avail­

ability. Speaking of the nutrient requirements of yeasts and bacteria Professor Clark (T3641) said "They certainly need

phosphorus and nitrogen ... to make sure that they were not

prevented from multiplying at the maximum possible rate by a

shortage of these compounds"; and it was noted that in ex­ perimental cultures of bacteria in the presence of oil the

culture media are often enriched with nitrates and phophates

to ensure a maximum growth of micro-organisms capable

of degrading oil (e.g. Miget et al Ex 304).

(vi) Biodegradation and oxygen availability

2.2.27 Dr Grassle commenting on the oxygen requirements of oil degrading organisms said "The oxygen requirement in bac­

terial oil degradation is severe; the complete oxidation of 1 gallon of crude oil requires all the dissolved oxygen in

320,000 gallons of air-saturated seawater (ZoBell, 1969). Therefore, oxidation may be slow in areas where the oxygen content has been lowered by previous pollution ..." (T6190) According to Professor Clark who was among the many witnesses

who spoke of the importance of oxygen for rapid biodegradation,

"Davis and Hughes, 1968 have argued on theoretical grounds that


the initial oxidation of hydrocarbons must involve the presence

of molecular oxygen" (T3625), but he added that according to

experiments conducted by ZoBell, 1969, bacteria are known which are "capable of digesting oil under anaerobic conditions."

(T3626/7) When asked whether some oxygen may have been pres­

ent in the Louisiana muds which ZoBell was examining Professor

Clark agreed that this was a possibility. This did not how­

ever, in his view, affect the general conclusion that "you

can have bacteria that can do the job of oxidising oil under

conditions which are practically anaerobic if not absolutely

so" (T3629/30), though in comparison with aerobic oxidation

"anaerobic decay ... does not normally act as fast." (T3628)

Dr Pilpel (Ex 298 p .13) confirms this conclusion in saying

"Anaerobic oxidation is almost always much slower than aerobic oxidation and depends on the availability of nitrates,

phosphates, sulphates, etc. which the micro-organisms use as

a source of oxygen."

(vii) Biodegradation and the physical state of oil 2.2.28 The rate of biodegradation of oil is markedly affect­

ed by the state in which the oil is presented. All witnesses

who spoke on this subject, and who included Mr Cowell (T10982),

Mr Stanphill (TA582) and Professor Clark (T3625), agreed that dispersion of thick masses of oil promotes its more rapid

biodegradation. Professor Clark, having noted that "Degrada­ tion of hydrocarbons ... is facilitated if the hydrocarbons

present a large surface area" explained the matter further

in saying "Bacteria attack at surfaces so that if a given

quantity of oil is spread out so that it presents a very large

surface area, then this will provide a greater area which is

subject to bacterial attack. If on the other hand it is con­ centrated to a ball then it presents a minimal surface area

and it would be a very long time before the oil in the centre of this ball is ever within reach of the bacteria." (T3625)


(viii) Pathways of biodegradation

2.2.29 Little was said in evidence of the way in which

micro-organisms effect degradational changes or of the course

of the chemical reactions involved in biodegradation processes.

According to Dr Pilpel (Ex 298 p .13) "The chemical routes by

which oil is converted into carbon dioxide and water are com­

plicated and have not been worked out in detail." Intermediate

products include a great variety of organic acids, alcohols,

aldehydes and ketones, some of which according to the evidence

of Mr Cowell may be more toxic to organisms than the compounds

originally in the oil and from which they were derived (T10916).

(ix) Role of bacteria and other organisms 2.2.30 Professor Clark instanced a variety of micro-organisms

capable of assimilating one or more hydrocarbons, including many

species of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and protozoa (T36l6), and it is highly improbable that any two experimental cultures will

contain exactly the same mixture of micro-organisms. Moreover,

as Dr Pilpel (Ex 298,p.12) has pointed out, micro-organisms are

highly specific in respect of the hydrocarbons they can oxidise

"Some act on paraffinic hydrocarbons, ... others on aromatic

hydrocarbons ... and others on naphthenic hydrocarbons" - the

branched chain paraffins. Dr Grassle, after noting that "bac­

teria are highly selective" and that "complete degradation re­

quires many different bacterial species (ZoBell, 1969)" (T6189- 90), illustrated the consequence of their specific selectivity of action on particular types of compounds in saying that "bac­

terial degradation alters the ratio between paraffins and iso­

paraffins or between paraffins and aromatics." (T61A9) In other

words, the proportions of each category of hydrocarbons degraded

would depend upon the nature and number of the bacteria present.

(x) Aromatics 2.2.31 We may conclude by restating an aspect of biodegrada­ tion which found general acceptance namely that, of all the

classes of hydrocarbons, aromatics are the most resistant to


degradation and that their presence in anaerobic conditions

such as are met with in compacted sediments will further

accentuate their persistance, adding the reservation that

Mr Cowell made that this does not necessarily mean that "they

stay in the environment almost forever." (T11010)



(a) Introduction

2.3.1 Oil when spilled on to the surface of the sea comes

under the influence of externally imposed forces which cause

it to be drifted from its place of release often over long dis­

tances. Oil from the 'Torrey Canyon' spill which was reported

in the evidence of Professor Clark (T3790) and Mr Norrie

(T6019) among other witnesses as having reached the coast of Prance had, for example, travelled more than 200 nautical miles

from the place of release.

The long distances over which spilled oil may travel make consideration of the circumstances which determine its

speed and direction of movement of evident importance in de­

termining the answers to be given to TR2 (the effects of oil

on eco-systems) and TR3 (the areas of the GBRP (if any) in which

drilling for oil would cause so little detriment that drilling there for petroleum might be permitted).

In this Part the general nature and action of the

forces which determine the speed and course of oil movements on the sea surface are examined in the light of the evidence

received. Probability predictions of oil movements in the

GBRP which take into account the special meteorological and

hydrological features of the Province are to be found in para­ graphs PI.4.57 - 61 and are also referred to in paragraph

3 -2 .2 .

Evidence on the movements of oil at sea was given by

several witnesses all of whom agreed that the speed and direc­

tion of the movement of oil is determined primarily by forces

supplied by wind-generated and tidal surface currents.

(b) Wind generated surface currents 2.3.2 The Commission had the benefit of a very detailed

analysis of the action of winds in promoting surface currents


and oil movements in the evidence of Dr Spillane, Principal

Research Scientist, Division of Atmospheric Physics, CSIRO

(T12308-12433)· We commend Dr Spillane's account to the scientific reader but think it unnecessary to quote it in detail

for our present purposes. We therefore report on the main re­

sults of Dr Spillane's findings, and relate them to the evidence

of other witnesses.

Dr Spillane estimated, from a theoretical evaluation

supported by small scale experiments, that some 90% of the

momentum supplied to floating oil would be generated by sur­

face water movements, the remaining 10% being the result of the

shearing thrusts of the wind acting directly on the oil (T12318).

Wind generated surface currents were described as developing

through wind roughening of the surface into small ripples or

capillary waves "... only inches in wave length" and "... cent­

imetres or less" in height which "... grip the air flow and

transfer momentum out of the air into the sea." (T12318) The

individual capillary waves are checked by viscous drag from below and their momentum is transferred into a "... steady drift

or stream at the surface" (T13419) which, thrusting behind an

oil slick, imparts to it a forward momentum.

The more familiar large and long-period sea waves are,

according to Dr Spillane, much less efficient in moving an oil

slick. Water particles in long, high energy wave-trains os­

cillate backwards and forwards in the development of crests and troughs. A small residual forward movement, described by

Dr Spillane as the "Stokes wave transport" (T12322), while

effective in moving small floating objects, does not impart to

a large oil slick a substantial forward movement but creates a

turbulence which erodes the under surface of the slick and pro­

motes emulsification of the oil.

2.3.3 Evidence relating the velocity of wind-developed sur­

face currents to the speed of the current-generating wind was

received from a variety of sources. Dr Nelson-Smith (Ex 365

p.238) quoted figures based on observed rates of movement of oil


slicks and of other floating objects such as plastic cards under

varying wind speeds which ranged from 3.3 to 4,2% of wind speed.

Mr Mansfield gave support to a relationship of 3.3$ between oil

movement and wind speed (T7212); and Dr Maxwell, adopted a

probable range of 3.0 to 3.4$ for the S.E. trade wind regime

in the GBRP (T1644). Mr Rochford made the point that factors

such as a low density of the surface water might increase the

rate of transport "beyond the normal 3$ of wind speed" to "something like 5%", but added that "this is by no means con­ firmed from actual observations." (T2008) Some quantification

of the expected relationship of wind speed to surface current

was given by Dr Spillane who, on theoretical grounds, calculat­

ed that in wind speeds up to 10 knots oil might be expected to

travel at 2.8$ of the wind speeds; at 18 knots at about 2.5$;

with a steady decrease to 2.33$ for a 26 knot wind (T12362-3). Winds of these strengths and persisting for 24 hours would, it may be noted, respectively move oil over distances of about 8,

13 and 17 miles.

(c) The determination of local winds and of local wind changes 2.3.4 The speed and direction with which an oil slick moves before the wind can only be directly and with some accuracy computed from a knowledge of the direction and force of the wind

in the place where the slick is. This knowledge is rarely if ever in practice attainable by direct measurement, for the number of localities where recordings are made are necessarily few in comparison with the sea area to be covered. Mr Shields,

Regional Director (Queensland-Papua Region) of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology illustrated the difficulties in obtaining

adequate data of this kind in the GBRP in pointing out at T332- 6 that barometric pressures , surface wind directions and speeds and temperature measurements are transmitted to the Bureau at three-hourly intervals from four continuously recording stations supplemented by "good observations or long and comprehensive records" from some 21 stations listed in Exhibit 16. He added,


"Whilst the types of wind data presentation are satisfactory

for a general description of the wind regime over an area or

at a particular place they do not altogether meet the wind

data requirements for a study of the likely spread of oil

pollution over a given area except in a general way. The type of wind data array required would have to be specially

prepared in a form showing persistence of wind in direction

and speed at each station. Furthermore, whilst wind data

from low, small reef and island stations are representative

of a fairly large area, the wind patterns in coastal areas and off-shore islands with high topography are much mor-e

complex and are further complicated by land and sea breeze effects. A much denser network of wind stations would be

required to give a reliable wind analysis of any coastal area

under investigation." (T336) In practice it is customary, because of these

limitations, to determine and in some measure to predict the

changing patterns of wind flow in a particular area in another

way which was explained to the Commission by Dr Spillane at


The method depends essentially on a knowledge of the

atmospheric pressure distribution in a given area such as are illustrated in weather maps and on calculations made "from synoptic charts simply by looking at the isobars and determin­

ing the speed at which the air will be moving from a high pressure area to a low pressure area" ... "The accuracy must depend on the accuracy of the information on which the analysis

of the pressure distribution was based." (T12337) Dr Spillane explained the further calculations, assumptions and corrections

that were made in deriving from these data predictions of the direction and speed of surface winds in the area. The main

steps involve:

Ca) estimations of the velocity of what he termed the gradient wind which "is approached at some height above the ground approximately a kilometre"



(b) the estimation, by. the application of an appropriate (two-thirds) reduction factor, of the surface wind speed in terms of the speed of the gradient wind;

(c) corrections for the determination of the direction of the surface wind that take account of gradient wind deviations due to the earth's rotation (Coriolis force)

(T12338); and

(d) corrections relating to air stability (based on air/sea temperature gradients) which, as Dr Spillane noted, result in a predicted water surface drift (in the GBRP Zone) some 10-12°to the left of the surface wind (T12350).

This method of prediction though not meeting "... the

wind data requirements for a study of the likely spread of oil

pollution over a given area except in a general way" (Mr Shields, T336) nevertheless led Captain Hildebrand, Port Master

of the Department of Harbours and Marine, Queensland to give what might be called a 'users' summary of the reliability of

the accuracy of the wind forecasts issued by the Bureau of Meteorology in saying that "In my experience the forecasts ...

are accurate except for some variations from forecast wind

velocity. Examples of dramatic change of direction from those

forecast are so rare as to be negligible." (T302)

2.3.5 Predictions of this kind, though not fully reliable,

enable searches for slicks to be made by ships and aircraft with economy of effort for subsequent visual tracking or tracking by more sophisticated methods to which reference is made in para­

graphs 3.3.9 and 4.4.63.

2.3.6 The wind data collected over long periods of time serve the further purpose of providing historical data upon

which to establish the general seasonal patterns of the wind regime in the several regions of a given sea area such as that

of the GBRP. When these patterns follow definable trends such as are identifiable in the prevalence in the greater part of the

GBRP over long periods of the year of South-Easterly trades


veering from time to time from the east or south, the informa­

tion so gained can be used with some confidence in predicting

the most likely directions of oil drift within the Province.

This subject is developed in detail in paragraphs PI.4.57-61

and 3-2.2 and referred to briefly in paragraph 2.3.9 infra.

(d) Tidal currents

2.3.7 Tidal currents, which were dealt with in detail by

Dr Maxwell, are generated by gravitational forces exerted by the moon and sun, and are manifested as large scale movements

of water which develop rhythmic oscillations of ebb and flow

the scale and shape of which are largely determined in coastal

waters by physical features such as the configuration of the

coastline, the size and shape of the sea basin and the bathym­

etry of the sea floor (T133 et seq). Oil slicks are moved by tidal streams in accordance with the velocity and direction of

the streams at the surface. Mr Mansfield said, in speaking to

this point, that "To a very high approximation it is moving

exactly at the same velocity as the water ... and in the same

direction." (T7214) In respect of the GBRP the data on tidal currents are

few and are almost all contained in the Australian Pilot and hydrographic charts. No doubt, for this reason, they are

particularly lacking outside the areas of navigation channels

and the approaches to harbours. Such evidence as there is

suggests that the tidal currents run fastest through reef passages of the shelf edge and in narrow channels through

which streams are funnelled. In the open waters of the shelf

the current velocities are lower.

"In most instances where tidal current directions

have been recorded in the hydrographic charts the ebb tide

direction is the reverse of the flood tide." (T19^/6) In reef

passages around reefs and near to the shore the strength and direction of the current may be different on the flood and the

ebb, and, as an additional complication, it was reported by Dr

Maxwell, in respect of the southern region, that "large gyrals


of turbulent water occur on leeward and ocean sides of the shelf

edge reefs and appear to be associated with tidal current flow."

(T139) Mr Rochford also agreed that "the configuration of the

reefs may produce substantial local variations in water move­

ment." (T2014)

2.3-8 The difficulty of making accurate predictions of the

course which an oil slick will take following a spill is com­

pounded by the often complicated and unknown vagaries of water

current patterns. This was made clear by Professor Woodhead in

describing the directions taken by drifters designed to float

at 1 metre depth when released from 24 stations off the coast of

Queensland in the southern (Heron Island) region of the GBRP.

"A striking feature of the investigation was the very widespread distribution of the sea surface drifters indicating a high

degree of horizontal dispersion in the region" ... "combinations of large and small eddy systems, imposed by the physiographic

peculiarities of the region would be expected to produce a far

higher degree of dispersion ... than would normally be the case in the open seas." (T5266) However, Mr Mansfield, at T7214,

stressed the importance of the purely surface current in the

movement of oil slicks and said that a current measured at a

metre down "may have no relation to the thrust at the surface.

It could even be in the opposite direction." For this reason

the Commission considers that the experiments carried out by

Professor Woodhead and described at T5255 et seq, whilst

interesting and important as hydrographical observations indic­

ative of the unforeseen complications of local current patterns,

are not of themselves informative of the directions which oil

slicks, driven by purely surface currents would move in the area

in which he made his observations.

(e) Oil movements determined by both wind and ■

tidal surface currents 2.3.9 Several witnesses spoke of oil movements as resulting

from both wind and tidal current effects (for example, Dr Max­ well T164; Mr Mansfield T7212, T7232; Dr Spillane T12316). Of


the surface currents caused by wind and tide all witnesses who

gave evidence on this subject agreed that, in the open sea,

under most circumstances wind was the more important in gen­

erating movements of oil though none discounted the effects of

tidal currents. Thus: "The wind does appear to be the deter­

mining factor, but ... if you have calm seas and you have

currents active they become a significant factor. In the case

of reefs and particularly the reef edge, or the edge of the

reef province, where you have extremely fast tidal currents, I

think they are factors to be taken into account ..." (Dr Max­

well, T1642-3); "I would say in ... a very strong wind of

about 30 knots, you would have to have very strong water

currents to influence greatly the path the oil followed" (Mr

Rochford T2009) and "... on the average tides the wind has the

influence on the water movement of the barrier reef. It in­ fluences the water more." (Mr Bryson, T13548)

2.3.10 So little is known of the precise nature of set of

tidal currents over the Province as a whole, other than in

navigational channels and approaches to ports, that the Com­ mission is disinclined to comment on their effects in deter­

mining the movements of oil slicks other than in the most

general terms. It is apparent that whenever the tide moves

across the wind, as it may frequently be expected to do, the

side to side sweep of the moving oil extends the area of its

water cover and therefore enlarges the number of the emergent

features such as islands and cays that may come within its

path. If however the tides are oscillating in the direction

of the wind the tidal effects of ebb and flow will be sub­

stantially compensatory. At the approach to shore lines move­

ment of oil towards the land may be expected to be accelerated on the incoming tide whilst the eddies and gyrals around shoals,

islands and the coastline may be expected to produce trans­

locations and disruptions of a slick the character of which

are difficult or impossible to predict and will normally only

be evident by direct observation.




(a) General

2.4.1 The types of information most needed from experiments

for the interpretation of the effects of oil spills into the

sea relate to the toxicity of oils of differing composition,

age and state of presentation; the significance of the dif­

ferent time/concentration applications implicit in acute and

chronic pollution; the differential sensitivities to oil of different species of organisms; and the degree of damage

caused to organisms by oil presented under these varying sets of circumstances.

2.4.2 "At first sight", Professor Clark noted at T3643 "it should be a relatively simple matter to comment on the toxicity

of oil, but in fact, it is not. Crude oil from different

sources varies widely in its composition. ... Different organ­ isms show at least as great variation in their sensitivity to toxic materials of any kind and furthermore are often more

sensitive at some periods of their life than others; there is no such thing as a standard animal. There are also technical difficulties in determining the toxicity to aquatic animals of materials that are not miscible with water. ...Added to this there is no uniformity in test procedures or of recording

toxicities so that it is difficult to make more than a super­

ficial comparison between such results as have been published." Professor Clark added "It is worth emphasizing the deficiencies and problems of toxicity tests of oil products and too much should not be read into the results that are available. In

particular, laboratory tests are meaningless until their find­

ings can be applied to the very different situation that prevails under natural operational conditions." (T3643)


2.4.3 In making toxicity tests Professor Clark said "...

one performs experiments on a very large number of organisms

simply in order to get an average figure, because a single

animal is representative only of itself. One is really in­

terested in what is the normal or average response of this

type of animal and that means studying a number; the larger

the number, the more accurate or reliable your answer will

be ...." (T3645) Two types of test are used. "It is common

practice to measure the time it takes for 50 per cent of the

test animals to reach whatever has been selected as a criterion

of death. This is indicated as TD 50 (time for death of 50

per cent of organisms)." Alternatively, the toxicity of a

substance may be assessed by measuring against a test organism" ...the mortality at various concentrations of the toxin ...

This is achieved by standardizing the exposure time and re­

cording the concentration of toxin required to achieve 50

per cent mortality of test organisms in that interval. This is indicated by LC 50 (lethal concentration for 50 per cent

of test organisms)." (T3646) The results of experiments of these two kinds were made known to the Commission mainly

through Exhibits 289, 2993 365 and 404, and the evidence of Professor Clark (T3600 et seq), Mr Cowell (T10908 et seq)

and Dr Connell (T7071 et seq).

2.4.4 The toxicity of oils, of the different fractions of

oil, and of the individual hydrocarbon components which they contain was usefully summarized by Professor Clark (T3600) and

Mr Cowell (T10908 et seq) . Because these two witnesses coverec

for the most part the same literature sources and were sub­

stantially in agreement in their interpretations of them, Mr Cowell's commentaries may be allowed to speak for them both.

(b) The toxicity of different types of hydrocarbons 2.4.5 Mr Cowell said, in introducing the subject at T10908,

"Crude oils of different origins vary widely in physical prop­

erties and chemical composition. The toxicities of· different

fractions of crude oil have been investigated to some extent.


There is agreement that the toxicity increases along the series

paraffins, naphthenes, olefins to aromatics ... Within each

series of hydrocarbons the smaller molecules are more toxic

than the larger; octane and decane (normal paraffins) are

very toxic while dodecane (12 carbon atoms) and higher paraffins

are nearly non-toxic. However, 12 carbon atom olefins are quite

toxic, and 12 carbon aromatics more so." When Mr Cowell was

asked, at T10919, if all aromatics, whether they are high or

low in the number of their carbon atoms, are toxic he answered

"I think I would have to say that all aromatics have some tox­

icity, but the ones with very large molecules and a high carbon

number are among the least toxic materials in crude oils."

2.4.6 In explanation of the different levels of toxicity of

compounds of the same series but of differing molecular size, Mr Cowell noted that solubility is a function of molecule size,

the smaller the molecule, the greater its solubility; and he

added that "the more soluble the material the higher its tox­ icity." (T10912). It is clear from Mr Cowell's remarks that

when he speaks of toxicity he has in mind the toxicity of a

compound when in selutlon, and it is notable that most of the

toxicity tests on organisms that were referred to in evidence

(some of which are considered in greater detail later) were of

oil or of hydrocarbon components in solution or in the fine

droplet emulsions which are often difficult to distinguish

from true solutions. But it is possible that oil may have a

different effect on organisms when in direct contact with them,

either on their surfaces especially if they are lipophilic

(oil attracting) - Mr Cowell at T11057 - or within their bodies.

Mr Cowell himself, for example, (T11019) quoted Nelson-Smith on

the lethal effects of fresh oil on limpets when placed in direct

contact with them, and Professor Clark (T3652A-55), among other witnesses, instanced damage to plants coated with oil.

(c) Oil composition and toxicity: The Ottway experiments

2.4.7 Mr Cowell, having noted at TIO988 that "Crude oils of different origins vary very widely in physical properties


and chemical composition" but that "As yet ... no classifica­

tion of crude oils in toto has been formulated according to

toxicity", drew the attention of the Commission to some "...

preliminary work carried out during October and November 1970,

intended to investigate the relative toxicities of different

crude oils and to establish any correlations between toxicity

and physical and chemical properties of the oils." This study,

the only one of its kind to be brought to the notice of the

Commission, had been undertaken by Miss Shiela Ottway under Mr Cowell's supervision. Her paper "The comparative tox­

icities of crude oils" was tendered as Exhibit 404 at T.l0965·

Miss Ottway was not called as a witness.

2.4.8 For the purpose of the experiments, Mr Cowell said

"Twenty crude oils of widely differing origins were supplied

by the British Petroleum Co. Ltd. together with tables of some

physical and chemical properties of each oil. Each oil was

assigned to a code number (CT-^, CTg, CT^ etc.) and was then tested for toxicity ... Batches of 50 animals were treated for

one hour with the oils, then washed and put into tanks contain­

ing aerated seawater, with controls. Recovery was assessed

over the following five-day period. Trials were run in the

same way at different temperatures: at 3°C, 16°C and 26°C.

Animals used at 3°C and 26°C were acclimatised to these temp­ eratures over the 24 hour period prior to beginning the ex­ periments ... Three species of intertidal animals were selected

for preliminary tests; these were Patella vulgata, Littorina littorea and Littorina littoralis ... the limpet, the edible periwinkle and the flat periwinkle (of British shores) in that

order ... Of these three species L. littoralis proved to be the most moderately resistant and therefore the most suitable animal for experiments with oils of widely differing properties.

P. vulgata, the limpet, was found to be too sensitive, being the most susceptible common shore animal (Crapp, 1969), while

L.littorea was too resistant with the range of oils used."


2.4.9. Details of the composition and properties of the 20

oils used in the experiments were given in Table 1 (a) and

Table 1 (b) of Exhibit 404. They included specific gravities

in a range from 'light1 to 'heavy' (0.738 to 0.973), a sulphur

content from 0.01? to 2.85? by weight, an asphaltene content

from 0 to 5.8? by weight, viscosities (at 38^0) from 1.65 to

739 centistoke units, representing "very fluid" to "very stiff"

oils, colours from light amber to black and distillate analyses

of fractions to 149°C, 232°C, 343°C, and 371°C boiling point,

indicative of the proportions of the components of differing

carbon number present in the various oils. The aromatic content

of the Cj- to l49°C cut was also determined as a percentage of

the total weight. These varied from 1% to 25.5? in the 20 oils

used in the experiments.

2.4.10 The percentage mortalities of L. littoralis after one hour of coating of oil and a five day period in clean water for

possible recovery, were also recorded for different experimen­

tal temperatures. They varied from 7 - 82% at 3°C, 1 - 89? at

l6°C and 2 - 65? at 26°C.

2.4.11 Miss Ottway sought to relate the differing toxicities

of the oils used in her experiments to specific chemical and physical characteristics of the several oils. She concluded

(Ex.404,pp.7,8) that "No clear-cut correlations of toxicity with chemical composition data are immediately apparent,

although certain tendencies are indicated. For example, oils with high sulphur and asphaltene content tend to be more toxic

at low temperatures. Also, the order of toxicity of crude oils

at 16°C is fairly consistent with that of the proportion of

aromatics and total distillate to l49°C. This correlation is

not apparent at 3°C and 26°C suggesting that at these temperatures other components of oil confer more toxicity."

2.4.12 As an alternative explanation of the lowered toxicity at the higher temperature, Miss Ottway suggests at p .6. of her

paper that "This is in accordance with the attribution of much


of the toxicity of crude oil to its most volatile aromatic

components, which evaporate readily at such high temperatures."

2.4.13 Mr. Cowell was questioned further on these

conclusions as follows:

"This means that there appears to be a

relationship in crude oils with the quantity

of aromatic compounds in the various oils ? --That is correct." "The oils which have the highest percentage of

aromatic compounds are also the most toxic?

-- Yes." "But you qualify that by relating it particularly

to the aromatic compounds which boil below 149°C?

-- Yes. Again I would like to comment this is easy to

do in the laboratory but because of the speed with which these materials evaporate it is very

hard to repeat under field conditions."(T10913) At T10930 Mr. Cowell re-emphasised this point in

saying "High mortalities recorded in the laboratory were not found under field conditions due to the evaporation of many

toxic low boiling aromatics and the dilution of those

fractions which pass into solution. Work on the toxicity of soluble fractions is continuing but so far only low toxicities

are recorded from solutions made under simulated field

conditions using vented containers."

2.4.14 Bearing in mind some statements by Mr Keith

(T12056/8) earlier reported to the effect that " All hydro­

carbons are only very slightly soluble in water - in the range of parts per million," that " The solubility decreases

very rapidly with increase in molecular weight", and that

"Aromatics are more soluble than paraffins or naphthenes"; and the conclusion we then drew "that the crude oil compounds

which most readily dissolve in sea water lie within the same


range of carbon numbers as those which most readily evaporate",

it is of interest to note, the following comment by Miss Ottway

(Ex. 404, pp.8 and 9) on her experimental findings:

"Different crude oils also vary in the amount of

water-soluble fractions they contain. Initial investigations

have shown that a certain proportion of the toxicity of a

crude oil is attributable to the water-soluble fraction it contains. These water-soluble fractions of crude oil are

probably of little biological importance in the open sea where

excessive dilution occurs, but may well have profound effects

on living organisms in rock pools and in shallow waters due to

their high concentration."

2.4.15 "It is also apparent ... that the blackest and thick­

est crude oils are the least toxic, while the translucent thin,

brown oils are the most toxic at l6°C. This is a very import­

ant fact since a thick, black oil, when washed up on a shore,

is very conspicuous and therefore readily dealt with. A thin,

brown oil washed up in the same way, however, is virtually

transparent and may therefore go unnoticed, even though its

toxicity may be 90 times as great as that of the thick black

oil. "

2.4.16 Miss Ottway stated as her conclusions:

1. Different crude oils vary widely in their toxic effects on intertidal organisms.

2. Toxicities of different crude oils vary

greatly with temperature.

3. Low-boiling fractions of crude oil confer

a considerable degree of toxicity, although other toxic elements have residual toxicities.

(d) Toxicity of weathered oil

2.4.17 The sole evidence on this subject deriving from laboratory experiments is a brief reference by Mr Cowell at

T10988 to work by Baker (1969) and Crapp (1969) who independent­ ly "found Kuwait residue to be far less toxic than the fresh


crude, indicating the high proportion of toxicity conferred by

the volatile components of crude oil." Neither paper was

tendered in evidence.

(e) Toxicity and the manner of oil presentation

(i) Intertidal animals

2.4.18 The experiments of Ottway,Baker and Crapp referred to

above were designed to test the effects on organisms of oil which has been allowed to come into direct contact with

animals, a method which simulates field conditions of stranded

oil deposited, for example, on the bodies of intertidal species.

A more realistic simulation of periodic presentation and

withdrawal of oil is provided by keeping animals in aquaria in which oil-covered water is allowed to rise and fall with the

periodicity of tidal movements. Professor Clark at T3656

quoted experiments by Griffith (1970) who maintained mussels (Mytilus) and periwinkles (Littorina littorea) under simulated

tidal cycles with oil floating on the surface of the water but periodically coating the animals as the water drained off as an

equivalent to low tide, both species being intertidal. Mussels survived 120 hrs of this regime when exposed to Aramco crude oil

from which volatiles representing 11 - 14% of the original volume

has been lost by evaporation. Littorina showed a 50% mortality in 10-12 hrs at 4.6°C and in 2-4 hrs at 11°C under these


(ii) Plankton ( See also paragraphs PI.6.158-161) 2.4.19 These methods of presentation are not however suitable

for testing the effects of oil on organisms that do not normally

come into direct contact with an oil slick, for example,

planktonic organisms, or fish eggs, which swim or float in the open water, and which must make their contact with oil either

in solution or droplet suspension. Professor Clark at

T3664-69A described experiments by Kuhnhold (1969,1970) designed to simulate conditions under an oil slick. Three oils of Venezuelan, Iranian and Libyan origin were each placed in

measured quantity over 30 litres of water in proportions of

10,000, 1,000 and 100 parts per million of oil to water.


The water was stirred and the clear extracts used to test the

visibility of cod eggs to 100 hours of exposure to the oil

components in solution in the water, clean water being used as 4

a control. Significant mortalities were found in the 10 and 1 2

10 p.p.m. oil extracts, but not in the 10 p.p.m. solutions,

and on the evidence of additional deaths occurring on transfer

to clean water it was concluded that some of the eggs that had

not died after 100 hours exposure had nevertheless suffered irreparable damage.

2.4.20 Mironov (1970) in a paper "The effect of oil pollut­

ion on flora and fauna of the Black Sea", which was tendered

at T6071 as Exhibit 289, conducted similar experiments to test the viabilit _es of eleven species of the smaller planktonic

plants, of five species of copepods, and of fish eggs and larvae to different quantities of crude oil, of undefined

composition presented as a film on the surface of the water.

In Table II of Exhibit 289 Mironov shows that oil when in

sufficient concentration (1 p.p.m. and above) in the water has a toxic effect on all these animals. As an example of the

nature of the effects produced and the concentrations of oil

required to produce them it was found, in the several species of planktonic algae tested, that proportions of the order of 0.1 to 1.0 parts of oil per million parts of water produced no measurable effect; that concentrations of 10-100 p.p.m. inhibited or delayed their cell division; and that 100-1000 p.p.m. concentrations resulted in death after a five day

exposure. However, the sensitivity of individual species varied widely. "This is most clearly seen in the case of

Pitylum brightwellii and Melosira moniliformis, where the difference in sensitivity to oil pollution amounted to the

order (of magnitude)of 3-4." (Exhibit 289, p.l.)

2.4.21 It is important to recognise that the recorded levels

of sublethal and lethal dosages are valid only for the condi­

tions of the experiment and do not necessarily apply to condi­

tions in the open sea where Mironov himself notes at p .3 of


his paper that "One of the peculiarities of oil pollution is

its rapid movement under the effects of currents and winds,"

However, as Mironov further observes in respect of the survive

al of fishes under oil films, "When (in experiments) oil

products were emulsified in the sea water, the damage was

much greater than in the case of oil films on the surface" and

"emulsification can often be observed in nature as a result of

water mixing and other factors." (Exhibit 289, p.2)

2.4.22 Mironov, in speaking of the rapid movement of oil

pollution under the effects of currents and winds, goes on to

say (p.3) "This gives rise to the possibility of a short time

contact between oil and marine organisms which is followed by marine organisms re-entering the water." On the other hand, Mironov's experiments strongly indicate that, under conditions

of a continuing oil presence such as may be found in enclosed

and slowly moving waters of lagoons and embayments, more

radical and long lasting deleterious changes may be imposed on planktonic communities important as food sources for other animals and for the recruitment of new generations of a variety of marine organisms.

(f) The differential sensitivity of different types

of organisms to oil

2.4.23 It is helpful, when assessing in field observations the effects of spills of crude oil on individual marine organs

isms and on the ecosystems of which they are a part, to have some prior understanding, through experiments, of the

measure in which different kinds of organisms, in the various stages of their life history are able to tolerate the stresses imposed upon them by the pollutant substances; and this kind of information is equally of value in making predictive judge­ ments, as the Commission has been called upon to do, of what

may happen if oil is spilled in an area which had not previous­

ly been subject to oil pollution at a biologically significant



2.4.24 Information is usually most needed in respect of

organisms that have an especial aesthetic, recreational or

economic interest to man such as the corals of the GBRP,

game fish and the many economically valuable sources of food

to be found, for example, among the molluscs, Crustacea and

fishes; and the testing of their resistance to toxic

materials is clearly, for purely practical reasons, an obvious

prior purpose of experimentation.

2.4.25 The reports we received of experiments designed to

test the sensitivity of marine organisms to crude oils covered

a rather limited range of species and the results were often

confusing and, at times, uninformative. For example, few

investigators have made known the composition and properties

of the oil they were testing; and in many instances the manner of presentation of the oil, notably its concentration

and physical state, is not clearly stated.

2.4.26 Because the conditions of experimentation vary so

greatly in different investigations no useful purpose would

be served by quoting in detail quantitative figures of

toxicity threshold values that might invite misleading

comparisons. . Instead, a brief review will be made of the reported effects of crude oil on organisms contained within the

broader groups of plant and animal classification. ( i )

(i) Plants - including salt marsh plants and mangroves.

2.4.27 Of the algae which attach to rocks between and below

the tide marks Dr. Cribb said at T 4791, on the authority of

Dr Nelson-Smith (1968) who himself made the observations, that

following the 'Torrey Canyon' spill of Kuwait crude oil:

"There were few areas where the effects of oil alone could be

studied but such observations as were made suggest that the

oil alone was relatively harmless to plant life" and that oil polluted "rock pools contained ... photo synthesising algae and

brightly-coloured corallines although oil clung around the

sides or floated in the centre." The significant comment was


added that " ... oil from the 'Torrey Canyon' had been

floating at sea for at least a day, in some cases much longer,

before reaching the shore, and had probably lost some of its

toxic constituents through evaporation or solution."

Professor Clark, quoting some experiments by Tsuruga (1970)

in which intertidal weeds had been exposed in water to fresh

light marine fuel oil which presumably still retained some toxic substances, said that the red weed "Porphyra survives

2 hr exposure to light marine fuel oil without harm, but

after 3 hrs or longer exposure an increasing proportion of

plants are damaged even though then transferred to clean

water. After 10 hrs exposure to the oil, and return to

clean water, all plants show damage ’ within 72 hrs" and he

added "of the seaweeds, brown algae appear relatively resistant to oils ... but observations on the shore indicate

that red and green algae are more susceptible to damage."

(T3655) Dr. Nelson-Smith (Ex. 365, p . 255) suggested that this differential susceptibility to oil might be due to the fact that "The larger brown algae are covered with a coat

of mucilage which is not readily wetted by fresh oils".

However, "Emulsified oils or "mousses" will cling more readily ... and may cause the overweighted plants to be torn

off by waves" though "A considerable portion of most marine

plants can be damaged without necessarily destroying their

capacity to recover".

2.4.28 At the upper reaches of the tide Professor Clark said "The coastal wetlands may be developed as salt marsh or

mangrove swamps. The vegetation is primarily of land plants specialized to tolerate an elevated salt concentration in the

water and soil" (T3687) "Mangroves much more than salt marsh vegetation ... make an important biological contribution

to the marine environment. Mangrove swamps shelter an

extensive fauna particularly of fish, crustaceans and molluscs ... The swamps are also considered to be important nursery

grounds for many young prawns and fish of commercial importance." (T3688) Professor Clark said that "Both salt


marshes and mangroves tend to trap oil ... and that because of

the sheltered position in which mangroves develop and the slow

water movements, it is unlikely that oil deposited there would

be removed by wave action (MacNae, 1968)." (T3688)

2.4.29 In respect of salt marsh communities Mr. Cowell said

of the work with which he had been associated that: "Observa­

tions following oil spills were made at Milford Haven, S.W.

Wales by Cowell, 1969, Baker, 1970 and Cowell and Baker, 1969,

and experimental simulated oil pollution had been done by spraying oil at different times of the year." (T10924) It

was found that "oil adheres firmly to the plants and very little is washed off during successive tides." Under oil

films, leaves may remain green initially but eventually yellow

and die. Plants, however, recover by producing new shoots, a

few of which can usually be seen within three weeks of polluting

unless large quantities of oil have soaked into the plant bases

and soil. Seedlings and annuals rarely recover directly."

(T10925) Earlier investigations by Mackin quoted by Dr. Nelson-Smith (Ex. 365, p. 256) confirmed these findings.

2.4.30 "Mackin (1950, a - c) tested the effects of crude

oil on salt marsh plants. Saltgrass Distychlis spicata (L) glasswort (Salicornia spp.), cordgrass (Spartina sp.) and

young mangroves (Rhizophora sp.) were more sensitive than oysters. In one series of experiments they were damaged by

25 ml oil per square ft of water surface (about 280 ml/m^).

Some plants were rapidly killed but there was a complete repopulation later." Dr. Nelson-Smith notes, however, that

experiments by Baker (1969) show that fresh oils are more toxic than weathered oils and indeed "she found that weathered

oil has a growth-stimulating effect and discusses unpublished Russian work suggesting that naphthenic acid might act as a

phytohormone." (Exhibit 365, p . 256)

2.4.31 Of the ecology of mangroves, Professor Clark said at

T3689, "The mud of mangrove swamps is anoxic and rich in


hydrogen sulphide, and the root systems of mangroves have

extensive air spaces which carry oxygen below the mud surface.

The air spaces open at lenticels on the air roots of Avicennia

and the prop roots of Rhizophora. When the lenticels are

covered by water, the air pressure within the roots falls as

oxygen is used up. At low tide when the lenticels are above

water air is drawn into the roots ... Removal of the air roots

of Avicennia or greasing the prop roots of Rhizophora causes

a progressive fall of oxygen concentration in the root air spaces to 1 - 2% over two days (Scholander, van Dam and

Scholander, 1955). Clogging the lenticels with oil and

preventing transpiration is an obvious danger from extensive

oil pollution and might cause damage and death of the plant.

An additional hazard is from the direct toxic effects of oils"

and he quotes the observations of Mackin already referred to in support of this.

2.4.32 Thus, Professor Johannes at T4230 said of the tanker

'Argea Prima' spill of crude oil later referred to in more

detail: "The oil striking mangrove shores settled among the roots and where the amount of oil was great, the habitat was

virtually destroyed." Dr. St. Amant, on the other hand, when asked by Mr. Woodward Q.C. at T4111 in respect of the

mangroves on the coastline of Louisiana: "Has there been any

observation of the effect of chronic or acute oil pollution to your knowledge?" replied, "All I can say is that oil did not kill them. We had plenty of mangroves, before the cold

weather (of 1960/61 and 1963) did".

(ii) Animals - including coelenterates, echinoderms and


2.4.33 Zoologists recognise more than twenty distinctively different architectural styles of animals, each of which is

termeda phylum. The effects of oil were reported in respect

of a relatively few species drawn from only seven of the

phyla namely the Protozoa (usually minute single-celled

animals), the Coelenterata (which include anemones and corals),


Annelida (ring worms and bristle worms (polychaetes)), Arthro-

poda (of which the Crustacea are the dominant marine class),

Mollusca (e.g. bivalves and sea snails), Echinodermata (e.g.

starfishes and sea urchins) and the Chordata (e.g. fishes).

No information was received on animals of other phyla which

include such forms as sponges, flat worms, round worms, arrow worms, lamp shells and sea squirts, to name but a few of the

diverse and often very abundant kinds of animals found in

coastal waters or on sea shores (see, for example, Dr Isobel

Bennett "The Great Barrier Reef" (Exhibit 451)).

2.4.34 Professor Clark introduced the subject of the tox­

icity of oils to animals in saying "Animals vary widely in

their exposure to environmental changes as well as in their

physiological responses to them. Species with a protective

shell that can be sealed when external conditions are unfavourable are at a considerable advantage and can usually

withstand temporary immersion in a toxic medium. Bivalve molluscs, operculate gastropods and some barnacles fall within

this category, but within each group species differ in their

abilities to produce and maintain an effective seal." (T3655- 6) Dr. Grassle referring to the possible correlation between

the size and age of organisms and their susceptibility to

toxic compounds said, in quoting Kuhnhold, 1970 and Mironov,

1969, that "A number of laboratory studies have shown that

larvae of marine invertebrates are far more sensitive to oil

pollution than adults" (T6219), a view which found tentative

agreement in Professor Clark's statement that " ... it is

possible that the plankton, a large proportion of single-

celled organisms, eggs, larvae and unprotected animals, is

more vulnerable to the toxins than are many organisms in other

environments." (T366I) Dr. Grassle was further of the

opinion that "the sub-tidal areas in general have species

which are far less resistant to various types of disturbance

than the species in the intertidal" (T6267); and Dr Fauchauld, who had surveyed the benthic organisms in the

Santa Barbara Channel following the blowout of the production


well A-21, was of the opinion that "A study of the smaller,

lesser known organisms such as polychaetous annelids or amphi-

pod crustaceans might be of more value in estimating the

effects of pollutants in the water than a survey of the large

common organisms." (Exhibit 281, Volume I p.73).

It is apparent on reading the scattered references within the transcripts of evidence to the responses of differ­

ent kinds of animals to oil in the sea that, whilst there is

a large measure of truth in all these generalisations, none

fully probes the subtleties of differential adaptation which

distinguish the observable differences of response shown by

animals of seemingly similar structural adaptations, size, age, or closely alike in habit, or zoological relationship. Dr

Nelson-Smith in Exhibit 365 (pp. 247-55) conveniently sum­ marises many of the examples which were for the most part

elsewhere quoted in evidence.

2.4.35 Among the coelenterates, many sea anemones are very

resistant to oil, the common jellyfish, Aurelia aurita "appears undeterred by floating slicks and oil scum." By con­

trast, "the hydroid, Tubularia crocea (Agassiz) suffered 20%

mortality from 0.1% crude oil in tests by Chipman and Gatsoff

(1949) and all were killed within 24 hours at 5%·" Ottway's experiments (Exhibit 404) previously reported show that among

closely related shore periwinkles, the nut winkle, Littorina

littoralis is significantly more sensitive to oil than the common periwinkle, L. littorea. Among bivalves, "Although Leenhardt (1925) reported that oysters and mussels died after

7 days exposure to 3 - 4 % crude oil; recent investigations suggest that these bivalves are able to achieve a considerable resistance" (T3656) and Dr Nelson-Smith (p.250) quotes Hawkes

(1961) as saying that "... quahogs, Mercenaria mercenaria L.,

seem to be practically immune to oil pollution." By contrast, "Cockles (Cardium edule L.) in aerated aquaria .. . quickly suc­

cumbed to 0.5% Kuwait crude." (p.251)


2.4.36 Very few references were made in evidence to the

capacities of annelids (ringed worms and bristle worms) to

withstand oil. Dr Grassle, at T6155/6, listed them among the

many kinds of animals which in consequence of the spill of No.

2 fuel oil from the barge 'Florida' in Buzzards Bay, Mass, in

September 1969, were involved in "A massive, immediate kill ...

off-shore during the first few days after the accident," but

the few animals that remained in heavily contaminated deposits

included the worm Capitella capitata which as Dr Grassle says

at T6158, "is the species we refer to as the pollution indica­

tor because in unexploited habitats, habitats in which there

are very few animals because of some disturbance such as pollu­

tion, these species tend to take over."

2.4.37 According to Dr Nelson-Smith (Exhibit 365, p .251)> the echinoderms as a class "are notoriously sensitive to any reduc­

tion in water quality" but he adds that since "... the majority

live slightly off-shore they may escape the effects of floating

oil." This is not however a circumstance which holds for the

GBRP where starfishes, brittle-stars and sea-cucumbers are

often among the more conspicuous and common animals on tidally

exposed reef surfaces (see, for example, Dr Isobel Bennett,

Exhibit 451).

2.4.38 The crustaceans include several species that have a

similar sensitivity to oil; though many closely related spe­ cies are remarkably oil resistant. Mr Norrie quoted one such

instance from a report by G.H. Stander and J.A.V. Venter "Oil

pollution in South Africa", tendered as Exhibit 275, in which it is said that following a spill of crude oil from the tanker

'Esso Essen1, "In the intertidal zone it was observed that millions of sand-hoppers (Talorchestia sp.) were killed." On

the other hand, the related "Isopods (Ligia sp.) were found

covered with oil but alive,"(T6046-7) Dr Grassle commenting

on the results of the barge 'Florida' spill noted that the "Ampeliscid amphipods are highly sensitive to small concentra­


tions of oil and serve as an excellent biological indicator

of this type of pollution" (T6155-6) whereas another amphipod,

Corophium "is much more tolerant." (T6266)

2.4.39 It would be misleading to suggest through a long

extended recital of comments made in evidence on the differen­

tial susceptibilities of different types of marine organisms to oil pollution that the differences in susceptibility, as

related, can necessarily be taken at their face value because

the conditions of pollution, in the examples quoted, cover a

broad spectrum of oil types, composition and concentration.

Nevertheless, the examples given are indicative of a wide

range of oil tolerances which is perhaps best substantiated in

the comments of Professor Clark on the evident variation of

response even among individuals of the same species. At T3645, in answer to the question:

"Does that mean, and I select quite at random, if

a material is generally speaking toxic indeed to,

say, a crustacean or a prawn, nevertheless, it may

affect in very different ways 100 prawns: some might

feel the effects deeply or not at all or very little.

Is that what you mean?" Professor Clark replied:

"Yes. I mean that at low concentrations of the toxic

substances you will add 100 prawns to these toxic conditions but they won't all die simultaneously.

Some will die very quickly. Some may survive some

time in it. If you are measuring toxicity by the

concentration of toxin at which animals die within five minutes then of course you will have a range of

different concentrations within that 100 specimens.

Conversely, if you measure toxicity as a range of

time it requires before the animal dies in a particu­

lar concentration of the toxin, again you will get a

range of responses. Not all animals are identical

and this is indeed the reason why one performs experi­

ments on a large number of organisms simply in order


to get an average figure, because a single animal is

representative only of itself."

(g) Conclusion

2.4.40 We conclude that the major lesson to be learned from

experimental testing and field observations of the response of

individual species of organisms to oil is this:

When oil is present in the sea it may be regarded as

probing the defences of every one of the thousands of different

kinds of organisms that may come within its reach. According

to the nature of these defences, about which virtually nothing

is known, and according to the composition, concentration and

physical state of the oil, and the duration of the spill some

organisms will be affected and others not. However, the impor­

tant possibility must be entertained that the more immediate

and observable effects could be augmented by later occurring

changes affScting not only individual species but also, because

of the species interdependencies involved, the ecosystem as a






(a) Types of oil spills: Acute and chronic spills and effects

2.5.1 Evidence was given before the Commission In respect

of a number of overseas Incidents involving spills of crude

oil at sea and was in varying degrees informative of the

effects of these spills on marine plants and animals of oil

when present on the sea surface, in solution and droplet sus­

pension within the water column, when drifted on to shore

lines and coastal margins, and when carried on to or within

the sediments of the sea floor.

2.5.2 The incidents noted included spills involving

releases varying in quantity from massive to small and were illustrative of differing patterns of release, transport and

persistence of oil. As such they encompass presentations and

effects that are manifested in both acute and chronic form.

An acute spill is, in this sense, one of short term and heavy application, a chronic spill is of longer duration but smaller

intensity and may be either continuous or episodic. Persist­ ence of oil may result in an acute presentation being con­ tinued in chronic form. Acute effects, following Professor

Clark (T3651), are exhibited in fairly immediate signs of injury to or death of organisms; chronic effects in the pre­

sent state of knowledge are said to develop and show them­ selves more slowly,often with delayed, indirect and far

reaching consequences. An account of the "Florida" spill? which,though massive (700 tons), continued in persistent and

chronic form is given in Part 6 at paragraphs 2.6.8 et seq.


(b) Introduction 2.5.3 In this part we consider incidents involving the

spill of large quantities of crude oil - of the order of 250 -

100,000 tons, and the more immediate (acute) effects consequen­

tial on these spills that have been reported on marine organ­

isms and communities (other than coral reef communities which

are considered in a later section) living in different situa­

tions in the sea and subject to different types of oil presen­

tation. In assessing the weight to be given to evidence it is

important that regard be paid to the detail and scale of the

investigations on which the reports were made, the skill and

facilities applied to them and the extent to which the state­

ments offered were substantiated or placed in doubt by examina­ tion. There are also certain methodological deficiencies

inherent in field investigations which will be referred to dur­

ing the course of the account. Chief among these are the

invariable absence of pre-spill 'base line' studies by which to

assess through post-spill surveys the effects on organisms and

communities of oil pollution.

(c) Incidents reported 2.5.4 Two such spills which have been particularly well

documented are the wreck of the tanker 'Torrey Canyon' off

Land's End, S.W.England in March 1967 and the blowout of the

drilling well A-21 off Santa Barbara, California in January 1969. Information on the 'Torrey Canyon' spill was given by

Professor J.H.Connell (Exhibit 20), Professor Clark (Exhibit

235), Mr Norrie (Exhibit 287) Dr Kikkawa (Exhibit 187) and other witnesses. Those on the Santa Barbara spill relied

mainly on accounts given by Dr Straughan (Exhibit 269, T5612 et seq) and Professor Connell (Exhibit 20, T436 et seq).

( i) 'Torrey Canyon' and Santa Barbara 2.5.5 The two incidents had many features in common. In

the following comparisons 'Torrey Canyon' figures are given

first. Each involved a "heavy" crude (in the terminology of

the industry) of specific gravities 0.868 and 0.888 and with


viscosities of 10.0 and 10.45 centistokes. The quantities of

oil released were of different magnitude; 'Torrey Canyon'

more than 100,000 tons and (at Santa Barbara) variously

estimated but probably of the order of 10,000 - 20,000 tons.

However, the quantities destined for the coastlines of

California and Cornwall, the regions reviewed in evidence, were

both in the 10,000 - 20,000 ton range. The duration of the

major release was in each incident about 11 days and the

localities of the spills were approximately 15 and 7 miles from

the nearest shore line. The sea temperatures were ^12°C and

C13°C. In both instances rocky shores and sandy beaches were affected and received an oil cover varying from "thin"

to a centimetre or more in heavily oiled areas. The organisms associated with them, though dissimilar in species, had many

genera in common. Both events were examined by expert

observers in large numbers and with full facilities for

observation and analysis.

2.5-6 Two background circumstances distinguished the two

events. The Santa Barbara area, unlike the English Channel approaches, has a long history of naturally occurring oil

seepages, and at Santa Barbara heavy rains before and during

the spill caused an unusually high river outwash of fresh

water into the oil polluted waters.

2.5.7 In addition to the 'Torrey Canyon' and Santa Barbara reports evidence was given on other somewhat less well documen­ ted surveys of the effects on marine organisms of massive spills of crude oil in respect of the following tanker accid­

ents: (1) 'Andron', 10 miles off-shore, S.W. Africa, 1968; (2) 'Argea Prima', Guayanilla Harbour, Puerto Rico, 1962; (3) 'Chryssi P. Goulandris', Milford Haven, U.K., 1967; (4) 'Esso Essen', 2\ miles off Cape Peninsula, S. Africa, 1968;

(5) 'Ford Mercer' and 'Pendleton', Massachusetts, 1952;

(6) 'Gerd Maersk', R. Elbe, Germany, 1955; (7) 'Oceanic Gran­ deur ', Torres Strait, Australia, 1970; (8) 'Ocean Eagle',San

Juan, Puerto Rico, 1968; (9) 'Hamilton Trader', April 1969,


River Mersey, England.

2.5-8 The oil carried was in most instances a heavy crude

and the estimated quantities spilled varied from 250 - 500 tons

(3) to 10,000 to 20,000 tons (6).

(d) Oil on the sea surface

(i) General

2.5·9 An account is given of the subject in paragraphs

PI.6.176-184. Animals in danger of being coated by layered oil

on the sea surface are birds which may settle upon it or, if of

diving habit, pass through it; marine mammals (e.g. whales, porpoises, dolphins and seals), swimming birds (e.g. penguins),

reptiles (e.g. turtles and sea snakes) which must from time to

time break surface to breathe air, a few fishes (e.g. basking sharks, flying fish) and floating pelagic organisms (e.g. some

jellyfishes and related forms). Evidence was presented only in

respect of birds and mammals.

(ii) Effects on birds

2.5.10 Professor Clark commented on the difficulty of making

a precise estimate of the number of birds killed or affected by

oil spilled from the 'Torrey Canyon', but the figure of 40,000 -

100,000 mentioned by Dr Kikkawa (T1904) as deriving from Bourne

(1970) was not challenged. Of 7372 oiled birds reported dead almost all were diving birds. (Auks (guillemots, razorbills and puffins), numbering in all more than 73000, were the main vict­

ims. Other divers (cormorants (4l) and gannets (3)) were also

affected. The most common birds in the area, gulls, though fre­ quently found spotted with oil, numbered only 3 deaths in this

large sample.

2.5.11 Dr Straughan, (quoting from Exhibit 281, I, P.308),

said of the Santa Barbara spill "An estimated loss of 3,600

birds can be attributed to the oil spill up to March 31, 1969".


This was two months after the initial blow out at A-21. An

estimate of 3,500 dead birds was given by Mr Stewart (T4385),

and Professor Connell spoke of "the killing of several thou­

sand marine birds, principally those species which dive

through the sea surface to feed ..." (T436), Of 432 dead

birds examined for species identification all but 13, (includ­

ing 9 gulls and terns, the commonest birds in the area) were

divers. They included loons, grebes, cormorants, pelicans and

water fowl (Dr Straughan, T5684, Professor J .¥. Connell, T436).

2.5.12 Large numbers of birds were reported killed as a

result of the 'Andron', 'Esso Essen', 'Ford Mercer' and 1 Pen­

dleton ' and 'Gerd Maersk' incidents referred to in paragraph

2.5.7 the estimates varying from "hundreds" to very approxi­

mate figures of 350,000 and 500,000 respectively following

the 'Fort Mercer' and 'Pendleton' and the ' Gerd Maersk' spills.

The number and variety of the birds affected reflect the loca­

lity of the spill and the number, habits and seasonal behaviour of the species found in the area. Deaths from spills far out

to sea are liable to pass unnoticed for, as Professor Clark

noted at T3740, "It is only in areas where there is a concen­ tration of active amateur ornithologists and a deliberate cen­

tralized reporting system that valuable information can be

collected." Even allowing for this circumstance near-shore

populations in the vicinity of large populations of gregarious species or of migratory or breeding flocks were without doubt

the most damaging. The main kills were of swimming or diving

species and birds that habitually settle on the surface.

2.5.13 The significance of large scale kills on the popula­

tions of birds of temperate regions was discussed fully in the evidence of Professor Clark (T3591-3926) and Dr Kikkawa

(T1903-1982). It appears that in spite of the kills the num­

ber of gulls, cormorants, gannets and fulmars, among other

species are increasing (T3916)· But there are other types,


notably divers, auks and duck of different species, many of

them of a small world population and with a low reproductive

rate, in which the populations are already showing a downward

trend and in which large scale losses are of serious concern.

(T1913; T3744)

2.5.14 In summary: although the numbers of birds killed can

rarely if ever be accurately computed they can run into many

tens of thousands. Far out to sea where, except for migratory

flocks, birds are not usually numerous the toll may be small;

in in-shore waters where the populations are greatest, especial­

ly around breeding sites, or in areas of wintering populations, large scale kills can occur. Birds that swim, dive or habitu­

ally settle on water are especially vulnerable. Some birds,

especially those of a small world population and with a low

reproductive rate, may be put seriously at risk as viable

species. Birds of the GBRP are dealt with in Part (9) infra.

(ill) Effects on mammals 2.5.15 Seals and porpoises are found in the area where the

'Torrey Canyon' was wrecked. No reference was made in evidence

to kills or injury to them.

At Santa Barbara, according to Dr Straughan, oil

coating of various species of whales, elephant seals and sea-

lions was reported but the number of stranded dead mammals was

not unusually high and the causes of their death could not be unequivocally related to oil contamination or oil ingestion.

(T5679) However, although "Data on the marine mammal popula­ tions do not prove large scale mortality as a result of the oil spill, this does not mean there was no mortality due to the oil".

(Dr Straughan Exhibit 281 Volume I p.4ll)

(e) Oil in solution and droplet suspension

(i) Effects on plankton 2.5.16 Following the release of oil from the 'Torrey Canyon' the extensive use at sea of dispersants made it impossible to


find and to sample water with an oil cover that could with

certainty be said to be free of dispersants. A passage in

Professor Clark's statement (Exhibit 235) relating to the

effects of the 'Torrey Canyon' oil on plankton was, on the

Chairman's ruling, (see paragraph PI.1.25) deleted from the

evidence, because the passage derived from writings of a mem­

ber of the Commission (Dr Smith).

2.5.17 Studies of primary (plant) productivity were made in

the area of the Santa Barbara spill (Exhibit 281, pp. 17-48;

Dr Straughan, T5620) before and after the spill. Productivity

was found to vary greatly in different areas according to the nutrients available and other factors, chief among which was a

long spell of heavy rain immediately before and during the

period of the spill. Variations of productivity could not for this reason be correlated with certainty with the presence or

absence of oil. In the opinion of Dr Straughan "... although

there was a lower count than at a nearby station in the pre­

vious month, various factors could have brought that about." She agreed however that "It could be due to oil." (T5678)

2.5·18 In respect of other incidents Mr Norrie said that, following the grounding of the tanker 'Esso Essen' near Cape Point, South Africa and the release of oil, "Three extensive

planktological surveys in the area where oil was originally released revealed no unusual conditions which could be attri­ buted to oil pollution. A marked plankton mortality which was

observed and affected mainly cold-water forms ... could be

explained by the intense interaction between warm water of Agulhas Current origin and cold Benguela Current water."

(T6o 47) A report entitled "Oil Pollution of the S .A . Coast -

the 'World Glory' Disaster," tendered as Exhibit 276, includes the following quotation: (p.51) "According to Oliff (personal

communication), plankton collected two metres below the sur­

face in areas which had received a heavy dosage of detergent

was generally alive"; and of the 'Oceanic Grandeur' spill off


Cape York in 1970 it was said: "A plankton sample was taken be­

neath an outlying oil slick and in the wake of a tender spray­

ing detergent. Neither sample showed any unusual mortality or

lack of vigour among the organisms caught, but later microsco­

pic examination showed that some organisms had their appendages

fouled with oil droplets." (Mr Tranter T751?)

2.5.19 The sun-illuminated upper layers of the sea are in

Professor Clark's words (T3723-4) "The site of virtually all

primary production in the sea by virtue of the photosynthetic

activity of the phytoplankton, and because of this there is a

rich and varied fauna of zooplankton as well. While some ani­

mals ... which as adults live in other parts of the marine environment, have eggs, young stages and larvae that spend some

time in the plankton exploiting this rich food source and dis­

tributing the progeny of a population of a sedentary species over a wide area by the water movements. The dead bodies of

planktonic plants and animals settle to the seabed and provide

a food source for detritus - and filter-feeders there, and many

shore animals trap or filter out planktonic organisms for food. Poisoning of surface waters would therefore have repercussions

in many directions: the basic food source for most marine ani­ mals would be reduced if not eliminated, and the environment in

which the generally very sensitive young stages of many animals

spend some time would become uninhabitable."

2.5.20 In general the few plankton surveys which have been

made in the neighbourhood of spills have eithe.. failed to show

a severe or widespread destruction of plankton or, where damage or an unusually low productivity is reported, have implicated other possible causes. These include the presence of toxic

dispersants ('Torrey Canyon'), or unusually low salinities

following heavy rain (Santa Barbara), or unusually low stresses due to the apposition and mixing of currents of warm and cold

water ('Esso Essen'). Whilst the possible relevance of these

natural or artificially created environmental stresses to the


levels of plankton productivity must be allowed they neverthe­

less do not absolve oil from the possibility of causing loss

or damage to plankton.

(11) Summary and conclusions

2.5.21 On the evidence the majority of the Commission are

of the view that, in the open sea, damage to the plankton by

massive, short-term presentations of crude oil may not have

far-reaching ecological consequences. Even if there should be

substantial kills over a wide area of oil-covered water the

affected region would probably be very small in comparison

with the immensely large surround of the unaffected ocean from which, by the continuous flow of surface and subsurface

currents, healthy plankton would be carried into the previously depleted waters.

The Chairman prefers to express no view on open sea

effects and considers that a substantial depletion of

planktonic life in the GBRP particularly in the more restricted waters of the Northern Zone even though of a temporary nature,

could have substantial and unpredictable detrimental effects

on marine life.

However, all are agreed that in less open waters not benefiting so readily from external replenishment the effects

of oil on plankton could be more serious and long lasting.

Mention has been made of this possibility in the review of laboratory experiments on the responses of planktonic organ­

isms to oil (paragraph 2.4.19) and this question is considered in more detail in paragraphs 2.9·52-56 infra.

(iii) Nekton

2.5.22 Only two reports, namely Exhibits 70 and 274, make reference to damage to fishes among nektonic species. Nine

days after the 'Ocean Eagle1 spill a two hour survey was made

of the fishes in San Juan Bay during which dead fish belonging to 3^ different species were collected. Skin lesions were

observed in some members of shoals of Opisthonema oglinum,


much used as bait by local fishermen. In a further survey, ten

days later, it was estimated that some 95% of an estimated pop­

ulation of 100,000 of this species had severe lesions. Many

were dead, but a small proportion (<5%) showed signs of healing

with regeneration of tissue. The cause of the damage was not

determined but oil and/or oil dispersants were suspected. (Exhibit 274)

Exhibit 70,being a paper by Hampson & Sanders, relates

to the 'Florida' spill of diesel oil and at p .9 contains a

photograph of many dead fish and other animals. The caption reads: -"Dead fish, crustaceans and marine worms concentrated in tidal pools of West Falmouth, Massachusetts. One

week after the oil spill none of this evidence was

left; only a few empty shells remained. If it were

not for the nearness of our laboratories we could

not have known the extent of the marine kill."

(f) Oil on shores: Effects on organisms

(i) Rocky shores

2.5.23 The events leading to the invasion by oil of the

rocky shores of the islands and mainland of the Santa Barbara

Channel following the blowout from Platform A-21 on 28 January,

1969) were described in a report entitled "Biological and Oceanographical Survey of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill", (1969­

70), Volume I, which was tendered as Exhibit 28l. For several

days the oil remained at sea under the influence of prevailing

north-north-west winds. "A storm commencing on February 4 and continuing through February 7 shifted the winds from a south­

easterly direction clockwise to the west. Thus, on the night of February 4, large quantities of oil entered the Santa Barbara Harbor and heavy pollution of the mainland beaches

began ... The oil was washed on and off the beaches by the

tides. This meant that contamination varied almost continu­

ously and it was impossible to determine accurately the amount

of oil that any one area was exposed to" (pp. 2-3)· "Inter­


tidal areas ... were intermittently covered with films and

lumps of oil for several months in 1969, with most of the oil

deposited on rocky areas selectively adhering on the upper

intertidal" (p.325)- Photographs of the heavy oil cover were shown to the Commission by Professor J.H. Connell (T459,

slides 1 and 2). Similar events leading to the deposition of

oil from the 1Torrey Canyon' on the shores of Cornwall,

England were described by Dr Nelson-Smith in Exhibit 365.

2.5-24 The effects on intertidal organisms of the stranded

Santa Barbara oil were only briefly referred to in evidence.

Dr Straughan (T5623, 24/25 summarised the effects of oil as

follows: "Mortality among intertidal organisms at Santa Bar­

bara is discussed in several reports. Suffice to mention here

that all investigators recorded mortality among the upper

intertidal barnacle, Chthamalus fissus. Nicholson and Cimberg

indicate that this was probably due to smothering by thick layers of oil in this region. Balanus glandula, a larger

barnacle, generally protruded above the oil layer and survived.

The surf grass Phyllospadix and the alga Hesperophycus harveyanus were also killed in some areas but recovery had

commenced by August 1969." ... "In general large scale morta­

lities were not recorded in Santa Barbara intertidal areas."

2.5.25 Professor Clark said of the 'Torrey Canyon' shore contamination that "The oil coming ashore in south-west

England areas treated with about 10,000 tons of old style,

very toxic dispersant-emulsifier, partly while the oil was

afloat but also very extensively for beach cleaning so that

the effect of the oil cannot be separated from the effect of

the dispersant in this case" (T3696) and according to both Professor Clark and Dr Straughan (T5624/5) "The high mortality in Cornish shores was attributed to the large scale application

of detergents." Professor Clark said "A few rocky beaches in south­

west England were not treated with dispersants and examination


of these and a number of untreated beaches in Brittany suggests

that, while crude oil caused some physical damage to plants and

animals, there were relatively few deaths from toxins in the

oil (O'Sullivan and Richardson, 1967)· Grazing limpets (Patel­

la) ingested quantities of oil without harm and, indeed gave

some assistance to the natural erosion of stranded oil from the rocks. Mussels (Mytilus) and barnacles (Balanus, Elminius)

survived well, except where covered by an exceptionally thick

layer of oil". (T3696)

Few systematic surveys were made of the larger algal

plants the main surveys being of damage by dispersants used in

clearing oil. However, several species survived after oil had

settled on their fronds while in the splash zone above the

reach of tides the lichen Xanthoria survived under a layer of

wave-thrown oil which subsequently hardened into a crust. Mr

Cowell however quoted Ranwell (1968a, b) as saying that "Consid­

erable damage was caused to lichens and flowering plants on Cornish cliff tops by wind-blown oil-spray from below" though

he himself had "observed some damage to lichens but ... was unable to distinguish it on the 'Torrey Canyon' shores from

dispersant damage which was also blown from wave tops".


2.5.26 In respect of the other spills brought to the atten­

tion of the Commission Mr Cowell, quoting Nelson-Smith (T10975)

said of a spill of 25 - 50 tons of oil at Milford Haven in November 1968 which affected shores at Hazelbeach where, in

January 1967, a lesser contamination had resulted from the 1Chryssi P. Goulandris' release that "... although many organ­

isms were killed enough grazing animals survived to prevent an

algal flush from covering the shore. Detergent treatment ... was light ... Three weeks after the cleaning the number of gas­

tropods ... was drastically reduced but increased again by

January 1969 ... The most susceptible animal proved to be the 2

limpet Patella vulgata which was reduced from 150 per m to 21

per m2 ... The numbers continued to decline during the spring


and by the time that young were recorded in June 1969 the den- 2 sity had dropped to 5m ."

2.5.27 Of oil from the 'Esso Essen' which struck a sub­

merged object 23s miles off the Cape Peninsula coast in April 1968 releasing oil on to nearby shores, Mr Norrie (T6045),

quoting a paper by Stander and Venter (Exhibit 275), said "In

the intertidal zone it was observed that millions of sand-

hoppers (Talorchestia sp) were killed. Isopods (Ligia sp) were covered with oil, but alive. Oiled limpets (Patella sp) peri­

winkles (Oxystele sp) and anemones (Anthozoa sp) responded

sluggishly on being prodded. An unusually large number of

fresh periwinkle and limpet shells, however, did suggest an

appreciable mortality of these species in certain localities - probably due to smothering rather than the toxic effects of the oil." (T6046-7)

2.5.28 Following the grounding of the tanker 'Argea Prima' at the mouth of Guayanilla Harbour, Puerto Rico in July 1962 about 10,000 tons of Leona (Venezuelan) crude oil were pumped

overboard (T6215). Professor Johannes CT4229) and Dr Grassle

T6215) referred to a paper by Manuel Diaz-Pifferer (1963) re­ porting, as a result of the 'Argea Prima' spill, that "Marine organisms along the shore suffered tremendous mortality. Adult and juvenile lobsters, crabs, sea urchins, starfish, sea

cucumbers, gastropods such as king helmets and queen conchs, octupuses, squids, a variety of fishes, particularly clupeoids, and sea turtles were found dead ... Marine vegetation was

seriously affected, especially the plants living in intertidal and sub-littoral zones." Although Professor Johannes understood that the affected shores had been examined subsequently, he added "I have attempted unsuccessfully to obtain further in­

formation on this subject." (T^231) See also paragraph ^.^.82


2.5.29 Leona crude oil was also implicated in a spill of


some 83, 000 barrels at the entrance to San Juan Harbour,

Puerto Rico on 3 March 1968 from the tanker 'Ocean Eagler.

Professor Clark (T38OO), Mr Keith (T5567) and Mr Cropp (T11770-

1) each reported briefly on various aspects of the accident and its aftermath. Professor Clark noted "Heavy destruction of

marine life in littoral zone reported by Gilmore et al (1970)

but no details available" as the only comment made on the

damage caused by the spill.

2.5-30 Two intensively studied large spills of diesel fuel

resulting from the wrecking of the barge 'Florida' in Buzzards

Bay, Massachusetts on September 16, 1969 and of the tanker

'Tampico Maru' at the mouth of a small cove in Baja California, Mexico on March 29, 1957 are of particular interest for their

bearing on some aspects of the behaviour of crude oil at sea. Each caused immediate and considerable damage to marine life which was attributed by the investigators who reported on the

'Tampico Maru1 accident to the emulsification of oil in the

early stages of release, and which led in the 'Florida1 sur­ veys to the gathering of useful information on the persistence

and effects on benthic organisms of oil in sea floor sediments. The 'Florida' spill surveys are referred to later in paragraphs 2.6.8 et seq. Reports on the 'Tampico Maru' accident and its consequences were tendered in evidence as Exhibits 32 and 77, and were extensively quoted by Professor Connell (T443 et seq)

and Professor Clark (T3699 - 3701).

2.5.31 "At the time of the shipwreck, the 'Tampico'

carried approximately 59,000 barrels (some 8,400 tons) of dark diesel oil about l/3rd of which was lost upon stranding."(T458) "Further liberations continued sporadically during the next 8

months as the ship broke up." (T451-2) The composition of the

oil was not stated.

The oil affected organisms along " least 1,000

metres of coast " but "... studies were concentrated primarily on the small cove containing the wreck." (T451~2) "There was

an immediate heavy kill of barnacles, crabs, mussels and other


bivalves, and of starfish, and sea urchins. Most of the shore

algae were also affected.'1 CT3699) Apart from several species

of anemones and some species of molluscs which survived the

spill (T470) "...the area was utterly impoverished at first

but traces of recovery were perceptible in a few months. The

year 1958 witnessed a slight improvement but by 1959 extens­ ive changes were evident, many species were present in

abundance and the area for the first time since the disaster gave an appearance of a normal marine environment, teeming with animals... The year 1961 saw an even richer fauna, both

in species and numbers ... and the changes since then seem

relatively minor." (T*t72) Changes in the community composit­ ion of the regenerated fauna were attributed to the combined

effects of a slow and only partial replacement of animals

originally present and the introduction of new species in

association with the giant kelp (Macrocystis) which achieved

a dramatic proliferation in the early stages of the recovery (Ti+72-8) .

2.5.32 The early and extensive kills of organisms following

the 'Tampico Maru' spill were considered by the biologists who reported on the effects of the accident to be due primarily to the extensive emulsification and dissemination of oil by the

heavy surf of an exposed coastline and which for long periods was seen to break over the wreck into the waters of the cove... "Emulsions and slicks were present throughout the area ... sug­ gesting that the toxic concentration was maintained as long as

good stirring persisted in the water... ." (T550)

(ii) Sandy beaches

2.5.33 No significant information was available on the effects of oil on the animals which live within intertidal sand beaches in respect of any of the incidents reported in evidence.

(iii) Post-spill changes and the processes of recovery

2.5.3A In extension of this section on the acute effects of massive oil spills on intertidal communities mention must be


made of the way in which the character of an ecosystem jnay be

changed following damage by oil Gin the case of the 'Torrey

Canyon' spill) by oil and dispersant mixtures, and of the

approximate time scale of the return to normality.

2.5.35 Dr Straughan said of the shores of Cornwall (T5703-

5) that "The effects of pollution from the 'Torrey Canyon' disaster had been to alter the balance of ecosystems ... by

the destruction of grazing organisms" so that rocky shores

became "dominated by attached macrophytes (large algae)."

Professor Johannes (T4231) reported a similar development of plant cover following the 'Argea Prima' spill, the algae in

this instance being almost entirely Myxophyceae. A spill of

crude oil at Hazelbeach, Milford Haven in 196? caused, accord­

ing to Dr Nelson-Smith (Mr Cowell, T10975), many organisms to be killed though "enough grazing animals survived to prevent

an algal flush from covering the shore." However, later

treatment with dispersants reduced the number of grazers so that by the spring of 1969 "the shore was covered by a growth

of the green alga Enteromorpha and this was replaced in the summer by Fucus vesiculosus. The covering of the shore by

Fucus has altered its character completely and the number of barnacles subsequently declined. This will presumably be followed by a decline in the numbers of carnivore (dog whelk) Nucella lapillus which feed on barnacles." (TIO976)

The Santa Barbara surveys do not report the develop­

ment of an algal flush.

2.5·36 There might therefore be a correlation between the degree of damage initially caused and the subsequently develop­

ed measure of change in the ecosystem as a whole, considerable damage being followed by an algal cover, little initial damage resulting in no obvious change.

2.5.37 A re-establishment of the original community structure, which is the true index of recovery, likewise depends on the

extent of the initial damage and of the cycle of ecosystem


changes which follow upon it. Dr Straughan reported that at

Santa Barbara some barnacles CBalanus glandula) were resettl­

ing some two months after the spill (T5626); another species

(Chthamalus fissus) made a delayed re-rentry on oiled rocks

but recovery was well on the way within a year. (Professor Connell, T440) At Milford Haven Mr Cowell noted (T11100) a

virtual recovery following the 1Chryssi P. Goulandris' spill

in about two years. The 'Torrey Canyon' shores, on the other hand, though well on the way to full recovery, were still in some respects abnormal to the professional eye after five

years, and Mr Cowell considered that a complete return to

normality might take ten years (T10977).

(iv) Distance of spill from shore a relevant factor 2.5.38 A possible significant factor when considering the

capacity of spilled oil to damage intertidal organisms is the time the oil has been at sea prior to stranding. Pew reliable

figures are available. The 'Torrey Canyon' oil, as indicated in evidence by Mr Norrie when quoting from a publication by a journalist named Petrow (T6019), was 3-4 days at sea before

reaching the coast of Cornwall, but as stated in the answer to TR3 the Chairman regards this evidence as imprecise. The Santa Barbara shore strandings began some 7 days after the initial blowout, and the 'Esso Essen' oil (Mr Norrie T6014)

stranded after about 3 days. The 'Argea Prima' oil was pumped from a vessel which ran aground in-shore at the mouth of

Guayanilla Harbour, Puerto Rico. In the order of damage done according to reports sometimes but not always substantiated,

the 'Argea Prima' and 'Esso Essen' were the most destructive, the 'Torrey Canyon' and Santa Barbara spills much less so.

(v) Summary and conclusions

2.5.39 Reports on overseas experiences which came to the Commission's attention seem to indicate that when crude oil has been washed on to shores as the result of a single but not long continuing massive spill, intertidal and coastal

fringe plants and animals have suffered damage or death in con­


siderable numbers but the effects were not catastrophic In the

sense that they were Incapable of reparation with the passage

of time. It is however necessary to qualify this general con­

clusion to some extent by drawing attention to some limitations

of the surveys and in the character of the reporting.

2.5.40 First, it must be borne in mind that the oil-caused damage, as reported, invariably refers only to deaths or

damage suffered by the larger, more easily seen and most readily identifiable plants and animals. Almost all the animals listed

as having been affected by oil belong to the groups of the

vertebrates, molluscs, Crustacea, echinoderms (e.g. starfishes, brittle stars, sea urchins) and coelenterates (e.g. anemones,

corals). There are, in fact, more than twenty different major groups (or phyla) of animals each of which may be represented by a few, some tens, or some hundreds of species on temperate

or tropical shores. Only a relatively few species drawn mainly

from five phyla are mentioned in the majority of the reports.

It cannot be assumed that these smaller and often unnoticed

components of intertidal communities are more susceptible to oil injury than are the larger species but the restricted

character of the reporting should be noted.

2.5.41 Secondly, it is important to note that prev-spill surveys are rarely available as base line studies by which to

compare the effects of an oil spill, and in none of the report­ ed incidents had an adequate base line study been made.

2.5.42 Thirdly, death and damage must of necessity be

assessed from the presence of dead or injured plants and animals, many of which may have been rapidly removed by tides or currents or merged in the litter of organisms, some of which may have died from other causes. An example where this is

illustrated occurs in Exhibit 70 p .9 (Hampson and Sanders quoted in paragraph 2.5-22 supra). There is also a possibility

that a litter of dead organisms may include some which have

died from other causes.


(g) Oil on or in sea floor sediments; Effects

on benthic organisms

(i) Sediment deposition and transport

2.5.43 The deposition of oil on the sea floor, its transr

port at depth and incorporation and persistence in bottom

sediments were explored in respect of well-head and seepage

discharge of crude oil in the Santa Barbara Channel, and in the spill of diesel (No. 2) fuel oil from the ruptured hull of the barge 1 Florida' off West Falmouth, Massachusetts, in

September 1969.

2.5.44 The 1 Floridar spill and its consequences are exam­

ined in detail a little later, (paragraphs 2.6.8-19). The Santa Barbara spill was the only instance of a crude oil spill

reported to the Commission in which surveys were made to determine the presence and spread of oil in sediments and to

assess the character of the communities living in the affected

sediments before and after the spill.

Before and during the Santa Barbara spill heavy rain

caused the transport of suspended and surface sediment particl­ es from the Santa Ynez, Ventura and Santa Clara Rivers into the waters of the Channel. In Volume II of the Biological and

Oceanographical Survey of the Santa Barbara Channel Oil Spill

(Exhibit 281, 341-343) the following passages occur "A large portion of the oil slicks emanating from the well blowout were transported into areas of high suspended sediment con­

centrations in the surface water." The weighting of the oil with sediments was regarded as the "mechanism which resulted in sinking (of) large quantities of oil from the water surface" ... "Subsequently, much of the oil deposited at the sediment- water interface was removed from the area of initial deposition

... into deeper water."

2.5.45 Two methods were used in an attempt to trace the

rate of spread and changing patterns of deposition of the estimated 50 million tons or so of material discharged from

the Santa Clara and Ventura rivers:


(a) Surveys of the sea floor distribution of the sedi^-

ments, which were identifiable by their red colour and mineral

composition, were made in surveys initiated in March-April 1969

and extending to February-June 1970 (Exhibit 28l II pp. 195, 211). Comparison of the sediment thickness maps covering these

two periods (Drake et al Exhibit 28l II Chapter 5) shows clearly the extent of the transportation and deposition of

river-derived sediment from areas S.E. of Santa Barbara west^ wards for a distance of some 30 nautical miles or more into the

deep basin of the Channel.

(b) Infrared spectroscopic analyses were made of the

amounts of hydrocarbons in the sediments at selected stations

in the area and they were claimed to be accurate to 0.2 parts

per thousand (hydrocarbon to sediment by weight) and to mini­ mum detectable level of 0.2ppt (Kolpack et al Exhibit 28l II

Chapter 7). The authors, noting the association of the hydro­

carbons analysed with the recently deposited and identifiable river sediments, were "certain that the hydrocarbons of these surficial sediments were also deposited after the floods


2.5·^6 Although they could not "positively determine what

proportions of the hydrocarbon concentration in the surficial sediments were derived from Well A-21, and from natural seeps

in the area" they concluded from their analysis that "most ... were derived from Well A-21." "The pattern of hydrocarbon

deposition with time showed that initial deposition occurred south-east of Well A-21. Subsequently, hydrocarbons were deposited or re-deposited at the sediment-water interface in

the western portions of the Channel" (Exhibit 28l II p .29^) · These observations strongly suggest that crude oil may persist for some time in association with suspended or deposit­ ed sediments and be carried by bottom currents considerable

distances, (in this instance of the order of 30 miles or so)

from its point of origin.


(_ii) Effects on benthic organisms

2.5.47 A detailed survey of the polychaete worms, molluscs,

brittle stars and other invertebrates living on or in the

sediments of the Santa Barbara Channel beginning a little over

a month after the A-21 spill and continuing over the period March - October 1969 was made by K. Fauchald (who was not a witness) (Exhibit 28l I Chapter 5) for comparison with a sur­

vey which had been made over the same general area ten years earlier.

2.5.48 The general conclusion drawn from the survey was

that "The standing crop of benthic macro-organisms has

decreased dramatically over the ten-year period separating the

State Survey and the Pollution Study" (Exhibit 28l I p .76).

The author points out, however, the difficulty which biologists

have in relating faunistic changes to specific environmental factors and therefore, in the proper exercise of caution, in

attributing to the presence of oil effects which may be due in whole or in part to other causes. In particular he notes

in respect of the populations of the echiuroid worm Listriolobus pelodes which were greatly reduced in numbers that "the heavy rainfall in the winter of 1969 may have caused some damage ..." and that with the rapid population growth in

the Santa Barbara area "It is possible that the increased flow of sewage ... may have an effect." In summarising the results

of the survey Dr Fauchald says (p.75): "No effects directly attributable to the oil spill could be seen in this part of the

study. As mentioned above, with the technique used it was not

possible to separate the effects of the oil spill from the general background "noise" of other factors influencing the benthos. This does not in any way or manner imply that the oil spill was without effects. The change in consistency in the

sediments alone would be enough to influence those organisms

that are heavily dependent on sediment-structure for their survival. The effects are not visible because the technique and the time allotted is not conducive to showing such effects."


2.5.49 Dr Straughan expressed a similar opinion in paying

"There was a decrease in the benthos over the whole ar^a from

that recorded 10 years ago, but because it was over the whole

area one feels that it is due to some other source. It could

be abnormal population fluctuations, it could be a gradual in­

crease in pollution from human populations building up 41ong

that area, it could be many reasons. There was no significant

change in the benthos between May and October 1969." (15621)

(iii) Conclusions

2.5-50 On the evidence presented it is questionable whether

acute damage was inflicted on benthic communities following the

large scale Santa Barbara spill save for the deaths of barnacles and scallops which were in the immediate vicinity of Wellhead A-21 (Dr Straughan T5666). It must be pointed out however that

the conditions for proof of oil-caused damage are rarely in

practice attainable. In deep water communities out of rangle of direct observation, and whose composition can only be patchily

sampled by ship borne apparatus, a confident relationship between oil cover and oil-caused acute damage can only be established by closely approximating "before and after" surveys.

Apart from the scale of the operation involved, the siting of

the-antecedent base line studies cannot be planned for in advance of a spill which, because of the mobility of the oil released, may result in the deposition of oil in places the locations of which cannot be accurately predicted in advance.

Reference must also be made to Dr Blumer's letter to Dr Hunt of March 29, 1971 (Exhibit 303) in which Dr Blumer states that in

the West Falmouth study (consequent upon the 'Florida1 spill)

"we find deep and lasting damage to the benthic fauna, specific­

ally to the 'smaller, lesser known organisms'."




(a) Introduction 2.6.1 As noted earlier (paragraph 2.5.2) the possibility

must be allowed that chronic presentations of oil and chronic

damage to organisms may develop either as an aftermath of

massive spills or through a continuing or repeated admission

of low level concentrations of oil. In the former instance the acute and immediate damage to organisms wrought by a mas­

sive spill might be expected, through the persistence of oil,

either to delay recovery, maintain an impoverished ecosystem

or intensify the damage caused to it according to the quantity

and toxicity of the persisting oil. Repeated or continuing

low level admission of oil might likewise be manifested in the

progressive appearance of detrimental changes affecting

individual organisms and ecosystems.

(b) Persistent oil: Effects on benthic organisms 2.6.2 The persistence of oil following major spills was reported in respect of both well head blowouts and tanker

accidents. Examples cited included the blowouts at Santa Barbara, Platform A-Well 21 (Exhibit 28l Volume I, T5682 and elsewhere) and at Chevron Block 41, Gulf of Mexico (Mr Biglane,

T6718 quoting from Exhibit 302); and the tanker spills of the

'Torrey Canyon' (Nelson-Smith, Exhibit 365 p.275), the 'Arrow'

(Dr Grassle, T6264), the 'Witwater' (Exhibit 259) and the barge

'Florida' (Exhibits 70, 72, 238, 532 and 533)· The Santa Bar­ bara, Chevron and 'Torrey Canyon' spills were of crude oils,

the 'Arrow', 'Witwater' and 'Florida' incidents involved res­

pectively Bunker C, Bunker C/Diesel, and No. 2 Fuel oils. Naturally occurring seepages from the formations drilled at Santa Barbara and chronic production leakages in the area of

the Chevron spill (T6718, 6722) made it difficult to determine


with certainty the extent to which oil derived from the acute

spill and oil from natural leakages might be contributory to

faunistic changes.

The most fully documented surveys and most closely

examined evidence on the distribution and effects of oil per­

sisting in sediments and of the effects of the oil on benthic

organisms were associated with the 'Florida1 and Santa Barbara

spills and, although the 'Florida' oil was not of the type

which we were called upon to consider under TR2, other aspects

of the aftermath of the spill carry with them possible general

consequences of oil pollution which it is of importance to

resolve in advance of our later assessments of the effects of

oil spills in the area of the GBR. We propose therefore to

examine the evidence received in respect of the 'Florida1 spill

in some detail. (paragraphs 2.6.8 et seq below)

(c) Recognition and analysis of oils

2.6.3 The determination and interpretation of the distribu­

tion, transport and persistence of oil in the West Falmouth sediments relied heavily on the methods used to determine the

composition of the oil and the changes to which it was subject

with the passage of time. For this reason a brief account is given of the methods referred to in evidence for the recogni­

tion and analysis of oils.

Oil in sediments and living organisms can be identi­ fied, quantitatively determined and analysed into the component

hydrocarbons by various methods of which three namely gravi­

metric determination, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry,

were referred to in evidence.

(i) Gravimetric analysis 2.6.4 Treatment of known weights of sediments and living tissue with a suitable solvent extract , in solution, "hydro­

carbons plus other things." Subsequent treatment of the extrac­

ted materials with caustic potash converts some of the materials

into soaps which can be selectively removed leaving an unsaponi-


fiable part of the extract. This consists largely of hydro­

carbons which, by evaporation of the solvent, can be recovered

and weighed (Professor Clark T3711). The method is a simple

way of determining the presence and approximate quantities of

hydrocarbons but does not identify the constituent components of an oil.

(ii) Gas chromatography

2.6.5 According to Dr Connell "by far the best tool for

analysing hydrocarbons which is available is the technique of

gas chromatography" (T7070). The theory and practice of gas

chromatography were explained in detail by Dr Connell (T7066 et seq).

In essence the method involves the volatilisation of oil and the subsequent separation and identification, as peaks

showing up in a tracing, of the component hydrocarbons, the succession of peaks representing compounds of differing mole­ cular size and carbon number.

Dr Connell said that every compound displays its own

peak, but When several compounds of the same carbon number but differing molecular composition are present, or are represen­ ted in small quantity, the individual peaks may be so small or

close together as not to be resolvable as distinctive substan­ ces (T708O). The technique of gas chromatography, though limited in its capacity fully to analyse complex mixtures into

their separate components, is nevertheless a powerful tool for

establishing the identity or degrees of similarity or differ­

ence of oils of differing origin and history. It is mainly in this context that we will be examining the results obtained by

chromatographic analysis in the West Falmouth studies.

(ill) Mass spectrometry

2.6.6 Dr Connell referred briefly to mass spectrometry as a

third method of hydrocarbon analysis. This method is used for the determination of the molecular structure of individual hydrocarbons that have been extracted from a mixture, but the


identity of which is unknown. (T706.9) The method was not

otherwise referred to in evidence.

(d) Biologically manufactured hydrocarbons and pollutant


2.6.7 The distinction here made is between hydrocarbons

manufactured by living organisms and compounds of fossil

(petroleum reservoir) origin which occur in the sea as pollu­

tants .

Dr Blumer and Dr Sass, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, having drawn atten­

tion in Exhibit 533 to the existence of these two classes of

oils go on to say that sufficient structural and compositional

differences exist between biologically-produced and pollution- derived hydrocarbons to permit their qualitative distinction

and their detection in each others presence (Exhibit 533 p.4).

They base their statement on their interpretation of gas chro­

matographic records several of which are figured in the exhibit

and which show that naturally produced hydrocarbons of contemp­

orary or recent origin consist of "a simple assemblage of pro­

ducts" for "in all cases where hydrocarbons of marine organisms or of recent (unpolluted) sediments have been studied by medium

resolution gas chromatography ... the hydrocarbons in the range to at least C22 have been resolved into individual compounds;·

no continuous unresolved background was found." By contrast,

the processes involved in petroleum formation at depth in sedi­ mentary basins "produce a hydrocarbon mixture of enormous com­

plexity which cannot be resolved completely by medium or high

resolution gas chromatography" (Exhibit 533, pp· 9-10). Other,

more specific, differences between natural and fossil hydro­ carbons which were referred to in evidence include the occur­

ence in natural oils of a higher proportion of compounds of odd

carbon number, the presence of olefins and the frequent domin­

ance of pristane (C^ H ^ ) (Blumer and Sass, Exhibit 533)· Fossil crude oils contain smaller proportions of pristane and

no olefins but are "rich in the toxic aromatic hydrocarbons


and in cycloparaffins." (Dr Grassle T6l42)

(e) The 'Florida' spill

(i) Sources of information

2.6.8 Published information on the distribution and

characteristics of the oil contained within the sediments of

Buzzard's Bay following the 'Florida' spill and on the effects

on benthic organisms of the spilled oil were made available to the Commission through Exhibits 70, 72, 238, 290, 532 and 533.

The first four papers report the more immediate consequences

of the spill and were examined mainly through the evidence of

Dr Grassle. Exhibits 532 and 533 deal more particularly with

later occurring events such as the spread and persistence of

oil in sediments, and the partial recovery of the faunas affec­

ted by the pollution. These were not put in evidence until the

closing stages of the Commissions, hearings. (Τ165^5 :

23/5/72) Dr Blumer, the senior author of Exhibit 533, whose

views on the toxicity of persistent oils were of particular

interest to the Commission, was not available for examination though his testimony was invited on more than one occasion.

The more important aspects of the data presented and the con­

clusions reached by the authors of Exhibits 532 and 533 were however reviewed in some detail by Mr Bennett, Q.C. "Some Submissions concerning papers of Dr M. Blumer" (which were

elaborated in the closing address of his junior Mr Helman (T18209-46A)) and also in the closing addresses of Mr Connolly,

Q.C. (T18802-7) and Mr Greenwood (T18247-50) .

(ii) General account

2.6.9 "Early on the morning of September 16, 1969, the barge 'Florida' came ashore off Fassett's Point, West Fal­

mouth, Massachusetts and ruptured her steel hull, spilling an

estimated ... 60,000 - 70,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil along

the (eastern) shores of Buzzard's Bay." (Exhibit 70) Later

estimates put the quantity lost at about 170,000 gallons or 600-650 tons. (Professor Clark, T3702, Dr Grassle, T6130).


Dr Grassle added that analyses showed it to contain some 4l% of

aromatic hydrocarbons. A strong S.W. gale carried much of the

oil towards West Falmouth Harbour and Wild Harbour.(Dr Grassle,

T6130) Wild Harbour and its inner reaches of Silver Beach

Harbour, which received the heaviest cover, lie roughly north­

wards of the site of the spill and from the map appended to

Exhibit 532 (Fig.l), about 2\ miles from it.

2.6.10 According to the account given by Mr G.R. Hampson and

Dr H.L. Sanders "The toll taken on marine life was obvious -

the oil-soaked beaches were littered with dead or dying fish as

well as worms, crustaceans and molluscs. Windrows of fish,

crabs and other invertebrates covered the shores of the Wild

Harbour River and large masses of marine worms, forced from

their natural habitat in the sediments, lay exposed and decay­

ing in the tidal pools ... Lobsters and certain species of fish

... washed up on Silver Beach ... are primarily bottom-living

forms. This was surprising for it implied that the impact of the spill must have been felt not only between the tide levels, but also on the bottom below low tide ... preliminary observa­

tions suggest that the oil may have consistently penetrated the

sediments of water depths at 7 - 10 metres in the heavily

polluted zones." (Exhibit 70)

2.6.11 From late September 1969 the month in which the spill occurred, samples of bottom sediment were collected and collated

over threemonth periods until October 1971 from a cluster of'

stations within Wild Harbour, Wild Harbour River and Silver Beach Harbour and from a more widely spaced series of localities

off-shore, some lying along the line between Wild Harbour and

the wrecked barge and a smaller number westwards out to sea for

a maximum distance of some 2 miles (Exhibit 532 Fig. 1). The hydrocarbon concentrations found, and recorded in milligrammes

per 100 grammes of dry sediments, are set out in Table II of

Exhibit 533.

2.6.12 Dr Grassle, quoting from Exhibit 72 p. 5, reported

on the nature of the oil found in the Wild Harbour sediments

in the following words (T6137-8) "Sediments in Wild Harbour

Basin (water depth 10 ft) were sampled 12 days after the acci­

dent. The chromatogram of the total hydrocarbon fraction is

reproduced ... The similarity with the chromatogram of No. 2

fuel oil is striking. The carbon number range, boiling point

distribution and relative contribution of different isomers is

nearly identical. The major difference is a general decrease

of the lower molecular weight hydrocarbons in the oil recover­

ed from the sediment; these hydrocarbons are more readily

soluble and should be depleted in an oil which has been in

contact with sea water for an appreciable length of time.

Conversely, these hydrocarbons are the most immediately toxic

fraction of the oil and their dissolution may be responsible in part for the lethal effect of the oil on the faunas ... Oil

continued to be released from the sediments for a long time

after the accident. Water with a patchy oil film was sampled in the Wild Harbour Basin ... more than 2 months after the

spill. The chromatogram of the extracted oil shows ... the

carbon number range extends from C ^ *° ^22 " ' " - * - ower boiling hydrocarbons are further, but not drastically depleted

... This suggests that the principal alteration may well have taken "place immediately after the accident and before the oil

became incorporated into the sediment."

(ill) Character and distribution of the pollutant oil

2.6.13 According to Blumer and Sass, the No. 2 fuel oil carried by the 'Florida' consisted mainly of hydrocarbons with­

in the 170-370°C boiling point range and with carbon numbers

C10 ~ C22 (Exhibit 533, p. 7). Analyses of sediments in local­ ities within Buzzard's Bay that were deemed to be unpolluted

showed that they contained, on the average, 5-7 mgm of indige­

nous (natural) and pollutant hydrocarbons per 100 g. dried

weight of sediment. Blumer and Sass regarded levels of 10 mgm plus as indicative of a significant admission of pollutant


They found in the sediments at the most heavily poll­

uted station (Station 31) in Silver Beach Harbour oil concen­

trations which rose from 110 mgm shortly after the first arri­

val of oil from the spill to 1240 mgm 5 months later, with the

retention of an approximate average 200 mgm level over a 21

month period. Two years after the spill the last of the ana­ lyses recorded gave a level of 130 mgm. Nearby stations in

Wild Harbour River (II, IV and V), less heavily polluted,

showed levels starting around 50 - l80 mgm which declined

fairly steadily over 2 years to some 14 - 40 mgm (Table II

p.59). Two off-shore stations ( 7 and 10) showed the following sequences. Station 7 from 19 to 12 during the three months

commencing a month after the spill and Station 10 from 15 to 14

with several months not recorded, over the 10 months following the spill. In both cases subsequent recordings showed that the

concentration of oil fell below the 10 mgm level of "signifi­

cant pollution" (Exhibit 533, p.6 and Table II).

2.6.14 Blumer and Sass, as a result of their analyses at

monthly intervals of the persistent but declining quantity of

oil contained in the Buzzard's Bay and Wild Harbour sediments

say at p.40 of Exhibit 533 that the depletion was mainly of straight chain paraffinic hydrocarbons which however "persist

at low concentration levels" and that "Even after two years, isoprenoid and cyclic saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons are

still very much in evidence ..." (p. 4l)

(iv) Toxicity of persistent oil 2.6.15 The two authors regard persistent oil as toxic to

organisms. The toxicity of oil, they argue, derives both from the presence of compounds of low and high carbon number. In

respect of the first category they say "It is environmentally

significant that the lower boiling hydrocarbons are removed from

the sediments by dissolution rather than by bacterial degrada­

tion. This implies that a polluted sediment can supply these


toxic hydrocarbons to the water column, unaltered for a long

time after the spill", (p. 4-4) Of the compounds of higher

carbon number they say "The fuel oil spilled at West Falmouth

contained little tricyclic aromatics and none of the four or

higher membered polycyclic aromatics which are common in high­

er fuel oils and whole crude oils. These hydrocarbons ...

possess both short and long term toxicity. They are less soluble and therefore more persistent than the benzenes and

naphthalenes. Thus a higher boiling fuel oil or a whole crude

oil would retain its toxicity considerably longer than the

fuel oil spilled at West Falmouth." (p. 45)

2.6.16 The question that Blumer and Sass did not resolve in

their writings was the measure of toxicity of the persistent oils. They say that because of the preferential depletion of

compounds of low carbon number "... the oil which appeared

several months after the spill ... was less immediately toxic than the fresh oil ..." (p. 43) but they give no evidence of

the toxicity of the more persistent aromatics of high carbon numbers which earlier in evidence had been described as "... among the least toxic materials in crude oils." (Mr Cowell,


2.6.17 The measure of toxicity of the persistent 'Florida' oil is however perhaps best assessed from the results of the

biological investigations of the benthic fauna within the polluted localities (Exhibit 532) and from the extent to which it is possible, from the data given, to relate depletion and

recovery to the patterns of oil deposition reported in Exhibit


(v) Biological surveys 2.6.18 In the West Falmouth surveys particular attention was

paid to the polychaete faunas of muds from heavily oil polluted

stations (e.g. station 31 in Silver Beach Harbour at 10ft depth) at lightly polluted stations (e.g. station 10, approxi­


mately half a mile southwest of the Wild Harbour entrance In

about 40 ft of water) and an unpolluted station (station 35

about 1.8 miles WSW from the mouth of Wild Harbour in about 38 1 2

ft of water). Grab samples of ^ m were taken at intervals

from September 1969, a few days after the spill, until January

- March 1971, 15 - 18 months later; and all the worms present

in them counted and identified.

The majority of the Commission consider that the

samples were too small and infrequent for accurate comparisons

of individual and species numbers to be valid, for example a

sample 11.8 times as large as a grab sample contained twice as

many species (Exhibit 532 Table 3); and it is not stated in

the report whether the sediments at the different stations were

of a similar type and texture and therefore likely to carry

similar communities. The Chairman would prefer to express no

opinion thereon.

Nevertheless, even allowing for these considerations,

the species numbers at the unpolluted, lightly polluted and

heavily polluted stations (35, 10 and 31) following the spill,

which were respectively 27, 16 and 4, are strongly demonstra­ tive of an initial depletion in the presence of oil; and the

subsequent sequence of the species counts are indicative of the

measure and rate of recovery. At station 35 the counts are 27,

21; at station 10: 16, 17, 13, 17, 16, 16, 15* 36, 26, 21, 32: and at station 31: 4,1,4,4,6 * 11, 18, 12, 12 The asterisks would appear to mark break points of

the re-entry of species initially absent. At station 10 the hydrocarbon level for the first time fell to the boundary level

of a significant pollution as defined by Blumer and Sass (Exhibit 533). At station 31 the hydrocarbon levels were still

very high at the break point but the recovery process was only partial. The times after the spill of the break points were

respectively 10 and 9 months.

Because there seemed from the diversity and abundance

of worms in the unpolluted areas to be a sufficient supply of

organisms and larvae to effect repopulation of damaged areas,


it seems justifiable to conclude that the delayed recovery of

the polluted sediments is due to the persistence within them

of oil and of conditions of chronic pollution which, in this

area and according to the amount of oil originally present,

can persist for varying lengths of time up to 2 years and

more. Nevertheless, on the evidence of the results reported

in Exhibit 532 even the most heavily polluted locality in

Silver Beach Harbour (Station 31) was beginning to recover 9 to 10 months after the initial pollution.

(vi) Summary and conclusions

2.6.19 We conclude from the observations made on the 'Florida' spill in the light of the commentaries upon t'hem that

(a) the initial serious damage inflicted upon the

faunas of Wild Harbour and adjacent areas of Buzzard's Bay resulted primarily from the solu­

tion of the more soluble low boiling point and

low molecular weight hydrocarbon components of the spilled oil (paragraphs 2.6.10 and 2.6.12


(b) the toxic components responsible for the initial kill had suffered a general decrease during the 12 days following the release at which time the first analyses of oil incorporated into the bottom sedi­

ments were made. They showed the retention of

hydrocarbons to of which a large propor­ tion were aromatic hydrocarbons.

(c) the most extensive deposition of oil occurred within

an oil trapping bay (Wild Harbour) downwind of the spill. Unequivocal evidence of a substantial sub­ sequent off-shore spread of oil of indicative pol­

lution (10 mgm) levels to other areas seems however

to be lacking.

(d) oil initially present in the sediments in large

quantities, persisted for at least two years, but

some regeneration of the fauna seemed to occur even


when the oil was present in sediments at a level

of significant pollution after a period of about

10 or 11 months.

(f) Continuous pollution and its ecological effects: Case histories

2.6.20 The effects on marine eco-systems of a long continu­

ing admission of oil into the sea were referred to in evidence

in respect of a number of localities illustrative of differing

intensities of pollution by crude oil and mixed, in some ins­

tances, with refinery products.

(i) Caspian Sea

2.6.21 Professor Clark (T3768) said that "The western part

of the middle and southern Caspian Sea is subject to intense

and continuous oil pollution from several sources (Kasymov, 1970; Exhibit 299). Off-shore drilling coupled with numerous

natural and artificial oil seepages from the sea bed account

for 500,000 kg of crude oil per day escaping into the sea in

the region of Neftyanye Kamni Island alone. Waste waters from

refineries and the petrochemical industry contribute a further

substantial amount of oil to the sea while the Caspian tanker fleet and fishing vessels are estimated to discharge some

900,000 cubic metres of oily water into the sea daily. In

addition, large quantities of untreated sewerage are discharged into the sea, but the chief pollutant is oil. The consequences have been dramatic. The production of phytoplankton on which

all life in the sea ultimately depends has fallen markedly

between 1962 and 1969 and this has been reflected also in a decline in zooplankton production. Since 1930, catches of stur­

geon in the Caspian as a whole have fallen by two-thirds and in

the southern Caspian are now only a quarter of what they were.

Salmon catches have been reduced to a tenth of their former

figure." Professor Clark observes, however, that "It is possi­

ble that, as an enclosed sea with a large, heavy, industrial­

ised complex and a major urban area on its shores, the Caspian presents a special case unlikely to be parallelled in more


open seas." (T3768)

(ii) Gulf of Mexico

2.6.22 Dr L.S. St Amant, Assistant Director Louisiana Wild

Life and Fisheries Commission said, at T3938, the coast of

Louisiana comprises "...some seven million acres of marshland

which is largely uninhabited." He added, "The production of

oil in the coastal estuaries of Louisiana began in the late

1920's but reached its greatest intensity during and after

World War II ... major off-shore discoveries did not occur

until 1947 and reached a high level in the late 50's and throughout the 60's ... a great many wells have been drilled

and miles of pipelines have interlaced the estuarine and off­

shore areas of Louisiana." (T3941) "There are 1089 single well structures and 703 multiple well platforms ... in water

depths ranging up to 350 feet but the bulk of these structures occur in water depths from 0-150 feet." (T3943)

2.6.23 The Louisiana coastal area, according to Dr St Amant, has been "noted for its high production of oysters, shrimp,

fish, fur and water fowl for many years." (T3939) Off-shore, a variety of fish are taken commercially while barracouta, jew- fish, red schnapper and spade fish are present in large numbers

around oil rigs (Mr Gusey, T5177), the waters in the vicinity of these structures furnishing "some of the finest sport fish­ ing ever known." (Dr St Amant, T3983)

2.6. 24 Dr St Amant said that "In evaluating pollution

effects in any area, one should immediately make a distinction between accidental and chronic pollution. While accidental pollution can be catastrophic ... it will very rarely ...have a gross permanent and lasting effect on the ecosystem." How­

ever, "minor or long range accumulative effects are not readily

demonstrable." (T3960-1) But Dr St Amant stressed that "By con­

trast, of more critical concern is the continuing low-level chronic oil pollution associated with intensive operations in

in shallow water embayments and marshy areas." Here there are

"numerous local areas of high petroleum production where chron­

ic oil loss and mechanical obstructions have resulted in a bio­

logical desert or have ruled out any other use of the area." (T3966) In amplification of this statement Dr St Amant said

that the desert area around a single unit or tank battery might

be "perhaps one to five acres", that "in a large field you might have several such units scattered over every hundred

acres" and that in places where the ecology may not be distur­

bed the presence of industrial operations "rules out every

other use of the area ... and a large oil field might usurp

several hundred acres in the embayment." (T3967)

2.6.25 Dr St Amant was of the opinion that the Louisiana State Fisheries statistics give "... no evidence that the oil

industry has had any significant effect on fish or shellfish

production in aggregate over the years since 1939" (T3981) but he added that "if we had put as much effort into the oyster

industry as we do now and still had a great many of the optimal areas which have been usurped by the petroleum industry our

production might be greater than ever" adding "I have no proof

of this; this is an opinion." (T3992)

2.6.26 Dr St Amant's evidence bore almost entirely on the effects of the oil industry's activities on commercially fished species. Although he frequently used the term 'ecosystem' as

indicative of the larger and more diverse communities of organ­

isms present in Louisiana waters no indication was given of the nature of these communities or of any surveys that had been made of the planktonic, benthic and intertidal populations with­

in the area. It was evident that he had in mind these deficien­ cies of knowledge when towards the end of his evidence he obser­

ved that "The greatest gap in our knowledge of the effect of oil on marine life involves the questions of chronic and minimal

pollution levels ... Does it materially affect the ecosystem?

What effect does the chronic and cumulative oil pollution have

on a local area? Does this effect extend beyond the local site?

These and many related problems should be Investigated before

final conclusions are drawn about the mechanics of oil pollu­

tion in marine eco-systems. Certainly the significance of the

continual addition to and accumulative effects of sub-lethal

pollutants on the environment is probably the most important ecological question facing us today. While this question

remains unanswered, environmental management decisions based

only on our present knowledge of short-term gross effects of

pollution and/or environmental manipulation may eventually

prove to be disastrous." (T3985—6)

(ill) Milford Haven

2.6.27 Dr Nelson-Smith in a paper published in 1967 and

referred to in Exhibit 365 described Milford Haven and its oil

terminal facilities in the following words. "Milford Haven is

situated at the southwestern tip of Wales, its mouth forming part of a rocky coastline ... Its marine flora and fauna are

... amongst the most varied in the British Isles. Because of the deep and rocky nature of the inlet this variety extends far up the Haven and the common estuary of the rivers Cleddan

which opens into it. The lower Haven has long been used by

fishing vessels, coastal freighters and small naval craft with little effect on its shores, but within the last ten years it has become established as Britain's largest oil port." Mr

Cowell said that "in i960 two major oil companies added marine terminals there: one serves its own refinery and the other receives and stores crude oil ... By 1970 ... two further re­

fineries had been built each with its own terminal, and the

building of a fourth refinery has just begun ... Tankers of more than 200,000 tons can be accepted in the port ..." where

"... 40 million tons (of oil) are handled annually".(T10901-2)

2.6.28 In the account which was given in evidence of chronic

pollution and its effects on the flora and fauna of the Haven particular reference was made to certain installations and

localities which can readily be pictured in their general geo­


graphical relationship. The Haven is entered from the sea by a

north-east inclining reach roughly a mile long. A turn is then

made to the east to enter the Haven itself. On the north shore

of the Haven near to its mouth at Littlewick Bay a quarter of a

mile long Esso jetty extends into water of 60-70 feet depth.

About 3-3h miles east of the Esso jetty is a shorter jetty of the

Gulf refinery. Beyond it to the east is the indentation of

Hazelbeach. On the south shore roughly opposite to and approx­

imately lh miles distant from the Esso terminal is the BP termi­

nal (with an adjacent refinery) and near to it to the east is

the Texaco terminal and refinery. Both lie on the eastern head­

land of the embayment of Angle Bay.

2.6.29 Apart from a serious spill of upwards of 250 tons of

oil from the tanker 'Chryssi P Goulandris' at the BP terminal

in 1967, the spillage rate of oil from these refinery terminals has been calculated over the years 1966-69 as about 0.0002­

0.0001% of the tonnage handled (T10,9O2) or about 40 tons per annum. The refinery effluent discharges were stated by Mr Cowell

(T10,942A) to be "derived from three main sources. 1. Process water condensed from steam injection in the refining operation.

2. Fresh water run off from rain falling into the refinery area, and 3. Ballast water from tankers ... all discharged through the same pipe" ... and with the oil discharge "limited by law to 50 ppm, but rarely discharged in concentrations greater than 20-25

ppm". (T10943)

2.6.30 Surveys of the intertidal flora and fauna had been

made by Dr Nelson-Smith and other scientists at various times and in numerous localities along the north and south shores of the Haven from 1959 onwards. Mr Cowell summarised the nature and results of these surveys at T10984 in the following words

"Long term changes in the fauna and flora at Milford Haven as a result of the oil industry operations are being recorded using

32 monitoring transects around the shores of the port. Record­

ing is done using the modified Crisp and Southward scale des­

cribed by Crapp (1970). Recording began before the oil port

was established ... These surveys reveal no long term changes

In the flora and fauna of Milford Haven that are attributable

to the development and operation of the oil terminals and

refineries, the only exceptions to this being damage to two

repeatedly cleaned recreational beaches and to damage within

the Immediate vicinity of one refinery outfall pipe discharg­

ing water with an oil content of approximately 25 ppm."

(T10984) The methodology of the surveys was outlined by Mr

Cowell at T10946-7 and the monitored organisms listed at

TIO963-5 .

2.6.31 Mr Cowell stated (T11062) that no biological effects of oil pollution had been found In the neighbourhood of the

Gulf and Texaco refinery outlets In Milford Haven but that

changes had been noted on the Littlewick shores adjacent to

the Esso jetty. "When this sheltered bay was first examined

In 1969 It was surprising to find that the dominant Intertidal

species was the exposed shore species of brown seaweed, Pucus veslculosus. Prom the bay's position a limpet/barnacle domin­

ated shore had been expected with the sheltered shore brown

seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum as the dominant alga. Early records showed that this shore had originally been a limpet/ barnacle dominated shore. To study the changes, six transects were established up to 450 metres on either side of the out

fall. It was found that several species occurred In reduced numbers or were absent ... The severely depleted fauna and

flora took the form of a pollution gradient (Crapp, 1970)." Beyond 450 metres on either side of the outfall "the situation

was normal." (T10946)

2.6.32 Mr Cowell said of the intertidal eco-system at

Littlewick Bay that "there was no change at the time the refinery was built but the change has been documented and

observed from the time of the commencement of operation,

within a year or two " (T11080) but he agreed, In subsequent


cross examination, that observations prior to 1969 had been

made by untrained biologists. In his opinion there had been no

further deterioration of the eco-system attributed to oil since

1969 when Mr Crapp had made his survey; nor had the affected

area become enlarged. (111074)

2.6.33 The possible effects of chronic oil pollution on the deeper water benthos were not satisfactorily resolved in evi­

dence. Mr Cowell admitted under cross examination that the only

biological surveys known to him had been undertaken in Angle Bay

which was not in the direct line of flow of effluent discharges;

that he was not aware of any biological surveys in the main

channel; and that chemical analyses of muds had been few in

number and restricted in area. (111069-70)

(iv) Summary and conclusions

2.6.34 In summary of the evidence presented on chronic pol­ lution overseas by oil, and its effects on marine organisms and

eco-systems in respect of the well documented examples of the

non-reefal areas of the Louisiana oil fields and the Milford

Haven oil terminal the following conclusions may be drawn.

(a) The continuous admission into the sea of oil, even

in low concentrations of 20-25 ppm, may adversely

affect a variety of organisms and induce long lasting changes in the character of marine eco­

systems .

(b) The changes reported are, on occasions, sufficient

to be noticeable by untrained as well as trained

observers but no surveys have as yet been under­ taken which accurately and quantitatively measure

the effects of chronic pollution on all the com­ ponent species of an eco-system or the occurrence

of possible sub-lethal effects.

(c) On the evidence drawn from the Louisiana oil field and Milford Haven experiences the area affected by

continuous oil escapes in low concentration from a


single site of release is not extensive. Disper­

sion and the various processes which accompany the

ageing of oil with the passage of time and its

transportation by currents produce a gradient of diminishing effect with distance. Bearing in

mind their purely local significance the Louisiana

figures suggest an effect over 1-5 acres from a

single unit or tank battery. Milford Haven surveys

indicate an approximate 900 metres confinement of significant damage. The Chairman considers that

Dr St Amant as quoted in paragraph 2.6.24 supra was

stressing that by way of contrast with the effects of accidental pollution, low level chronic pollu­

tion is of more critical concern.

(d) The views expressed in evidence give support to Dr St Amant's belief that "the significance of the

continual addition to and accumulative effects of

sub-lethal pollutants on the environment is probab­ ly the most important ecological question facing us

today." (T3986)

(g) Oil within organisms and food chains

(i) Introduction

2.6.35 Professor Clark, when discussing the possible public health hazard that might arise from the consumption of oil-con­ taminated shell fish and other sea food, made the following

comment. (T3772/3) "Until recently, oil pollution had not been thought to constitute a public health hazard - indeed, the possibility of

this had seemed so remote that the matter had received little

serious consideration - but recent research findings have prompted a number of scientists, principally in the United

States, to claim that oil pollution of the sea constitutes a serious health hazard in several different ways" ... "The claim

that oil pollution menaces human health originates in the follow­ ing reasoning. Naturally occurring hydrocarbons synthesized by

marine algae, diatoms, etc. are selectively accumulated by some

zooplanktonic organisms feeding upon them. Once these hydro­

carbons have been incorporated in the lipid pool of an organ­

ism they are immune from further digestion or degradation.

They then behave like, for example, the persistent chlorinated

hydrocarbon insecticides and are transmitted through the food

web and may reach quite high concentrations in terminal members

of food chains. Hydrocarbons are highly characteristic com­

pounds identifiable with great precision by gas chromatography.

Oil pollution in the sea adds to the range of hydrocarbons al­

ready there and can be distinguished from the naturally occur­

ring compounds by suitably refined and analytical techniques.

Oil hydrocarbons are taken up by animals, protected from degra­

dation, accumulated and concentrated in exactly the same way as naturally occurring hydrocarbons. The health hazard arises

because they include a number of known carcinogenic compounds."

2.6.36 In this section of our report we examine, on the ba­

sis of the evidence received, the constituent parts of the argument which Professor Clark posed for consideration.

(ii) Biologically manufactured hydrocarbons

(a) Plants

2.6.37 Machin and Hopkins (1962), in a passage quoted by

Professor Clark (T3716) state that vegetation is the principal source of naturally produced hydrocarbons of recent origin.

The statement was not developed further in evidence, though

some examples were given of the kinds of plant which are known

to synthesize hydrocarbons and of compounds they manufacture.

Thus, it was noted that "An oleofinic hydrocarbon, identified

as heneicosahexane (C21H22) occurs in many marine planktonic algae and many centric diatoms" (Professor Clark, T3773), and that "many algae contain high concentrations of n. pentadecane,

n. heptadecane and other normal paraffins." (Dr Grassle

T6142). Mr Cowell, quoting ZoBell (1971) added that "polycyclic

aromatics are produced in very large amounts in the sea by

phytoplankton." (T10920)

2 .6.38 In consequence of this large scale production of

natural hydrocarbons, which one estimate quoted by Professor

Clark (T3781) puts at "3 tons of aliphatic and aromatic hydro­

carbons per square kilometre of ocean per annum", animals

which feed on plants or on their remains in sedimentary mater­

ial almost invariably contain some plant-produced hydrocarbons.

The copepod Rhincalanus nasutus takes up heneicosahexane and

"accumulates it when maintained in cultures of appropriate

algae in the laboratory, though other related copepods in

similar cultures do not. The same compound has been isolated

in oysters, herring and the liver of basking shark (Professor

Clark, T3773), while Dr Blumer (Exhibit 297) found evidence for the passage along a food chain of hydrocarbons of biologi­

cal origin by identifying the compounds found in the liver of

the basking shark Cetorhinus maximus with those found in the

copepods Calanus hyperboreus and C. finmarchicus on which it

had been feeding.

(b) Animals

2.6.39 It would appear from evidence given that some animals at least, like plants, are capable of synthesizing hydrocarbons,

often using precursor materials derived from plants. Dr Blumer

(Exhibit 297) instanced the synthesis of squalene in the liver

of the basking shark and Dr Grassle (T6383) cited experiments by Blumer, Mullin and Thomas (Exhibit 306) which suggest that some copepods may synthesize pristane from plant derived phytol.

(ill) Pollutant hydrocarbons 2.6.40 Pollutant hydrocarbons have been found in the bodies

of a variety of marine organisms, and instances were given in

evidence of animals that have been seen to ingest oil in the various states of droplet suspension in sea water, as oil/

water emulsions in sediments, and when present on rocks as a

semi-solid coating of weathered oil. Freegarde, Hatchard and

Parker, in a paper (Exhibit 362) which was referred to in the evidence of Dr Connell (T7176-81), Mr Mansfield (T7201) and

Mr Keith (T12056), observed the capture and ingestion of drop­


lets of Kuwait oil by barnacle larvae and the copepod Calanus

finmarchicus in experimental laboratory cultures. The addition

of a fluorescent dye to the oil enabled it to be traced in its

passage through the gut of these animals and its expulsion with

the faeces. No mention was made of its occurrence in other

parts of the body. Professor Clark (T3696) cited reports of

limpets (Patella) rasping partially hardened oil from the sur­

faces of intertidal rocks. According to Dr Nelson-Smith (Exhi­

bit 365) some, and perhaps all of the ingested oil is subse­

quently expelled with the faeces.

2.6.41 The contamination by pollutant oils of oysters,

scallops and other molluscan shellfish was referred to in the

evidence of Dr St Amant (T3974 et seq), Mr Stanphill (T4646),

Dr Halstead (T7320 et seq), Dr Grassle (T6123 et seq), Mr

Cowell (T11019-21) and Professor Clark (T3770-4) among other

witnesses; and a suspected contamination of mullet by petro­

leum hydrocarbons in the Brisbane River was discussed by Mr

Harrison (T5734-5) and Dr Connell (T7071 et seq) . In none of these cases was entry of oil observed but one or other of two

criteria were used in demonstration of its presence.

2.6.42 Dr St Amant (T3974) said "... that a serious taste and odour problem developed when oyster beds become contamina­

ted with oil based muds" and that "Oysters will purge them­

selves of an oily taste if removed to uncontaminated areas ..." (T3975-6) The tainting of oysters when oil is present and, as

Dr St Amant's evidence would seem to indicate, its absence in oysters from uncontaminated waters, strongly suggests that

tainting is due to pollutant hydrocarbons absorbed on to the

surface of the animal or retained within its body.

2.6.43 Tainting is not however of itself unequivocally demon­ strative of the presence of pollutant oil compounds. Mr Harri­

son noted that "tainted fish have been picked up in the river system at Noosa where there is no industry and not many people"

(T5735), and Dr Connell said that tainted mullet had been taken

at many places along the Queensland coast, and he instanced Tin

Can Bay, Tewantin, Caloundra, Pine Rivers, Sandgate, Luggage

Point, Wynnum and the Brisbane River as localities from which

tainted fish had been sent to him for analysis. (T7075) The

main points he made when questioned on his statement (Exhibit

316) were that only some fish - the percentage was not known

to him - from these localities are tainted (T7O83) and that in

every case the unpleasant taste or odour was due to kerosene­ like substances.(T7082) When asked "whether these were

naturally occurring hydrocarbons ... or whether they were the

result of some sort of spillage" Dr Connell answered "I do not know." (T7094)

2.6.44 The conclusion we draw from these few observations is

that natural hydrocarbons may be, but are not proven to be, a

cause of tainting, but that petroleum hydrocarbons can, with­ out question, cause tainting.

(iv) Persistence of pollutant hydrocarbons in


2.6.45 The subject of the persistence and possible accumu­ lation of pollutant hydrocarbons within the bodies of marine organisms was referred to in the statements of several witnes­

ses. It was evident that very few quantitative estimations had been made and that the principal sources of information derive from the work of Dr Max Blumer and his associates of the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts. Quantitative

data and commentaries bearing on the contamination of oysters and scallops following the massive release of No. 2 diesel fuel

from the wreck of the barge 'Florida' in Buzzard's Bay, Massa­

chusetts are reported in Exhibits 72, 238, 290 and 532. A study by Dr M. Erhardt on 'Petroleum hydrocarbons in oysters from Galveston Bay, Texas (Exhibit 540), though admitted late

in the hearings and not subjected to critical examination, was also taken into consideration by the Commission.

2.6.46 Dr Blumer was not available to give evidence. The

experimental procedures used and the conclusions drawn by Dr

Blumer and his associates were, therefore, examined mainly

through the evidence of Dr Grassle (T6138 et seq) who had par­

ticipated in the study (Exhibit 238) which most directly and

fully reports the data and experimental procedures on which the

authors' conclusions were based.

Shellfish of Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts

(i) General

2.6.47 Blumer, Souza and Sass explain the circumstances which led them to examine the contamination of oysters and scallops

by the No. 2 diesel fuel oil spilled into Buzzard's Bay follow­

ing the wreck of the barge 'Florida' off Fasset's Point, West

Falmouth on 16 September 1969 in the following words (Exhibit

72, p. 2):

"Some of the productive shellfish beds upstream from

the affected areas had remained viable; however, they were

closed to the taking of oysters and scallops because of possible

contamination. On September 25, 1969, taste tests suggested

that shellfish could be taken safely and the areas were re­

opened. However, commercial exploitation yielded scallops with objectional "oily" taste; this led again to a closing of the

shellfish areas on September 27, 1969. At that time a joint

effort between the Town of Falmouth (In the person of Mr G. Souza, Shellfish Warden) "and this laboratory" (The Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution) "was initiated to determine the

possible pollution of oysters and scallops by this accident

and to advise on further closing or re-opening of the shellfish areas. Scallops (Aequipecten irradians) were collected in West

Falmouth Harbour on November 4 and oysters (Crassostrea virgin- ica) in Wild Harbour River on November 12 ... For comparison, uncontaminated oysters were collected on the same date from

Waquoit Bay on the South Shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts" -

Waquoit Bay was said not to have been affected by the spill.

(Exhibit 238 p .22)


2.6.48 Only In the case of oysters were animals from both

contaminated and uncontaminated sources analysed for the total

quantity and composition of their hydrocarbons; and in these

animals only were successive analyses made with the passage

of time and under controlled conditions of keeping. Because

the experiments on scallops were limited to an examination of

the hydrocarbons present at the time they were collected, they

do not bear so directly as do the oyster experiments on the

subject of the persistence of hydrocarbons in animals.

(ii) Scallops

2.6.49 The hydrocarbon assays of scallops were of somewhat limited value. In the first place the animals examined were

all taken from the contaminated sediments of West Falmouth

Harbour and no hydrocarbon measurements were made of controls

from uncontaminated sediments by which to determine the levels

of pollutant oil present in the animals over and above the

levels of hydrocarbons of natural origin which would be present

in both contaminated and uncontaminated sediments for, as

Blumer et al remarked in Exhibit 72 at p .9, there is a "serious problem in tracing hydrocarbon pollution through the environ­

ment since pollutants are always accompanied by natural hydro­

carbons." Secondly, the scallop assays were limited to an examination of the hydrocarbons present at the time the ani­

mals were collected. The data on scallops are not therefore

informative of the extent to which hydrocarbons may persist in

the tissues when animals are kept in clean water. A further difference in the character of the hydrocarbon assays on scal­

lops as compared with those on oysters is that, in scallops, only the adductor muscles were analysed, a circumstance which,

while more exactly identifying the tissues in which hydrocar­ bon accumulation may occur, makes it impossible to compare

the total hydrocarbon carrying capacity of the oysters and scallops examined during the course of the experiments.

2.6.50 Data given in Table 1 of Exhibit 72, and Table 3 of

Exhibit 238 summarise the essential features of these collec­

tions. Table 1 was subject to a correction entered at T6151 to

read "oysters" instead of "scallops" in respect of samples 5

and 6.

(iii) Oysters

2.6.51 The nature of the experiments as related in Exhibits

72 and 238 are as follows.

In all, 33 animals were used. Ten were taken from

the oil polluted area of the Wild Harbour River and 23 from

Waquoit Bay.

The 10 oysters from the Wild Harbour River were col­

lected on 12 November, 1969, 57 days after the 'Florida' spill.

The soft parts of 7 of these oysters were analysed gravimetri­

cally for their total hydrocarbon content and a small portion of the oyster tissues were used for chromatographic identifi­ cation of the constituent components of the oil. (Dr Grassle,

T6l42) The 3 remaining oysters "were removed to clean labora­ tory tanks on November 12, 1969 "and were maintained there for

either 72 or l80 days. ("Exhibit 238 p. 19) One oyster was analy­ sed gravimetrically and by chromatography after 72 days, the re­

maining 2 after 180 days. The oysters within the three sam­

ples subjected to zero, 72 and l80 days of cleansing had an

average wet weight of 15-7 g, 17-0 g and 16.5 g respectively

and an average hydrocarbon content of 6.9 mgm, 12.6 mgm and 3·8

mgm per 100 g wet weight.

The 23 Waquoit Bay oysters were divided into two lots

of 11 and 12 animals each of which was analysed as a batch on

the day they were collected. The batch of 11 oysters averaged 8.3 g wet weight and a hydrocarbon content of 0.55 mgm/100 g ; the batch of 12 animals were on average 3-0 g wet weight and

with 0.23 mgm/100 g of hydrocarbons. The purpose of the experi­

ments was to test the ability of oysters to incorporate within their bodies hydrocarbons drawn from polluted waters, and sec­

ondly to determine the extent to which oil, once incorporated,

may persist in the tissues.

(a) Incorporation of oil

2.6.52 Evidence of the uptake by oysters of No. 2 fuel oil

contained in contaminated sediments was based on data derived from the following experiments.

Twelve days after the accident, sediments in Wild

Harbour Basin were analysed chromatographically and compared

with the chromatographs of the original No. 2 fuel oil involv­

ed in the accident. Figures 3A and 3B of Exhibit 72 illustra­ te the composition of fresh oil and the oil of 12 day age

recovered from the sediments. Blumer, Souza and Sass say of the two chromatograms that:

"The similarity ... is striking. The carbon number

range, boiling point distribution and relative contribution of

different isomers is nearly identical. The major difference is a general decrease of the low molecular weight hydrocarbons

in the oil recovered from the sediment; these hydrocarbons

are more readily soluble and should be depleted in an oil that has been in contact with sea water for an appreciable length of time. Conversely, these hydrocarbons are the most immedi­

ately toxic fraction of the oil and their dissolution may be

responsible in part for the lethal effect of the oil on the

faunas." (Exhibit 72 p. 5) Later analyses of Wild Harbour River sediments from three different localities (Station II, IV and V) in December 1969 and May 1970 were reported by Blumer, et al, in Exhibit

238, p. 15, as showing "in December ... evidence of consider­ able biodegradation but only a minimal further change ...

between December 1969 and May 1970." They add that "The slow rate of degradation during these five months suggests that the

principal alteration of the oil has occured before it was in­

corporated into the sediments" and that "heavily polluted regions retain their oil content and may remain a source of

relatively undegraded oil ... for a long time after the initial

accident." (Exhibit 238 p. 15 and 16)

2.6.53 Against this background of sediments demonstrably

polluted with No. 2 fuel oil, and which Blumer and his co­

workers claim, we think with justification, to be only slowly

changed by dissolution and biodegradation in the more heavily

contaminated sediments, Blumer Souza and Sass examined the

hydrocarbons from the oysters taken in Wild Harbour River on

November 12, 1969 two months after the accident. In referring to the chromatogram illustrated in fig. 4B of Exhibit 72 they

say (p. 7) that the hydrocarbons "extend from C12 to about C23

and show the same general features as the No. 2 fuel oil and

the oil recovered from the sediments." They add, however, that

in the chromatogram spectrum below heptadecane (C17) there is a

decrease in the relative peak heights of hydrocarbons of lower

carbon number and they make this comment:

"The progressive alteration, in the same direction as

already observed in the oil from the sediments is not unexpected

though the extent of the change is remarkable. Compared to the

oil within the sediments which is protected from further solu­

bilization, the oil now in the shellfish may have been exposed

to the sea water for a much longer time, for instance on top of

the sediments, in the water column or in the shellfish itself."

(Exhibit 72 p. 7)

2.6.54 The nature and significance of the compositional characteristics of oil retained for long periods within the body of the oyster received little attention in cross-examination.

At T6370 Mr Bennett touched briefly on this point in asking Dr Grassle to explain the different chromatogram spectra of oil

taken from the unpolluted oysters of Waquoit Bay and the animals

taken from polluted sediments.

Q. "What do you say that contrast shows?" A. "What it shows is that the oysters in Waquoit Bay do not contain the component of No. 2 fuel oil

and at least part of the components of No. 2 fuel

oil are retained unchanged in the oysters from the

polluted area and it is this background area which

is predominantly the aromatic hydrocarbons."

(b) Persistence of oil

2.6.55 Dr Blumer and his associates say "Oysters that were

removed from the polluted area and were maintained in clean

water for as long as 6 months retained the oil without change

in composition or quantity. Thus, once contaminated, shellfish

cannot cleanse themselves of oil pollution." (Exhibit 238 p .25)

This statement was rigorously questioned during the cross­

examination of Dr Grassle. Dr Grassle was asked how he equat­

ed no change with the reported sequence of 6.9, 12.6 and 3.8

mg/100 g hydrocarbon content of the 7, 1 and 2 oysters series,

maintained respectively for zero, 72 and l80 days in fresh

water (see paragraph 2.6 .51)·

2.6.56 The following questions and answers draw attention to the main points brought out in evidence:

T.63^7 Q- "How do you get the 12.6 after it

has been in fresh water for 72 days?" A. "For some reason or other this oyster

must have picked up more oil from the


T.6351 Q. "And in regard to two other oysters only it continued for a further 108

days and the hydrocarbon content was less than all the others and quite appreciably less?" A. "Yes." Q. "On that evidence ... there is no

proof ... is there, that the oyster

does not in time rid itself of the

hydrocarbon?" A. "That is true. It does not prove that it does not lose hydrocarbon at

a very slow rate." Q. "The object of the experiments ... in so far as they relate to the three oysters ... was to show that

after immersal in clean water for


a substantial period ... the hydro­

carbon content was comparatively

speaking, very substantial?"

A. "That is correct."

T.6352 Q. "That being so, when the oysters

were taken out of the polluted

environment and before being

placed into the clean water why

was their hydrocarbon content not

then taken to make the experiment

more meaningful?"

A. "You cannot take a hydrocarbon

content of the same oysters you are keeping in the tanks. You

cannot because you have to kill

the animal to take the hydro­

carbon content."

(c) Sites of hydrocarbon storage

2.6.57 In a paper delivered at a Food and Agriculture

Organisation (FAO) conference in Rome in December 1970 (Exhibit

290) Dr Blumer said at p .2:

"We have demonstrated that hydrocarbons that are ingested by marine organisms pass through

the wall of the gut and become part of the

lipid pool,"

and he then quoted as source material for this statement the oyster experiments described by Blumer, Sousa, and Sass 1970

(Exhibit 72).

The analyses which were made of the hydrocarbon

content of the oysters collected from Wild Harbour and sub­ sequently maintained in clean water did not of themselves prove this decisively. It will be recalled that Blumer et al (Exhibit

72 pp. 2 - 3 ) analysed the entire soft tissues of the oysters,

including the gut. The animals had however been kept in clean

water for either 72 or 180 days (Exhibit 238 p .19) by which time as the authors say "If the oil were localized solely within the


digestive tract of the shellfish, elimination would be poss­

ible..." p.19. If this possibility be allowed the analyses are

indeed indicative of the passage of oil into other tissues of

the oysters and of their retention within the tissues for a

period following evacuation of the gut, but they do not estab­ lish the sites of oil retention.

2.6.58 The possible sites of retention of hydrocarbons

within the tissues of oysters were not in fact made known in

evidence, though Blumer et al found in the adductor muscles of

contaminated scallops hydrocarbons which they identified as

originating from the No. 2 fuel oil spilled from the barge

'Florida' Exhibit 72 Table 1; Exhibit 238 Table 3). The

covering letter of Exhibit 72 states: "The authors show that

oil from this spill has been incorporated into scallops and

oysters and has destroyed their value. Several months after

the accident these pollutants are still present in the tissues of the affected animals ..."

2.6.59 It was also noted by Dr Connell at T7085 that mullet tainted with a kerosene-like substance, when analysed for the constituent hydrocarbons present in different regions of the musculature of the fish, showed "a highly significant correla­

tion between the proportion of fats (as ether solubles) and the

proportion of volatile hydrocarbons ..." Dr Blumer's claim that hydrocarbons which pass through the gut wall of marine

organisms become part of the lipid pool is therefore in some measure supported by this circumstantial evidence.

(h) Transfer of hydrocarbons through the

food web

2.6.60 It is stated by Dr Blumer in Exhibit 290 (p.2) that hydrocarbons contained within food organisms can be transferred

"to predators, thus they spread throughout the marine food web

in a manner similar to that of other persistent chemicals,

e .g., DDT (Blumer, Souza and Sass, 1970; Blumer, 1967; Blumer

et al, 1969)."


2.6.61 The general pattern of organic production in the sea

was explained by Professor Connell, T563; Dr Talbot, T948-9,

957-63;· Professor Stephenson T20.63-70; Mr Harrison, T5725 and

Sir Maurice Yonge, T9275, among other witnesses.

2.6.62 Plants, termed primary producers, depend for their

growth and energy requirements on carbon dioxide, oxygen and a

range of nutrient materials dissolved in sea water and on

photosynthetic processes, involving the utilization through

chlorophyll and other photosynthetic pigments, of the energy of

sunlight for the conversion of simply constructed materials

into the complex molecular systems of protoplasm. Grazing

animals, as secondary producers, feed on the plants and may in

turn be eaten by carnivores which themselves may be eaten and

provide food for other predators in a sequence which Professor

Stephenson described as primary, secondary and tertiary con­

sumers (T2070).

2.6.63 The essence of the food chain, more aptly called a food web, for the pathways of conversion are rarely along pre­

determined lines, is that the biomass of production diminishes

at each successive stage of food conversion, partly because the

supply of food must be in excess of the requirements of the consumers if they are not themselves to diminish in number, and

partly because each conversion falls short of a 100% efficiency. The nature of this pyramid of biomass was explained by Dr Talbot

at T988. A further consequence of the food web is that materials contained in food organisms are ingested by the organisms that

consume them. Of the three papers quoted by Dr Blumer as evidence of the passage of hydrocarbons in this manner one,

Blumer et al 1969,did not figure as an Exhibit and was not con­ sidered in evidence. The 1970 paper (Exhibit 72) reports at

p.8 the presence in oysters from the uncontaminated Waquoit Bay

of a hydrocarbon mixture strongly resembling the hydrocarbons

in the diatom Rhizoselenia setigera a winter diatom in this

area; and Blumer, 1970 (Exhibit 297) describes the occurrence of pristane and other hydrocarbon components in the digestive

tract and liver of a small basking shark which contained

within its gut numerous copepods of the species Calanus hyper-

boreus and C. finmarehicus which are themselves rich in pristane.

2.6.64 Whilst these observations are indicative of the

transfer of naturally synthesized hydrocarbons at two stages

of the food chain they were not designed to test whether the

hydrocarbons so derived would persist in the animal which had

acquired them. Dr Grassle at T638O however quoted a paper by

Blumer, Mullin and Thomas "Pristane in the marine environment"

which was later (at T6540) tendered by Mr Connolly as Exhibit

306 in which assays of pristane were made in the copepod

Calanus hyperboreus kept in filtered sea water and therefore

unable to synthesise further pristane from food sources.

Assays were made at approximately 4 day intervals over a

period of 86 days in all. Although the lipids of the animals were notably depleted the pristane content rose slightly over the period, a surprising circumstance which the authors are

inclined to ascribe to the very slow cumulative conversion

into pristane of a precursor, phytol which had been stored when the animals were feeding and the retention of the pristane

as a buoyancy material of great adaptive advantage to the


2.6.65 These observations though of interest in indicating

some aspects of the biochemical transformations of natural hydrocarbons in organisms, shed little light on the fate of

pollutant hydrocarbons in their passage from one organism to

another. No convincing evidence was received on this import­ ant topic. Thus, while pollutant hydrocarbons may spread through a food web, such spread is not at present satisfactor­ ily proven. The significant depletion over a period of months

of pollutant oils held in oyster tissues puts them however, in a different category from the so-called persistent pollutants

such as DDT, mercury and lead with which Dr Blumer associated them. The truly persistent pollutants as Mr Cowell, at T11010

said "can be present after an accident for 50 to 100 years.

(i) Health hazards

2.6.66 Dr Blumer in a paper delivered in Rome in 1970

(Exhibit 290) when speaking of the cancer hazards of oil put his case as follows:-"The higher boiling crude oil fractions are

rich in multiring aromatic compounds. It

was at one time thought that only a few of

these compounds, mainly 3,4 - benzopyrene,

were capable of inducing cancer. As R.A.

Dean (1968) of the British Petroleum

Company stated 'no 3,4 - benzopyrene has been detected in any crude oil ... it there­

fore seems that the risk to the health of

a member of the public by spillage of oil at

sea is probably far less than that which he

normally encounters by eating the food he

enjoys.' However, already at the time when

this statement was made, carcinogenic fractions

containing 1,2- benzanthracene and alkyl­

. benzanthracenes had been isolated by Carruthers,

Stewart and Watkins (1967) and it was known that 'biological tests have shown that the extracts obtained from high-boiling fractions of Kuwait

oil ... are carcinogenic' ... We now know that a far wider range of polynuclear aromatic

compounds- than benzopyrene and benzanthracene

are potent tumour initiators ... and all oil products containing hydrocarbons boiling between

300°C and 500°C should be viewed as potential

cancer inducers. "

2.6.67 Professor Clark at T3781, while agreeing that "fract­

ions of crude oil include carcinogenic compounds and (that) it

would be wrong to dismiss out of hand Blumer's claim that spilled oil is permanently incorporated into food organisms and 432

transmitted through the food web although the evidence for this

is tenuous" added the following note of caution; "However, the

mere existence of carcinogenic compounds in food materials is

not a sufficient cause for alarm or corrective action. Some

realism must be provided by assessing how great a public health

risk oil pollution constitutes and setting this alongside other

public health risks. This is difficult in view of the scanty

information available. Furthermore, the chemical induction of cancer requires prolonged exposure often at a high level, in

order to increase the statistical incidence of the disease.

One has only to consider how many years were required to

establish beyond doubt a connexion between cigarette smoking

and lung cancer to appreciate the difficulty of assessing the danger to public health in these circumstances."

2.6.68 It was pointed out by Mr Cowell, Professor Clark,

Dr Grassle, among other witnesses that carcinogenic hydro­

carbons are in any event, normally present in the sea as

natural products. Mr Cowell quoting Dr ZoBell, a world

authority on this subject, said at T10920 that ZoBell 1971 shows "that polycyclic aromatics are produced in very large amounts

in the sea by phytoplankton" and that "in relation to the

natural sources of polycyclic aromatics the possible contribu­

tion from crude oil spilt on the sea would be very small indeed;" their concentration in crude oils "is a very small number of

parts per million ..." By contrast "3-^ benzopyrene which has been associated with carcinogenic effects in experiments is produced in very large amounts in smoked foods ..." Mr Cowell

considered that the many sources of carcinogenic substances

to which man is normally exposed together with the fact that "the amounts of these materials that are produced naturally are very high ..." argues "a very high inbuilt resistance to

them." (T10922)

2.6.69 Mr Jeffery, QC, recalling that the possible health

hazards of hydrocarbon carcinogens had been brought to the

attention of the Commission most forcibly through a reading of


Exhibit 290 which was the Blumer paper at the Rome Convention,

particularly pp. 3 - 4 under the heading 'Oil and Cancer', the

relevant passages of which have been quoted in paragraph 2.6.66

supra questioned Dr Grassle as follows (T6513):-"Doctor, Dr Blumer was there propounding

the proposition that all crude oils and

oil products are potentially cancer

inducers, was not he? ... Yes."

"The laboratory evidence to support that

relates particularly to the application

of concentrated dosages of various hydro­

carbons to laboratory animals? ...

Various concentrations, yes."

"The subject of cancer is one which

naturally excites considerable public

alarm does not it? ... I think so, yes." "Certainly there would be no well based

scientific reason for sounding an alarm

of that sort, would there?... Which sort?"

"That there is a known threat of carcino­

genesis in public consumers of fish as a

consequence of petroleum activities in the

Great Barrier Reef? ... No, there would be

no cause - just to make sure I have your sentence right - there is no reason to

raise such an alarm."




2.7.1 The statistics of gas leaks have been dealt with in

paragraphs 1.2.2 and 1 .3·5 et seq.

Nature of gas leaks

2.7.2 Dr Chapman a Petroleum Geologist and Senior Lecturer

in the University of Queensland said that "...petroleum gas is

in fact a mixture of gases of different molecular weight and number of carbon atoms" and he added that "...some gases could

have ... liquids with them ... . "(1353^1) "A normal petroleum gas" he said "is mostly methane, CH^ and that is the most

soluble of the range ... up to butane ... C^H-^ ." (T3535) He

was, however, of the opinion that "Petroleum gas is virtually

insoluble in sea water at surface temperatures and pressures

and is not therefore a potential pollutant ..." (T3998), particularly because "The passage of gas through a column of

sea water ... is so rapid" (T3507), though he entered a note

of caution about accepting figures based on conventionally accepted values in saying "I do not believe any measurements

have been made on the solubility of a gas in sea water under these conditions." (T3536)

The question arose in evidence as to whether some petroleum gases might contain, in addition to hydrocarbons, -

other substances of known toxicity. Mr Chapman said "Some

petroleum gases have hydrogen sulphide in them and hydrogen sulphide is soluble in water, more soluble than petroleum gas is;" (T3507) and Dr D. W. Connell, a Senior Research Scientist

with the Australian Wine Research Institute, Adelaide, quoting a passage from MacRoberts and Legatski "The Chemistry of

Petroleum Hydrocarbons, Vol. I (195*0 "said "... there are many reported instances where nitrogen and carbon dioxide have

been present as major constituents of natural gas.


Similarly, hydrogen sulphide concentrations of as high as 12 to

15 per cent have been reported." He knew of no information "...

on the effects of hydrogen sulphide on coral or other Great

Barrier Reef species of marine animals", though it had been

shown in respect of fishes "... found in and around the waters

of the United Kingdom ... that for stickleback, trout and carp

a very low number of parts per million of hydrogen sulphide can

constitute a lethal limit and this may vary from one part per

million in the case of trout to 8 to 12 parts per million in

the case of carp." (T7043)

Their effects

2.7- 3 Speaking of the effects of gas blowouts on marine

life, Mr Keith, at T5506 said "... there is no record that

these caused any damage to the environment", and Mr H.W.J.

Stewart, Petroleum Engineer for the Department of Mines of the

State of Queensland instanced three gas blowouts in the North

Sea fields of several days to four months duration in respect of which "There was no evidence that the gas caused any damage

to marine life." (T4429-30) Whether the observations were of

more than a casual nature was not however stated.

2.7- 4 It would appear from the evidence before the

Commission that, with one possible qualification - the presence

of hydrogen sulphide - gas blowouts do not present a serious

danger to marine animals. The absence of any substantial data

on the toxic effects of the emitted gases, of their concentra­

tion in solution in the neighbourhood of a blowout and of

adequate biological surveys of possible damage within the

affected areas, makes it prudent however to regard consequential

damage as within the realm of possibility. For in this context it must be recalled that evidence has been given that "Within

each series of hydrocarbons the smaller molecules are more

toxic than the larger." (T10908)

2.7.5 Gas emissions do not lead, as does oil, to sub­ stantial sea surface layering of oil damaging to birds and


other diving or surface-breaking animals. Their effects, if

any, are more likely to be shown on swimming and planktonic

species, though the small molecular weight of the gas con­

stituents and their susceptibility to biodegradation might be

expected to make gas pollution less persistent than pollution

caused by liquid hydrocarbons of higher carbon numbers.


(a) Introduction

2.8.1 When oil is spilled at sea, the hazards to which it

gives rise and which are a major cause of public concern are,

on the one hand, the damage it may do to marine eco-systems and,

on the other, the disfiguring and amenity insult effects it

causes when stranded along the seaboard of mainlands and


The protective and remedial measures that have been

used with varying degrees of success in reducing or removing

massive or small scale spills of oil are reviewed in the

Answer to TR4 at paragraphs 4.4.2 et seq. They include

mechanical devices for arresting or containing a flow of oil,

(e.g ., booms and tents); methods facilitating its collection

and removal (e.g ., pumps, skimmers, absorbents and gelling agents); removal from the surface by burning or sinking; and

the dispersal of slicks by oil dispersants. In the context of TR2, which is concerned with the effects of remedial measures

on the preservation of marine eco-systems, the use of oil dis­

persants has a particular relevance for, unlike mechanical

methods which add nothing that is biologically deleterious to the environment or are capable of influencing the toxic

potentialities of oil, dispersants are chemically active liquid mixtures which may, as the evidence later to be presented shows,

be in themselves toxic or by their interactions with oil enhance

its toxicity.

(b) Oil dispersants: Toxicity

(i) General

2.8.2 Dr Grassle, at T6l82, said, "The toxic, solvent-based

detergents which did so much damage in the clean-up after the

'Torrey Canyon' accident are presently only in limited use.

However, so called "non-toxic dispersants" have been developed.

The term "non-toxic" is misleading; these chemicals may be

non-toxic to a limited number of quite often resistant test

organisms but they are rarely tested in their effects upon a

very wide spectrum of marine organisms including their juvenile

forms, preferably in their normal habitat."

(ii) Toxicity tests and toxicity grading

2.8.3 It is nevertheless convenient to have some method by which to grade different types of dispersants in terms of

their comparative toxicity within the limited range of the

organisms that have been tested. A method of assay which

Professor Clark, at T3672, said had led to the acceptance of

an internationally recognised grading is based on LC50

determinations obtained in the following way.

A sufficiently large number of individuals of a

selected test organism are subjected for a chosen period of

time (usually 24 hours) to varying concentrations in sea water of the dispersant to be assayed. The minimum (threshold)

concentration, measured in parts per million, required to kill 50% of the sample is then recorded as its LC50 value. The

scale to which Professor Clark referred is as follows:-"practically non- acute toxicity threshold

toxic (LC50) above 10,000 ppm.

slightly toxic threshold 1,000 - 10,000


moderately toxic threshold 100 - 1000 ppm.

toxic threshold 1 - 100 ppm.

very toxic threshold below 1 ppm."

On this scale, and in respect of the limited number of

organisms tested, the older dispersants are almost all 1 toxic' while the newer ones are only 'slightly toxic'." (T36?2)

Figures illustrative of the LC50 values and toxicity ratings of different types of dispersants were presented by several .


witnesses (e.g. Professor Clark, T3672-79; Mr Norrie, T6037 anc

Mr Cowell, T10966) and were most extensively quoted and conven­

iently assembled by Mr Stanphill (T4635-53). The test organisms

included a few species of plants and a much wider range of

animals, for example several species of fish, Crustacea and


The value of these laboratory tests is that they

provide a reasonably accurate measure of the toxicity of dis­

persants of differing composition substantiating, by the assays

that have been made, that the older, kerosene-based mixtures

are in the 'toxic1 category and newer, water-based chemicals

and some chemicals based on selective kerosene cuts (Mr Cowell,

T10906) are within the 'slightly toxic' range. They have also

shown that organisms of different kinds, age and size and at

different stages in their life history exhibit wide variations

of sensitivity under identical time/concentration exposures

to the toxic materials.

(iii) Toxicity of dispersants under field conditions

General 2.8.4 The laboratory tests and the grades of toxicity

established thereby are howeVer for various reasons, including

methods of application and rates of dilution, only generally

indicative of the nature and extent of the damage that will be caused to living organisms when dispersants are used under

field conditions.

Mr Stanphill explained at T4630-1 that petroleum

(kerosene) based dispersants are most effective in clearing oil

when applied neat whereas water-based mixtures are best used

diluted in water. The impact of neat kerosene-based dispersants on the rocky shores of south west England following the deposi­

tion of oil from the wrecked tanker 1Torrey Canyon' was conceded by Professor Clark, who was not opposed to this method of shore

cleaning when "public presure to have clean beaches for

recreation ... demands first attention," (T3891) to have "resulted in biological damage" (T3612) which he later said

was evidenced "in the almost total death of gastropods, bivalves,


barnacles, crabs, worms etc. , and damage to Intertidal algae."

(T3698) But this extensive damage, which was corroborated by

Professor Connell (T517) and Dr Straughan (T5622 - 3), was due,

in Professor Clark's opinion, to an incorrect use of the

dispersants. He explained that "In beach cleaning the

recommended practice is to spray dispersant ahead of a rising

tide or to wash down a sprayed beach with high pressure fire

hoses. Under crisis conditions during the clean-up after the

'Torrey Canyon' spill, these precautions were not always

observed and instead neat dispersant was simply tipped on to''

the beach and left." (T3698) "Properly applied, toxic dis­

persants cause little obvious damage on beaches or in the sea." (T3612)

It cannot however be overlooked that, even when a

dispersant is properly applied according to the recommended practice outlined by Professor Clark, it will in the course

of its dilution remain for a time above the threshold level of toxicity. For a 'toxic' dispersant of 1 - 100 ppm LC50 6 4

threshold a 10 - 10 dilution must be achieved before the non-lethal concentration is reached; and similar considera­

tions hold, though with a lesser degree of hazard, to dis­ persants of a 1,000 - 10,000 ppm range and rated as 'slightly

toxic'. Mr Stanphill said of Corexit 7664, for example, that

the recommended practice was to spray the chemical as a 1 - 6% solution in sea water (T4624). This would mean that the dis­

persant would require to be diluted by a factor of 10 - 600 to

fall below its threshold of LC50 toxicity.

Although these figures help little in defining the

extent and area of the damage imposed on marine organisms

under actual spill conditions by the dissemination of progress­

ively diluted dispersants, they go far to explain two points on which the witnesses who ventured opinions on this question were in agreement. It was thought that while dispersants may with some justification be used in the open sea, they should

either not be used or used only under carefully controlled con­ ditions in shallow or enclosed waters where the protection of

marine life is the primary consideration.

Use in the open sea

2.8.5 In the open sea Mr Norrie said "The dispersant becomes

all too rapidly diluted in practice, and toxicity does not seem

to be a large problem at sea" (T6036) and Mr Cowell considered

that "Floating oil slicks are best dealt with before they can

come ashore even if the more toxic dispersants are used since

toxicity is related to dilution." (T10982) These opinions found

support in the statements of other witnesses who, however, added

reservations about the use of emulsifiers in coastal waters.

Thus: "Chemical dispersants may have an application in combat­

ing oil spills in open sea areas where little damage can be done

to marine life and where the chemical can be rapidly diluted ...

R.G.J. Shelton, Scientific Officer with the UK Ministry of

Agriculture has noted that 1 toxic dispersants may be of value

in treating oil at sea, but should not be used in large

quantities in shallow coastal water'." (Dr D.W. Connell, T706l);

"The use of emulsifiers and detergents can be justified only

if they are employed well out from the littoral zone and if

local currents.send the emulsifier/oil mixture further out to

the open ocean. The use of detergents on beaches, littoral zones and harbours is more dangerous because, in making oil

miscible with water, the oil will spread into the sand..." (Mr Stanphill, T4569-70); "...some types of organic solvent

based dispersants can be toxic to marine life if certain

thresholds of dilution are exceeded. This potential toxicity lies in their use in excess in shallow or enclosed waters where such concentrations are likely to be exceeded. In open water

their toxic effect has been rated as negligible on larger fish

and where oil slicks have been extensively treated in such areas

no adverse effects have been noted on the fauna." (Mr Haskell,


Use on shores and in near-shore waters 2.8.6 In support of the reservations entered by Mr Norrie,

Mr Cowell, Dr Connell, Mr Stanphill and Mr Haskell against the

use of dispersants in inshore waters, their employment in such

situations was opposed by a number of other witnesses for


reasons exemplified in the following statements.

Dr Grassle was of the opinion that "Detergents and

dispersants, while cosmetically effective, are especially

harmful since they introduce all the oil into the environ­

ment ... The use of dispersants should be most strongly dis­

couraged." (T6198) In situations where eco-systems which it

is desired to preserve are at risk, other witnesses were

equally disapproving of their use. Dr Straughan said "One

obviously does not want to use them on commercial shellfish

beds ... ." (T5654) Mr Biglane, who was called upon to advise

on the protection of some investigation sites of the Smithson­

ian Tropical Research Centre on coral reefs following a spill

of bunker C and diesel oil from the tanker 'Witwater' which

went ashore in December 1968 in the Panama Zone," ... insisted

that they should not use dispersants, if they really wanted to protect that live coral reef." (T6708); and Mr Cowell said

"... it is not possible to clean a salt marsh or plants with dispersant; the penetration is 20 seconds and whatever you

do the damage is very rapid indeed." (T10958) When asked "That would be true of a mangrove area?" he answered "I think

it is true of a mangrove area, anywhere where you are dealing with a vascular land type plant. It is quite wrong to use dispersants and if you use dispersants they are completely

ineffective." (T10959)

(iv) Toxicity of dispersants to corals

2.8.7 The point has earlier been made (paragraph 2.8.3) that the toxicity of a dispersant as indicated by the des­

cription given to it (for example, 'toxic', 'moderately toxic', 'practically non-toxic') and the thresholds of concentration applicable to these terms are valid only in respect of the

organisms used in making the assays.

2.8.8 It is therefore important to emphasise that, with

the exception of the two series of experiments now to be des­ cribed, the Commission was not made aware of any tests that

have been made on any of the great variety of organisms which


in the several stages of their life history occur in the plank­

ton, the nekton, in association with coral reefs on the shores

of the mainland and islands, or on or within the sea floor

sediments of the GBRP.

2.8.9 The tests referred to were undertaken by Dr John B.

Lewis (Exhibit 338) and Professor S.H. Chuang. Professor

Chuang carried out three separate experiments using in each

instance a solution of the dispersant Chemkleen in a 250 ppm

concentration in 2 litres of sea water with dispersant free water as controls. In the first experiment three specimens of

the solitary coral Pungia actiniformis each 8-12 cm in dia­

meter and partly emergent in a depth of some 2 cm of water were

exposed for three hours to the dispersant treatment at 2J°C.

Fresh sea water was then added to the container to remove the

dispersant and the corals placed in clean water for examination.

Although the control animals were "... viable and appeared healthy", all the treated corals were dead and binocular exami­

nation showed the tentacles to be perforated in places.


2.8.10 A second experiment tested six corals, five being

specimens of Fungia repanda and one F. paumotensis. The dura­ tion of the treatment was 2h hours. Professor Chuang said that

all the specimens were alive at the conclusion of the test but

those exposed to the dispersant showed "... visible signs of

damage." He thought that their survival may have been due to

their being of different species to the animals used in the

first experiment or to the more limited period of their expo­

sure. (T15573-4)

2.8.11 In a third and final experiment two specimens of

Fungia repanda in a depth of 1.0-1.5 cm of water and partly

emergent were exposed for 1 hour to the 250 ppm dispersant in sea water solution. At this time and 8 hours later, of the two

corals examined while in clean sea water one was healthy, the

other showed abnormal swelling of the tissues over the septa.


2.8.12 The toxicity rating of Chemkleen was not made known

in evidence and in any event the short exposure times of Pro­

fessor Chuang's experiments were not comparable with the cus­

tomary 24 hour period of an LC 50 test. The most that the

experiments show are that for these corals, of which one spe­ cies (F. actiniformis) is commonly found in Australian waters

the animals were killed or suffered damage at a concentration

of dispersant of a type which approximates to a 1 toxic' or

'moderately toxic 1 rating.

2.8.13 Dr Lewis' experiments were described by Professor

Clark at T3685-6. The following account which includes some

details of the experimental processes is however drawn direct­

ly from Exhibit 338.

"Four species of corals collected on reefs on the

west coast of Barbados were selected for testing. Porites porites (Pallas) Agaricia agaricites (L), and Favia fragum (Esper) are all shallow water species ... Madracis asperula

(Milne-Edwards & Haime) is a deeper water form." None is recorded as an Australasian species in Exhi­

bits 2-, 3, 4 and 541 (Maxwell, Gillett and McNeill, Keith Gil-

lett and Isobel Bennett respectively.) A number of colonies of all four species were tested

in varying concentrations (10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 ppm) of

'Corexit' dispersant in 350 cc of sea water in finger bowls,

at 20-24°C. Each container was sealed to prevent evaporation of the dispersant. An equivalent number of clean sea water

controls were used for comparison.

Healthy animals in the controls would feed on live

plankton, expand their tentacles and withdraw them at the touch

of a probe. Colonies of the dispersant treated animals which

did not show these responses were considered to be unhealthy.

Concentrations at which after 24 hours at least 50%

of the organisms were affected in all or some of these ways and

on occasions additionally by an abnormal extrusion of septal

filaments were (in ppm) Madracis, 50; Porites, 100; Pavia and

Agaricia, 500. After a 2A hour exposure the corals were trans­

ferred to clean sea water. In the following 24 hours Porites

and Madracis showed little recovery, Favia and Agaricia showed

almost complete recovery.

2.8.14 'Corexit' is customarily graded as a 'practically

non-toxic' dispersant and in the Lewis experiments none of the

corals was killed at concentrations well below the 10,000 ppm

LG 50 threshold of acute (lethal) toxicity. It is however im­

portant to note as an indication of the sub-lethal effects

which may be shown well below the lethal level that all four

species were demonstrably damaged at levels well below the

threshold value of acute toxicity.

(c) Oil/dispersant mixtures: Toxicity

2.8.15 Evidence was given that the damage that may be wrought

on marine eco-systems by the use of dispersants may not be due

solely to the toxicity of the dispersants but be compounded by

an enhanced toxicity of the treated oils during the process of their dispersion and emulsification. Professor Clark said that

the enhanced toxicity of oil/dispersant mixtures "... has been

shown by Griffiths (1970) -even for the supposedly low toxicity dispersants Corexit and Dispersol. Using intertidal winkles, Littorina littorea, he found that the time for death of half the

test animals (TD 50) was markedly reduced when these dispersants

were added at the recommended dilution of 10 : 1 to weathered

oil floating on water in a simulated tidal cycle." (T3679) Mr Stanphill quoted other experiments involving two species of

fish carried out on behalf of the Esso Research and Engineering

Company by the Institute of Marine Science, Miami University

and the Department of Natural Resources, State of Michigan,

which confirmed a substantial lowering of the threshold of toxi­

city of Corexit 7664 when presented in a Corexit/oil mixture

(T4673, 4640); and Mr Biglane agreed that when a dispersant is

mixed with oil "... you get a higher level of toxicity from

the combined pollutants." (T6768) Mr Stanphill, when asked

"whether the addition of the Corexit made the oil more avail­

able to organisms" agreed that it would (T4640), and Dr

Grassle said that "Instead of removing the oil, dispersants

push the oil actively into the marine environment; because of

the finer degree of dispersion, the immediately toxic fraction dissolves rapidly and reaches a higher concentration in the

sea than it would if natural dispersal were allowed."

(T6l82 A) The subject was not further elaborated in evidence.

(d) Conclusion

2.8.16 We conclude that the use of dispersants in all mar­

ine situations other than in the open sea is at best a calcula­

ted risk when the preservation of eco-systems is the primary

consideration. The hazards arise less from the intrinsic

toxicity of dispersants themselves than from the enhanced

toxicity of oil when present in oil/dispersant mixtures.

(e) Other remedial measures

2.8.17 Among the many methods for dealing with spilled oil that were brought to the notice of the Commission and for

which some success was claimed, two - the use of oil absorb­

ents and of gelling agents - are not in themselves remedial, but serve to facilitate the mechanical handling and removal of oil. These methods are reviewed in paragraphs 4.4.75-79· In this Part, some comments are added on the possible toxicity or

other harmful effects of the materials used. ( i )

(i) Absorbents

2.8.18 Absorbents that have been used for trapping drifting

oil include natural products such as straw and hay, and syn­ thetic materials such a polyurethane, that are virtually inso­

luble in water, chemically inert and non-toxic. Any reserva­

tions on their use as oil absorbents rest solely on the possi-

bility that they may add to the environment objectionable oil-

contaminated debris should they become dispersed or be other­

wise difficult of collection as was, for example, windblown

straw at Santa Barbara. (Dr Straughan, T5631)

(ii) Gelling agents

2.8.19 Mr Haskell described oil-gelling agents as chemicals

which reduce the surface tension of the oil-water interface so

causing the oil to become more cohesive and congealed. (T5946,

5949) They are liquids which Mr Mansfield said can be spread from aircraft or boats. One gelling agent (Shell Herder) was

applied in this way, in Mr Biglane1s opinion with "moderate suc­

cess" (T6792), following blowouts at Chevron C platform in

February 1970 and at Baker platform block 26 in December 1970

in the Louisiana off-shore oil field. (T5178, T6982) According to Mr Biglane there are a number of commer­

cially manufactured gelling agents (T6792), though Shell Herder

was the only example referred to by name. Mr Gusey said that

Shell Herder is a patented product and he did not know its com­

position. (T5182) Mr Mansfield, quoting a paper by E.A. Mils

and J.P. Frazer (Exhibit 321) and other sources, believed that the oil-congealing properties probably derive from the presence

of long-chain alcohols (T7269) or other long chain compounds of

a related type. (T7283) Tests referred to in Exhibit 321 had

indicated that "the chemicals utilised are harmless to the eco­

logy." (T7272)

(iii) Sinking agents

2.8.20 Dr D.W. Connell noted at T7061 that "Sinking oil by

the use of high density agents such as talc, chalk, cement dust,

has been carried out with some success, particularly during the 'Torrey Canyon' disaster." On this occasion "It was effective

on well weathered oil off the west coast of Brittany ... when

the French used a mixture of common chalk and sodium stearate.

They claimed to have sunk 20,000 barrels of oil." (Mr Stewart,

T4415/6) "The weighting agent used in some fine grained mater­


ial of moderate density which has been treated with a sub­

stance , such as stearic acid, to attract oil and repel water.

The sinking agent is blown dry on to the slick or sprayed on

as a slurry and, where necessary, mixed with the oil."

(Mr Haskell, T5910) The reasons put forward for using sinking

agents are that they remove oil from the surface of the sea

where it may be carried on to shore lines, and reduce the hazards to birds or other animals which alight on or break

through the sea surface. The objections to the use of sink­

ing agents to which Mr Cowell (T10982-3), Dr Grassle (T6183,

6l88) Mr Stewart (T4415-6), Dr D.W. Connell (T706l) and other

witnesses referred, are that the sunken oil may settle on the

sea floor as smothering masses which are not readily dispersed by biodegradation and other means. However, in a large scale

test, undertaken off the coast of Holland in 1970 in the

presence of invited observers, the sinking of 100 tons of

crude oil with treated wet sand was effected "in less than 45 minutes and was, as far as all the experts could judge, at

least 95 per cent effective ... Divers were sent down to the

sea bed to investigate the oil. They reported that it was like a non-continuous fluffy cover which moved easily when

disturbed but sank immediately it settled. Observations were

maintained for up to six weeks after the test. At first a fair amount of oil rose to the surface ... but it soon dis­ persed over a wide area ... The combination of fresh sea water, wave action, oxidation and microbial attack soon clears

it away." (Mr Haskell, T5913)

2.8.21 In paragraph 4.4.60 a reference is made to an article in Exhibit 365 entitled "The Problem of Oil Pollution of the Sea" and the Commission concludes that "It is obvious that the conditions in many parts of the GBRP would make the

use of sinking agents and of toxic solvent emulsifiers very undesirable", and a recommendation against their use except

in special circumstances and then only with the approval of the Designated Authority is contained in paragraph 4.4.61.

The Commission would however add that the results of Mr

Haskell's test suggests that the use of sinking agents in the GBRP should be included in the various subjects for research

and experiment to which reference has been made in the

Appendix to the Principal Introduction.




(a) Introduction - Both Australian and overseas experiments

and incidents are included

2.9.1 Of the three categories of substances of potential hazard to the marine life of the Province (oils, gas and che­

mical substances used as remedial measures) the probable

effects of which the Commission is required to examine in

giving answer to TR2, gas emissions and remedial measures will be only briefly mentioned in these preliminary considerations

bearing on the answers to be given in Part 10.

Gas leaks, for reasons earlier given in TR2 Part 7

are considered to pose little hazard to marine life, save for

possible limited and strictly localised effects. Dispersants,

are on the other hand regarded by the Commission (paragraphs 2.8.7 et seq) to be in themselves and in oil dispersant mix­

tures sufficiently toxic to marine organisms to justify a

recommendation that they be not used in the GBRP except under a few special circumstances defined in TR4 (paragraph 4.4.52) and then only with the permission of the Designated Authority.

In its consideration of the effects of crude oils on

the organisms and eco-systems of the Province the difficulties

which face the Commission are immense because of the few pres­ ently existing and well substantiated data available to assist

the answer. However, in respect of some of the subjects to be

discussed in this Part, the view is taken that information

drawn from world experience as presented in the foregoing Parts contains within it a sufficient generality of scientific truth and universality of application to make it suitable, with

due consideration of the special conditions which obtain within

the GBRP, for useful and legitimate predictions to be made of the way in which phenomena that have been studied in other

places may be displayed in the different regions of the GBRP.

This type of extrapolation is not however justifiable

when considering the probable effects of freshly spilled crude

oils of at present unknown composition on the organisms and

eco-systems of the Province. Individual species of plants and

animals, and to a lesser extent individuals within a species

vary so greatly and unpredictably in their sensitivity to toxic

hydrocarbons that it is impossible, without direct trial, to

equate the responses of any of the organisms which occur within

the tropical and subtropical waters of the GBRP with the res­

ponses of temperate water organisms of a like zoological or

botanical relationship which have often been better studied.

The answers to be given in Part 10 will therefore require con­

sideration to be given to the material given in this present

Part including details of the few and not always convincing

short-term experiments that were reported in evidence designed

to test the effects of crude oils on corals and other organisms

of the GBRP and of other coral reef areas overseas in which

GBRP species occur.

(b) Probable types of GBRP oils 2.9.2 This subject is briefly referred to in paragraph


It was the opinion of the witnesses who gave evidence

on this topic (Mr Woods, T894; Mr Ericson, T1201; Mr Allen, T1336-7) that the most likely type of oils to occur in the area

of the GBRP would be similar to existing Australian commercial

crudes which contain (a) a high proportion (44-55%) of gasolene, kerosene and diesel oil components

(b) low proportions of furnace oil and lubricating


(c) no asphalt base stock (d) a low sulphur content (0.03 - 0.13%) (Mr Allen

T1336, Mr Keith T12059) However, no witness was prepared to dismiss the poss­

ibility that other types of (for example heavier) crudes might

be found in the GBRP, because different types of oil are some­

times found overseas in close proximity to one another (para­

graph 3 · 3 - -4) and even at different horizons within a drilled well (ibid).

(c) Australian oils: Physical properties and behaviour at sea

2.9.3 Physical properties of oils of importance in deter­

mining the nature and behaviour of oil when spilled on the sea

surface include their specific gravity, viscosity, pour point, volatility, and their capacity for solution and the formation

of oil/water emulsions. These properties are defined, quanti­

fied in respect of a number of oils of overseas and Australian

origin, and their significance in determining the behaviour of

spilt oil discussed in general terms in paragraphs 2.1.3-4 and 2.2.1-18 supra.

2.9-4 In respect of known Australian oils the evidence reviewed in these earlier paragraphs suggests that the follow­

ing consequences might be expected if oils of these types were

to be spilled into the waters of the GBRP.

(i) The oils having specific gravities ranging

from 0.797-0.834 would initially float on

the sea surface. (T12059) (II) Spreading would occur. The gravity forces

generated by the mass of the oil would, as in all liquids, tend to be dissipated by spreading and thinning of the oil to the

point where surface tension forces at the

perimeter of the slick counteract the dimin­ ishing gravity forces. According to the evi­

dence received, all oils appear to contain

surfactant (i.e. surface tension reducing)

substances. (paragraph 2.1.4 (ii) supra).

The quantity and nature of the surfacants present in Australian oils were not however

made known.


The viscosity of the oil - the resistance to

flow - is a further important factor in deter­

mining the eventual thickness of an oil film

and the rate of spreading. The viscosities of

known Australian oils 1.85 - 3·3 centistokes at 100°F are relatively low compared with all

but two of the eleven overseas oils for which

figures were given (2.07 and 2.71, and 5 ·66 -

26,200 centistokes at comparable temperatures.)

(T12059) Viscosity diminishes with increase in

temperature and in warm waters spreading of sur­

face borne oil would be expected to occur more

rapidly than in temperate and cold seas.

The 'pour point' of an oil was defined in evi­

dence as "the temperature at which the crude

ceases to flow under given conditions." (T12046)

This physical property which, when operative,

tends to oppose the tendency of a slick to spread is considered to derive mainly from the

presence in oil of paraffinic waxes. The pour

point approximates to the temperature of solid­

ification of the waxes and the onset of a con­

sequential tendency of the oil to congeal and be

resistant to flow. Australian oils of the east­

ern side of the continent have pour points rang­

ing from 30° - 65°F- The water temperatures of the GBRP waters range, according to latitude,

from about 20° to more than 30°C (68° to 86°F).

If the wax content of any oils that may be found

in the Province tend towards the Minas rather than the Australian composition some congealing

could occur, but this prediction must be regard­ ed more as a possibility than a probability.

On the basis of these predictions, oil of GBRP

origin, if spilled within the sea area of the

Province, might be expected to spread rapidly

to form thin films. It appears, however,

that this generalisation may apply only

to the early stages of a spill when the

oil comes into contact with clean water.

If oil is already present, oil of later

discharge spreads less readily and, especially if it becomes emulsified by

the admission of water to form water-

in oil "mousse", may persist on the

surface as a substantially thicker

layer (T?l85).

(d) Evaporation of oils at sea

2.9.5 Evaporation of oil is a factor of especial signific­ ance and importance in promoting changes in the hydrocarbon component composition of oils during the process of aging (or

weathering) of oil at sea. The hydrocarbons which escape

into the air by evaporation are permanently removed from the marine environment and, in so far as the evaporated components are toxic to marine organisms the total toxicity of the oil is

proportionately reduced.

2.9.6 The opinion expressed by several witnesses (e.g.

Professor Clark T3609; Dr Grassle T6147-8; Mr Mansfield T7195 - 9; and Mr Keith (T12048) that evaporation from an oil slick mainly depletes the lower boiling point components was not

contested and it was explained that this differential evapor­ ation is due primarily to the smaller molecular size and

greater mobility of the lower boiling point hydrocarbons

possessing a small number of carbon and hydrogen atoms. It

was further stated that the rate of evaporation depends additionally, amongst other factors later to be mentioned, on the temperature within the oil and at its surface.

2.9.7 In respect of the influence of temperature on evapor­

ation rates the Commission was informed in a statement tender­

ed by Mr K. H. Deasy, Chief Chemist of the Mining and Secondary

Industries Section of the Queensland State Government Chemical

Laboratory, Brisbane on the penultimate day of the Commission's

hearings as Exhibit 548 that "It is universally accepted in the

physical sciences and has been borne out by my own observations,

that the rates of such processes as evaporation, dissolution

and chemical reactions generally, double or even treble for

each increase of ten degrees Celsius in the temperature of the

system under study."

2.9.8 It proved impossible to make arrangements for the

examination of Mr Deasy or other expert witnesses on the sub­

stance of this statement which, taken at its face value, would

appear to imply that evaporation of oil in the GBRP, particular

ly in view of the expected low viscosity and consequent thin

filming of Australian oil, might be substantially more rapid

than with heavier oils spilled in more temperate seas.

2.9.9 The Commission enquired further on the possible sig­

nificance of Mr Deasy's statement in regard to evaporation rates

of hydrocarbons at different temperatures from outside sources. Two physical chemists were independently consulted. Each made

calculations of the vapour pressure - indicative in an open

system of evaporation rates - of three hydrocarbons of differ­ ing carbon number and molecular weight, namely n-hexane (CgH^j

n-decane (C2.oH22 ^ and n-eicosane (C2oH42 ^ at different temperat­ ures. Their calculations showed that for a rise of temperature

from 15°C to 25°C the rates of evaporation of the compounds

named would rise by a factor of 1.57, 2.07 and 4.17 respectively. Taken as a rough approximation, these figures confirm the

increase in evaporation rate for a 10°C rise in temperature

claimed in Mr Deasy's statement. The figures indicate moreover that for the more readily evaporable compounds of low carbon

number a factor of two may be accepted as a near approximation.

2.9.10 In the light of Mr Mansfield's evidence earlier reported (paragraph 2.2) the arguments advanced and the figures

given in the foregoing paragraph cannot be taken to apply,


without further consideration of the factors involved, to

the rates of evaporation and the effects of temperature on

evaporation rate of individual hydrocarbons when present in

the complex mixture of a crude oil exposed to the air on the

surface of the sea. Mr Mansfield said that, under these con­

ditions, account must be taken of such factors as the vis­ cosity of the oil, the thickness of the oil slick, the temper­

ature within the oil and at the surface, and wind speed. Low

viscosity, thin filming of oil, high surface temperature and strong winds promote evaporation and increase the rate of loss of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere.

2.9.11 The Commission was given to understand that some knowledge of the nature and quantity of these and other

factors would be necessary in order to determine the evapora­

tion rates of individual hydrocarbons from a particular oil in a particular place, and that no such study had as yet been

attempted. It is however justifiable to make a rough estimate of the rate at which an untested oil may evaporate, when the

general nature of the evaporation-promoting factors are known

or can be predicted with some confidence, from a knowledge of the rate at which some other oil, for which the relevant

factors have been quantified, has in fact evaporated when

spilled at sea.

2.9.12 A comparison of this kind of the 'Torrey Canyon'

(Kuwait) oil spilled in the English Channel in March 1967 with an Australian oil of the Moonie/Kingfish/Halibut type deemed to be spilled in the waters of the GBRP gives the

following contrasting statistics.

'Torrey Canyon' oil: Viscosity (100°F), 10 centistokes; temperature, 9 - 10 C;

Slicks "thick"; Volatile components (to

450°F B.P.), 32.1%.

The volatile components were said to

have been lost in 3 - ^ days (Mr Norrie

T6019) ·


The Chairman does not construe the evidence in

this way - see answer to TR3 paragraph 3-4.11

Sub-paragraph (n) (iii) thereof.

Australian oil: Viscosity (100°F), 1.85 - 3 · 3

centistokes: temperature, 20 - 30°C; Slicks

predicted as "thin"; Volatile components

(to 450°P) 44 - 55.5%

2.9-13 The majority (the Chairman dissenting) consider that

assuming a doubling of the evaporation rate for each 10°C rise

of temperature and assuming also that winds in the GBRP are no

less strong than in the English Channel, an Australian oil in

the waters of the GBRP might be expected at a conservative est­

imate to lose its more volatile (the most toxic) components -

half of the original oil by volume - in lh to 2 days. But

because of other factors favourable to evaporation such as high

concentrations of the compounds of low carbon number, low vis­

cosity of the oil and the expected thinner filming of slicks,

the Australian oil might be expected to lose its volatile com­

ponents more rapidly than this. Mr Mansfield's estimate, made

on theoretical grounds, was one day for depletion to half of

the original volume.

2.9.14 On the basis of the figures quoted above the oil would

be depleted of its lighter fractions after some 8 - 14 miles of travel in the most frequently occurring winds. Higher wind

speeds would carry the oil further but would evaporate it more

quickly. How much more quickly is not known, but evidence

given to the Commission suggests that wind speed is among the

more important factors favouring rapid evaporation.

The views of the Chairman on these matters are stated

in his dissent which appears in the answer to TR3.

(e) Exposure to oil of reefs, islands and coastlines 2.9.15 From the point of view of the questions asked in TR2 a

delineation of the geographical features of the Great Barrier

Reef Province which takes into account such matters as the

distribution, density, sizes and shapes of reefs in the diff­

erent zones of the Province, and the differing physical char­

acter and linear extent of shorelines with platforms of rock,

shingle, sand or mud is of lesser importance than an apprecia­

tion of the extent to which these features may be vulnerable

to oil in its various states of surface slicks, solution or

suspension in the water, or when carried to the bottom and

incorporated in the sea floor sediments. The geographical

features of the Province have been described in the Principal

Introduction (paragraphs PI.4.1 to 32). We are here concerned

with the exposure and vulnerability to oil of some of the features there described.

(i) Emergent and submerged reefs 2.9.16 There are many reefs within the Province that are

always submerged. In the Australian Pilot (Exhibit 12) these

are usually referred to as shoals and their coralline nature is recognized in Dr Maxwell's naming of them as reefal shoals (Exhibit 2, p. 254). The many references in the Pilot show that these shoals may have from 1 foot to 10 fathoms or more

of water over them at the lowest tides. The Strip Map of the

Great Barrier Reef and Adjacent Islands (Sheets 1 - 3 ) which was prepared by the Survey Office, Department of Lands, Queens­

land, as a reference map for the use of the Commission, shows

in some detail the distribution of reefs and shoals within the GBRP. Mr A.B. Yeates, Surveyor-General, Department of Lands

said that the Strip Maps included features visible in aerial

reconnaissance photographs down to a depth of "at least 30 feet" (T255) and he agreed that "The reefs that are marked on

the strip map are not limited to reefs that appear above the

surface ...". (T254)

2.9.17 Mr Yeates, when asked his opinion on "the proportion

of reefs which are submerged to those which do come above the

water line," said "I have no knowledge as to which reefs are

4 59

above or below water line except that normally a reef would be

above the water line." (T263) He thought It probable that

features shown by dotted lines were Indicative of permanently

submerged reefs or shoals. (T266) On this reading the grea­

ter number of reefs shown with hatched edges on the Strip Map

would be exposed above the surface for a period at low water.

(11) Shelf edge reefs

2.9.18 Dr Maxwell at T218 said "... most of the reefs along

the shelf edge, the so-called outer barrier, tend to be lower

than the reefs back on the shelf. I do not believe that I have

ever seen a reef on the outer edge exposed. When we have been

on these reefs we have been In water depths of 2 to 3 feet.

The actual photographs I have of these reefs are all under

water." Dr Isobel Bennett In Exhibit 451 'The Great Barrier

Reef' describes their appearance and water cover In the follow­

ing passages (pp. 37-38). "Only on a day of very calm weather

with an extremely low tide Is It advisable, or at all possible,

to venture on to such a reef. Careful navigation with a small

dinghy and outboard will enable one to negotiate the back region of the reef between the curved back ends. Here the

sandy bottom gradually shallows from the deeper waters of the

sea between the mainland and the reefs, and In water sloping

from about 3 fathoms to knee high, masses of coral 'rock', varied In size and form, some with curiously table-like struc­

tures, are to be seen, each with a rock covering of living corals on their sides and upper surfaces. As one goes closer

towards the reef the coral growth becomes much denser.

"... The outer margin of the reef with its tremendous develop­

ment of species is the most difficult to study since it is al­ most inaccessible ... On reefs where some fraction of this area

may be uncovered during the fortnightly period of the lower tides, it is sometimes possible to see the 'notched edge' of

the reef, which is much more clearly visible from the air. The

whole face along the windward edge of the reef may be 'toothed'

with deep grooves separated from one another by wide buttresses.

The sides of the grooves are covered with a wealth of encrust­

ing species and provide, with their depth and incision back

into the face of the reef, a far greater amount of settling

space for the various reef faunas than would be possible

along a flat, unbroken area. As the tide ebbs water races

off the reef surface, cascading down the grooves as a wave

recedes in a swirl, of foam." And Mr Keith Gillett says of the

shelf edge reefs in the Swains Group at page 16 of his book

'The Australian Great Barrier Reef' (Exhibit 4) "the coral banks seldom completely uncover, even during the very low

spring tides."

2.9.19 The Australian Pilot Volume 4 (Fifth Edition)

Exhibit 12) comments in various passages on a drying at low

tides of some shelf edge reefs. Thus; at page 287, of Yonge reef which was visited by Dr Bennett, it says "The southern end of Yonge reef, which dries ..." and of Day reef in the

same area of the Northern barrier "Day reef which dries ...".

It was clear however from the evidence of observers who had actually landed on shelf edge reefs that if they dry at all, and it seems doubtful whether more than a proportion of them

do, their exposure is confined to small areas and is limited to a very short period of low water of some spring tides. Oil passing .over the reef would be unlikely to settle more than

momentarily on even the more exposed parts of the reef sur­

face under the conditions of wave surge which normally pre­ vail at the shelf edge. On the other hand oil, newly spilled,

passing into solution or fine droplet dispersion, could be a

hazard to corals and other organisms covered by only a few

feet of water.

(ill) Reefs of the GBRP shelf 2.9.20 These include the many reefs of different form and size which lie between the shelf edge reefs and the shore line. Dr Maxwell said of their various forms that they "may

be assigned to one of 14 basic reef types. During its hist­

ory of growth a reef may evolve from one type to another, or It

may combine two or more types to become a composite reef."

(T115) The shapes of reefs and their orientation to the cur­

rents which mould their outline are important considerations In

tracing the evolution and relationships of the different types

but have a lesser relevance to the degree to which their sur­

faces may be exposed to drifting oil. In this respect the ele­ vations of the various regions of the reef assume a greater


Dr Maxwell said that "... every organic reef is cha­

racterised by 3 topographical elements which have been moulded

in various ways by organic growth, sediment deposition and sur­

face erosion. These elements are the reef slope, reef rim and

reef flat. In addition to these basic elements other topo­ graphic features are variously developed, viz lagoon, back-

reef apron, ancillary reefs, banks, cays, boulder zones."

(T115) Descriptions of these features were given by Dr Maxwell

(T121-3), Dr Talbot (T978-80) and Professor Thompson (T656-6O). Except for some variations in nomenclature the descriptions were

consonant and that of Dr Maxwell will be followed.

Reef slope

2.9.21 The "Reef slope is the face of the reef from shelf

floor to reef rim. It varies in height from 16 to 32 fathoms for the majority of reefs although those of the near-shore zone

are much smaller. An average seaward slope approaches 30° ..."

and "is interrupted by a number of terraces ... . The lower

part of the slope carries a very sparse faunal cover ... .As

one progresses up the slope fauna become more prolific and from 30 feet to reef edge, coral is dominant. (T121) The "Reef front

is the highest part of the slope above the 2-fathom terrace. It includes the spur-and-groove structure-projecting walls of coral

and algae, separated by channels covered by reef debris ...

coral particularly Acropora is dominant." (T122)


Reef rim

2.9.22 The "Reef rim (or crest) is the highest part of the

reef and separates the reef slope from the reef flat ... It

varies considerably from reef to reef. In many cases it is

typified by the abundance of encrusting algae (Lithothamnion

and others) which form a hard, resistant surface. Small iso­

lated colonies of branching coral are also abundant on some

rims. In most cases, the reef rim carries extensive boulder

and shingle deposits which add to its relief." (T123)

Reef flat

2.9.23 The "Reef flat is the main surface of the reef, be­

hind the reef rim. Three zones may be recognized on the flat.

The zone of living coral and coral pools ("moat" of Yonge 1930)

varies in width from a few yards to five hundred yards. Algal

encrustation is common on the surface coral but in the pools

little encrustation is found. The dead coral zone lies to

leeward and is marked by an increase in dead coral, gravel and sand. Massive brain coral is common in this zone ... The sand flat merges leeward from the dead coral zone and, on the

larger platform reefs, is by far the major structural element ... Porites micro-atolls are common in this zone. Molluscs

and holothurians (Beche-de-mer) are also abundant." (T123)

(iv) Fringing reefs

2.9.24 In many parts of the GBRP fringing reefs border the

margins of the coastline and continental islands. Mr B. Cropp, who said "I have made regular skin diving trips to the Great

Barrier Reef since 1955 and for the past 10 years ... have spent an average of 3 months in each year on the Reef, cover­

ing most of its length from Lady Musgrave on the southern ex­ tremity to Cooktown in the north" (T11740),when asked "Is the

coral on the fringing reef ... comparable with the coral out

on the true reef?" said "Yes and no. The coral on those frin­ ging reefs will tend to be more delicate, perhaps even piore

luxuriant but in little clumps here and there and over a wide


expanse." The fringing reefs "do not have the deep grottos,

the canyons and drop offs like the outer reef has, but indivi­

dually some of these corals may be prettier ... because they

belong to the more delicate species; a great deal of soft

corals are in these shallows and ... are the prettier corals."

(TII8O6) Dr Isobel Bennett (Exhibit 451 p. 71) said of the

fringing reefs of the mainland coast in the north of Queensland

"... the coral growth there today is poorly developed except on

the outer margins of the reefs ... On the reef flat itself, al­

though at first glance a place barren of all animal life, one

may find innumerable crustaceans and molluscs - in the pools,

among weed and under dead coral boulders." "The Near Shore

Reefs" says Dr Maxwell (Exhibit 2 pp.146-7) "exist in a vigor­ ous and changing environment. Wave action is augmented by

ground swell. In the mid-summer the zone is subjected to the

king tides ... leading to abnormally deep immersion and long

periods of excessive exposure and desiccation. The summer also

witnesses the heavy monsoonal rains ... resulting in reduced

surface salinities. These factors all act unfavourably on reef

growth and reflect ... the unusual constitution of their


(f) Exposure of reefs at low tides 2.9.25 Dr Maxwell was asked at TI76 about the parts of a reef that are exposed at low tide. He said "The part of the reef

exposed at low tide is generally the reef rim and higher part of

the reef flat." He was of the opinion that 40-60% of shelf reef

surfaces would never be exposed. Professor Woodhead, speaking

of the reefs within the Swain's group, said that "At low spring

tides they would be exposed ..." but "At a neap tide such reefs as Heron Island are not exposed (T5249), and Professor Connell

considered that the living portions of corals on the reef flat

at Heron Island would be exposed, if at all, only on "very very

low tides." (T12266) He said that he had been there at very

low tides and could not remember seeing it happen. And accord­

ing to the evidence of Professor Thomson, "... the depth of

water over the flats ... will vary tremendously from reef to

reef. In an old reef which has silted up, It might be only a

matter of Inches; In a younger reef I have seen channels bet­

ween the outer and Inner flats at low tide which would still be three or four feet deep." (T646)

2.9.26 It is clear from the above description that there

are parts of the reef structure which remain below the water

level at all times and that only certain parts of the reef

ever emerge above the sea surface. (T235) By and largej in

summary of the evidence earlier reviewed, the shelf edge reefs

are emergent to a lesser degree and for a shorter time than

the shelf and fringing reefs. The maximum time of exposure to

air of the more emergent zones of the reef occurs at low water

of spring tides and is of the order of 1-2 hours.(Dr Maxwell, T236) On very low spring tides large areas of some reefs may

be exposed for periods of 2-4 hours. (Dr Maxwell T1625) The

most elevated region - the algal rim (reef crest) breaks the

surface "at low tide on most reefs, even if you are not deal­

ing with spring tides. (T235) But not all parts of a reef are exposed even on the lowest tides. "I have never been on a

reef where I have actually seen the sand exposed but the tops

of the coral growths would come through and the tops of clams and other organisms." (Dr Maxwell T235) "The main faunal

development however ... is found in the depressed parts of the

reef surface which are rarely, if ever, exposed. Molluscs, echinoderms, crustaceans, marine worms and small coral colo­ nies occur on the exposed reef rim and parts of the sand flat

and these could be affected by oil." (Dr Maxwell T1625)

2.9.27 The water over the surfaces of reefs is, from the

descriptions earlier given, rarely still and the surges are often violent and confused. The water movements appear to be

most vigorous over reefs of the outer shelf edge but fairly

rapid currents also occur over the shelf reefs and fringing

reefs nearer to the coastline.

(g) Sea floor sediments: Benthic organisms

(i) Sediments

2.9.28 Information on the mineralogy, distribution and sedi­

mentation of the sea floor materials within the GBRP came al­

most entirely through the evidence of Dr Maxwell (T121 et seq;

T1612 et seq) and from descriptions in Dr Maxwell's 'Atlas of

the Great Barrier Reef' (Exhibit 2 Chapter 8). During the

course of his investigations Dr Maxwell examined between 5000

and 6000 samples. (T1681)

2.9-29 The 'Atlas' gives a synoptic account of the sedimen­ tary cover in the following words:

"In view of the enormous areal extent of the Great

Barrier Reef Province, of its range of bathymetric

and hydrologic conditions and of the geological diversity of the shelf and adjacent land mass, it

is not surprising to find wide variation in its

sedimentary cover. The Near North Shore Zone in­ cludes fine sandy, quartzose beaches, coarse sandy

and gravelly quartzose-feldspathic beaches, pebble

and boulder beaches, large intertidal mud flats and

extensive sand flats. Muds and muddy sands with

localised carbonate concentrations typify the Inner

Shelf while in places its eastern borders have com­ paratively mud-free sands. The Marginal Shelf where

maximum reef growth occurs is covered by fine, muddy carbonate sands. On the reef surfaces, carbonate

gravels and coarse sands are dominant over the reef

flat. Finer sands and silts are typical of the

lagoons, while boulder accumulations of widely varying magnitude and shingle banks occur on the reef crests or rims. The bases of the reef masses

are fringed with narrow zones of carbonate gravels and coarse sands. In addition to its diversity of

sediment type, the province is characterised by the

general abruptness of transition from one type to

another. Furthermore, the sediments are pre­

dominantly detrital terrigenous and bioclastic

in origin. The contribution or inorganically

precipitated material, particularly carbonate, is negligible."

2.9.30 From the point of view of the questions asked in

TR2 the most important of the characterising features of sedi­ ments is their texture, that is to say the structure of the

deposit as defined by the sizes of its constituent particles

and the proportions in which the different sizes occur. Sedi­ ments of coarse texture, such as gravels and sands are less

closely packed than are fine-grained muds and silts; more

readily flushed by the passage of water through the particle

interspaces; and less liable, because of flushing, to be de­ prived of oxygen. As earlier noted, oil that is incorporated

into anaerobic muds is slow to biodegrade, but is less persis­

tent when exposed to bacteria and other oil degrading organ­

isms in the presence of oxygen.

2.9.31 Dr Maxwell (Exhibit 2, p. 197) classified the sedi­ ments of the GBRP into six types, viz. "... sand facies (less than 1% mud), slightly muddy sand facies (1 - 10% mud), muddy

sand facies (10 - 20% mud), sandy mud facies (40 - 80% mud), and mud (more than 80% mud)," adding that "The first two types

- sand and slightly muddy sand facies - are the most extensive

and together occupy more than half the total area of the pro­

vince." Photographs in the 'Atlas' (Figures 145—147) show these two types of sediment to be coarse grained mixtures in which a 1 - 10% admission of mud would be unlikely to obstruct

the water channels of the inter-particle spaces sufficiently

to prevent irrigation.

2.9.32 By and large, the textural characteristics of the

sediments of the GBRP shelf over the greater part of the Pro­

vince do not appear to be favourable to the long persistence

of oil that has been reported elsewhere in much finer deposits

such as the closely packed muds of Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts.

The Chairman is doubtful whether the evidence supports this


(ii) Benthos

2.9· 33 Very little information was given to the Commission on the nature of the benthic organisms of the off-shore waters

of the GBRP. The responses of benthic animals to sunken oil

cannot, at the present level of knowledge, be predicted.

(h) The fauna and flora of the reef zones

(i) General

2.9.34 The following descriptions refer only to the more

general compositional characteristics of the fauna and flora of

coral reefs within the GBRP and to the more commonly occurring

organisms associated with the different reef zones described in

the previous Section. Detailed illustrated descriptions are

given in Dr Isobel Bennett, 'The Great Barrier Reef' (Exhibit

451), Dr Maxwell 'Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef' (Exhibit 2 K. Gillett and P. McNeill. 'The Great Barrier Reef and Adja­

cent Isles' (Exhibit 3) and K. Gillett 'The Australian Great

Barrier Reef in Colour' (Exhibit 4).

2.9.35 Dr Talbot said at T938 "Coral reefs are perhaps the

most interesting of all marine living systems. They are inter­

esting to the biologist mainly because they have a greater num­

ber of species of animals and plants than any other marine

habitat but also because the sheer complexity of this number of

species interacting makes a total system more complex than any other. Sir Maurice Yonge voiced a similar opinion in saying "I think any marine biologist would agree that there is no eco­

system quite so complex as a coral reef" (T9225) and Dr Endean extended the comparison to all eco-systems, aquatic and terres­

trial: "I would think the diversity of species in the coral

reefs is only equalled by that of the tropical rain forests" .

(T13056) 468

2.9.36 Dr D.R. Stoddart, University Lecturer in Geography

in the University of Cambridge, England gave evidence on the

status of the Great Barrier Reef among the reefs of the world

and the problems of defining this status quantitatively. He

cited the work of Wells (1954) as showing that the greatest

number of genera of stony corals found anywhere in the world

is the East Indies - Marshall Islands region where some "70

genera out of a total possible number of rather more than 90"

are represented "... with the number decreasing along the Great

Barrier Reef from 50 in the north to about 20 in the south."

(T5793) He cautioned against making too much of these compar­

isons for "many of the areas of known high diversity are those

where detailed work has been carried out, and vice versa ..." He instanced "Woodhead's collecting at Heron Island" which

"has revealed 54 genera and subgenera even at this very south­

erly station (Woodhead and Webber,1969), and it is clear that similar intensive work is needed along the whole length of the barrier before meaningful statements can be made about latitu­

dinal variations."

2.9.37 Nevertheless Professor Woodhead himself pointed to

the greater richness of the northern part of the Province in saying" I found about 70 genera and subgenera on the Papuan Barrier Reef in a week, diving and walking on reef flats ...

I am quite sure there must be many species which I missed ...

However, one nevertheless obtained a good index of the generic and subgeneric level - the highest number for anywhere in the

world, in fact - in one week." (T5307) Dr Talbot substantiated

this statement in saying "... the Indo-Australian region is

richer in species than any other tropical area of the globe" (T942) and Professor Stephenson, while acknowledging that "our

knowledge of diversity on the reef is woefully incomplete" said "some patterns are obvious. First, the richest faunas are in the north and they decline as we come southwards." (T2057)

2.9.38 The only other group in which numbers indicative of


species diversity in the GBRP and neighbouring reefal areas

were quoted were the fishes. Professor Thomson said "Over 1200

species of fishes have been recorded from the waters of the

Great Barrier Reef." (T629) Dr J.H. Choat, Lecturer in the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who had carried out re­

search work on the ecology of reef fishes in Heron Island from

1963 to 1967, said that the fishes of the GBRP "are very close­ ly related to those found on central Pacific and Indian Ocean

reefs" but he was of the opinion that, because of the great

size of the GBRP it might contain "something in the order of 5000

species ... and will probably turn out to have the richest fish

fauna of any region on earth" (113146); and Professor Stephen­

son told the Commission (T2057A) that "Two graduate students,

Woodland and Slack-Smith (1963) recorded 400 species from a single small cay - Heron Island. This is more than is known

from the entire area of the North Atlantic and associated

areas." Of 343 species collected at the neighbouring One Tree

Island Dr Talbot said (T977) that only 13% were found in all

zones of the reef and the outer reef zone has the greatest

number (61%).

2.9.39 These comments on the great variety of species of

corals and fishes in the GBRP, the full diversity of which has

clearly not as yet been fully explored, a circumstance in part due, according to Professor Stephenson, to the shortage of competent taxonomists and the difficulty of getting collections

identified (T2056), apply equally to other groups of animals. These were not reported on in detail in the oral evidence but the Commission had the benefit of the excellent descriptions of

reef animals and of the general ecology of reefs contained in Dr Isobel Bennett's 'The Great Barrier Reef', W.G-H. Maxwell, 'Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef', K. Gillett and P. McNeill, 'The Great Barrier Reef and Adjacent Isles' and Keith Gillett,

'The Australian Great Barrier Reef' which were tendered as

Exhibits 451, 2, 3 and 4 respectively.


2.9.40 Of this great number of species in the GBRP many

are present in immense numbers of individuals. The Commission

on visits to Heron Island and Green Island were able to see

for themselves the forests of staghorn coral (Acropora spp.)

which project from the gulleys of the reef slope and provide

living space for multitudes of fish of many kinds. And even

on the more sparsely populated reef flats we were able to

observe many forms of coral and a variety of species of sea

snails, clams, starfishes, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea

cucumbers, worms and sponges among the larger and more con­

spicuous animals. We would not, from our brief surveys, dis­ agree with Dr Maxwell that "on the surface of a reef you have

large areas of little coral growth." (T231) Nor would one of

us who worked over the Lodestone Reef off Townsville defer

from Dr Endean's judgement that the Townsville reefs, of which

he showed a film, are 80% covered by coral. (T13002) An

average coverage, according to Dr Endean, would be of the ord­ er of 40%. (T12938)

2.9.41 The different zones of a reef vary greatly both in

the nature and richness of the floras and faunas they support. A few of the more dominant species that are met with in pass­

ing up the reef slope, over the reef crest into the flats and

channels which lie on the leeward side of the crest will be mentioned from descriptions given by Dr Maxwell (T121-7; 146­

9), Professor Thomson (T626-9) and other witnesses supplemen­ ted by accounts given in Dr Bennett's book 'The Great Barrier

Reef'. (Exhibit 451)

(ii) Reef slope

2.9.42 The lower parts of the reef slope extending upwards from the shelf floor to depths of 50 to 60 feet have a sparse organic cover. Dr Maxwell said "Coral is represented by stun­

ted growths of small massive species and short branching forms Non-calcareous green algae are common and occasional clumps of

Halimeda (a small bush like calcareous alga) are present.

Crinoids (sea lilies) and bryozoa (tufts and mats of colonial

animals) occur in small numbers." Upwards to about 12 feet

from the surface coral cover increases "with the large dish

shaped Acropora hyacinthus dominating the terraces ..." and

accompanied by the related species A. humilis and A. pulchra.

"Species of Montipora, Fungia and small to medium-sized brain

corals (Coeloria, Lobophyllla, Pavia, Goniastrea and Porites)

are well represented in this zone. Soft corals (particularly

Sarcophytum) also occur here." Encrusting calcareous algae

(Lithothamnia and related genera) and non-calcareous algae,

particularly the green Chlorodesmis are common. (T146-7) As

one progresses up the slope to the reef front, the highest part

of the slope "the fauna becomes more prolific." Many species

of Acropora are particularly abundant (T121-2) and "are to be

found in a magnificant array of form and colour." (Exhibit 451,

p. 67)

(ill) Reef rim

2.9.43 The crest, at its highest part the algal rim is pre­

dominantly bright pinkish-mauve in colour and separates the reef slope from the reef flat· "In many cases it is typified by the

abundance of encrusting algae (Lithothamnia and others) which

form a hard resistant surface." In most cases, the reef rim carries extensive boulder and shingle deposits which add to its

relief." (Maxwell, T123) "Though this may appear as a very

barren region, with little or no animal life, the underside of large boulders will be found with enormous populations of minute

animals, either as single individuals or small colonies. Large

boulders, two or three feet high, will be seen to be covered

with oysters and barnacles . . . These boulders provide the only available rocky substrate at the right tidal level for these

particular animals and they are not found elsewhere on the reef

flat." (Exhibit 451, p.67) Encrusting algae and corals (Pavona,

Cyphastrea) coat the rocks, sea urchins which bore into the lime­

stone (e.g. Echinometra mathael) and a wide variety of molluscs

inhabit this zone (Dr Maxwell, Tl48): and the list of species

was elaborated in greater detail by Professor Thomson.(T.628) 472

(iv) Reef flat:

2.9-44 Dr Maxwell said "Three zones may be recognised on the flat·"

Behind the crest "The zone of living coral and

coral pools ("moat" of Yonge 1930) varies in width from a few

yards to five hundred yards·"(T123) Here "dense populations

of Acropora, Pocillopora, and Seriatopor-a thrive in the protec­ tive lee of the algal rim and are nourished by the subdued surf and oceanic water that surges up the grooves and tunnels ben­

eath the algal rim ... A common inhabitant of the coral Pool is

the black long-spined echinoid Dladema Setosa..." "The transition from the living coral to the dead coral zone is comparatively abrupt and is marked by a slight

increase in the amount of sand. The massive brain corals,'

Favia, Platygyra and Lobophyllia are generally most common in this transition region ... On many reefs the brain corals rise

above the level of the adjacent fauna and form a discontinuous belt of rounded clusters . "(Exhibit 2, p .115) Giant clams

(Tridacna) are frequently present in this zone.

The sand flat merges leeward from the dead coral zone and "typical of the sand flat are the micro-atolls of

Porltes, which are circular disc shaped colonies that grow out

radially, the older central parts dying and eroding to form a central lagoon in minature. The blue Heliopora and the grey

Goniopora also form micro-atolls. The sand flat supports in addition a varied fauna of burrowing molluscs "and other burro­

wing animals such as gastropod snails and sea cucumbers" (Ex­ hibit 2, p.115). "Small fish, crabs, worms, shrimps are abun­ dant ."( Professor Thomson, T625)

(j) Oil and the marine life of the GBRP

(i) Oil on the sea surface Birds (and see paragraphs PI.6.176-184)

2.9.45 Although a number of witnesses referred to the very serious effects which oil pollution can have on bird life, the

witness who dealt most fully with the probable effects of oil

pollution on birds of the GBRP was Dr Kikkawa (T675 et seq,

T1903 ~ 1982) who paid particular attention in this context to

the distribution, habits, population size and reproductive

behaviour of the birds of the GBRP.

2.9.46 Dr Kikkawa listed some 230 species of birds resi­ dent within or migratory visitors to the GBRP (T16462 and

tables at T675-80). He said that "In considering possible

effects of oil pollution ... on the birds of the Great Barrier

Reef and its waters, it is necessary to have the basic infor­

mation of local distribution, abundance and the pattern of

migration of birds within the area." He noted however that

"... only a few islands have been surveyed in the past" and

"The patterns of general and local movements are also little

known ..." (T1909) According to Dr Kikkawa "The most vulner­ able groups of birds to oil pollution in Australian waters are

probably the penguins, cormorants, gannets and shearwaters ...

If the current causes accumulation of oil on continental shores

of central and northern Queensland severe local mortality would occur in up to 10 species of herons, egrets and ibises, inclu­

ding rare resident species and three species of ducks, particu­

larly the Grey Teal in winter. During the summer months up to

30 species of migratory plovers and other waders will be affec­

ted if oil stays on muddy shores. If oil stays in inshore waters the cormorants will be the most susceptible to pollu­

tion." (T1909)

2.9.47 At sea Dr Kikkawa said "... Some workers believe that birds deliberately seek out oil because the water is calm

or they mistake it for an indication of the presence of food.

If they do, migrating shearwaters and feeding flocks of gannets

and terns would suffer considerable losses. These and other

behavioural aspects of oceanic birds in relation to oil pollu­

tion are not understood." (T1910) "... Some terns dive into the water to obtain food; other terns come near the surface

and skim the water and obtain food from the surface of the water without diving. So depending on their habits, the way

they contact oil would differ" (T19HA) and "... the Wedge-

tailed Shearwater, which breeds in large numbers on many islands

of the Great Barrier Reef, may suffer great mortality in local

breeding populations if the pollution is prolonged, or in mig­

ratory flocks up to several hundreds of thousands if they land

on oil. This species is absent from the region between June and September." (T1910)

2.9.48 Among GBRP birds which Dr Kikkawa said produce

few young are shearwaters and gannets (T1914) though the list

of birds with a slow replacement capacity would include "...

terns, gannets, frigate birds and most of the sea birds which

breed in the tropical islands ... they normally lay one or two eggs. If they lay two eggs, only one chick grows, so that in

one breeding season, if their breeding is successful, a pair brings up one chick." (T739)

2.9.49 Mr Helman, in his closing address made the follo­

wing comment in summary of Dr Kikkawa's evidence.

"According to Dr Kikkawa there is some risk to individual birds, of a certain

limited number of species in the Great Barrier Reef area, but a careful exam­

ination of the habits, likely reactions,

ability to be cleansed, reproductive rate and distribution of those species,

shows there is no significant risk to

them" (T16494-5)

2.9.50 The Commission, while respecting Mr Reiman's con­

clusion, is mindful of Dr Kikkawa's expressed view that "... the birds we have in the Great Barrier Reef waters are the birds of the tropical ocean and we have not any evidence of

the type of damage that they may receive from a disaster of this type ..." (T1944) In the absence of a better knowledge

of the habits of many of these species, the Commission, while not regarding catastrophic damage of a lasting nature from oil

pollution as a definite probability, considers that in the light


of Dr Kikkawa's evidence some damaging effects are probable,

and damage endangering the status of a species at least pos­ sible ,

Turtles and sea snakes (see also paragraphs

PI.6 .212-3)

2.9-51 Amongst other animals which live all or a part of their lives at sea in GBRP waters and which require from time

to time to break surface to breathe in air are turtles and sea

snakes. Dr Isobel Bennett in Exhibit 451, p.62, says "Three

species of marine turtles are found in Barrier Reef waters.

The small Hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata ... the much larger Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta ... and the G r e e n Turtle,

Chelone mydas ... the most widely distributed of the marine

turtles ... (which) owing to the delicacy of its flesh has

suffered very severe predation by man." Several species of

sea snakes occur in the Province and "are quite common in the

more northern waters." (Exhibit 451, p .64)

No evidence was received on the probable effects of oil on

marine reptiles.

(ii) Oil in the sea

Plankton (and see paragraphs PI.6.151-161)

2.9.52 Little is known of the nature, distribution,

seasonal variations and productivity of the GBRP plankton.

The present paucity of knowledge drew from Professor Stephenson

the comment that "... the amount of work done on the Barrier Reef ... is I think a couple of papers published about 1930"

(T2067) and based on work which he later explained as having

been done "... in a localized area by the Yonge Expedition, and over most of the space we do not even know the seasonal

occurrence of dominant forms, much less the temporal and spat­ ial distinctiveness of such "communities" as might exist." The

papers referred to by Professor Stephenson were Reports of the

Great Barrier Reef Expedition of 19?-8-29 (Exhibit 182) relating

to plankton surveys at Low Isles, north of Cairns.



2.9.53 The plankton of the Province Includes both plants

and animals the latter comprising adult organisms (most of

them microscopic) and the larvae and other developmental stages

of corals and other organisms that live in the area. Professor Stephenson said of the phytoplankton, at T2064, "Planktonic

plants occur in reef waters as they do everywhere else in the sea, but we rarely see conspicuous spring outbursts (spring

outbursts are a characteristic feature of the algae of plankton

in high latitudes). In the warm waters of the reefs it appears

that .... there is never a high standing crop of producers, but

instead a high rate of production and turnover throughout the

year ..." Moreover, according to Dr Talbot, "A coral reef,

such as any lagoon system in the Great Barrier Reef, has rela­ tively little input or output of nutrients, and is largely a

closed system rapidly producing and cycling food." (T950)


2.9.54 The zooplankton, almost all of which depends directly on planktonic plants for its food, appears to be similarly maintained at an even level of production over the

year for, "... the results at Low Isles seemed to indicate that the high temperature so increased metabolic rates allowing rapid development and replacement of planktonic -animals in

these tropical waters that, averaged over a year, the produc­ tion was comparably as much as that of the colder waters", and

would appear, like the phytoplankton, to be produced and main­ tained substantially as a closed system for "... biologists

working at Bikini Atoll discovered that many of the planktonic

animals found within the lagoon were not taken in the ocean

waters, except where there was a strong current flowing from a reef" (Dr Isobel Bennett, Exhibit 451, p .94). Professor

Woodhead also ascribed the closed system character of the reef

plankton to "... certain hydrographical features ... which in some instances help to contain the larvae and eggs near the

reef. At the same time, many are certainly lost to the ocean currents and swept away from the reefs ..." (T5388) Professor


Connell, quoting a literature source at T12164, said "Johnson

(1954) found that plankton was 2 to 4 times more abundant

within the lagoon than in the waters just outside the reef.

He attributed at least part of this concentration to the ebb

and flow of these counter-current patterns".

It was clear from the evidence given to the

Commission that little is known of the composition of the GBRP

plankton. Dr Grassle remarked that "... no one has studied

the planktonic larvae in the Great Barrier Reef. It is cer­

tainly one of the top priorities for research." (T6440)

Difficulties arise partly from inadequacies of collection for

"Even collections taken just above corals known to be capable

of releasing larvae seldom catch any planulae..." Professor

Connell, T12161) and "In plankton tows taken several times a

month for a year at Low Isles planulae were caught only in

December, even though some species liberated planulae every

month in the laboratory (Russell and Colman 1934)", and partly from the difficulty of identifying planulae with the species

of coral which produce them (Professor Connell, T12158).

2.9.55 From observations made in areas other than the GBRP, Professor Connell said (T12157), "... most planulae soon

settle down, usually within the first two days. A very few

remain swimming longer, up to three weeks, or in one instance

two months" (Atoda, 1951,b) and Professor Woodhead, speaking of the length of their larval life, said of the varying periods

that they "... would be a matter of perhaps minutes or hours...

running to months" (T5275) · It was not denied that larvae

produced from organisms of a reef might, especially if they

have a long planktonic life, be carried beyond the confines of

a largely closed system (Dr Bennett, Exhibit 451, p .94;

Professor Woodhead, T5388) to aid in the regeneration from a distant source of reefs damaged by pollution or through natural


2.9.56 Nevertheless, the Commission was impressed by the

weight of evidence favouring the concept of the essentially

closed system of Individual reefs, and Is not disposed to

regard the plankton of reefal situations as being so readily

capable, if damaged by oil, of regeneration from external

sources as may be the case in the plankton of the open sea.

Freshly spilled oil could under these circumstances be damag­

ing to the economy of a reef, if not by direct kill of adult

organisms, by removing - temporarily at least - important

sources of food and of juvenile reproductive stages. Massive

overlays of freshly spilled crude oil or the continuing

admission of oil in the smaller quantites of a chronic pollution

could kill plankton and affect, for a time at least, the

organisms which depend upon it. Weathered oil is considerably

less toxic, and in the protection of the plankton of reefs it

seems prudent to ensure that sites where spills may occur,

for example exploratory wells and production platforms, are

placed at a "safe distance" from reefs in order to allow sea

room for the weathering of drifting oil. (See answer to TR3)

(iii) Oil on shores and reefs

A . Experiments, both Australian and

overseas, with fresh and weather­ ed crude oils

Section (1) Corals

Introduction 2.9.57 Six separate and independently conducted series of

experiments designed to test the effects of oil on corals were reported to the Commission during the course of the

hearings of evidence. The scientists who undertook the experiments, the dates of the investigations and the places

in which they were carried out were as follows:- Mr E. M.

Grant, Fisheries Research Biologist, Queensland Department of

Primary Industries, Brisbane, February 1969, Moreton Bay, Brisbane, August/September 1971, Wistari Reef, and April 1972, Heron Island; Mr N. M. D. Haysom, Fisheries Biologist,

Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, August/ September 1970, Fitzroy Reef, and October 1970, Moreton Bay;

Professor R. E. Johannes, Associate Professor of Zoology,


University of Athens, Georgia, USA in early 1971 in Hawaii,

and June 1971 at Eniwe.tok lagoon, northern Marshall Islands;

Mr E. A. Shinn, Senior Geologist with Shell Oil Company, New

Orleans, Louisiana in July 1971 at Key Largo, Florida; Dr

J. B. Lewis of the McGill University Montreal at unspecified

dates in 1971, in Barbados; and Professor S. H. Chuang,

Professor of Zoology, University of Singapore at an unspecified

date in 1971 or 1972 in Singapore. Except for Dr Lewis, whose experiments were described in Exhibit 338, all the scientists

concerned appeared as witnesses and were examined on their

experimental procedures and findings.

2.9.58 During the course of the experiments some 20 - 25

genera and a greater number of species of coral were put to

test, and crude oils of differing provenance and composition

were used. The conditions of experimentation varied in respect

of the corals examined; the concentrations of oil to which

the corals were subjected; the presentation of oil - either

by direct contact or in solution or emulsion; the full

immersion in sea water or part emergence into the air of the

corals under test; water temperature; degree of oxygenation

and other experimental conditions.

The Australian experiments

Mr Grant 2.9.59 Mr Grant, in aquarium experiments carried out at

the Fisheries Laboratory, Brisbane, in February 1969 (T10268 et seq), placed in each of three tanks (A, B and C) 30 x 12 x 15

inches high, and each containing 15 gallons of Moreton Bay

water two Turban Corals, Favia speciosa, of approximately 6 inches diameter. All three tanks were aerated. Three pints

of Moonie oil were poured gently on to the surface of the

water in tanks B and C to form an unbroken surface \ inch thick. To A, the control, no oil was added. The water level

in Tank B was maintained static; in tank C water was siphoned

out of and into the tank to simulate the ebb and flow of the

tide. At the lowest level of the water, oil was in contact with

the corals for about 5 minutes daily for 5 days (T10268 - 9).

"On the eighth day the crude oil was skimmed from the surface

of Tanks B and C and the corals maintained for a further 16

days. At the expiry of this time they were still alive and the experiment was concluded." (T10269)

Comments made in Mr Grant's statement and in

examination included reference to the oil concentration -25,000

ppm, and the discolouring of the seawater presumably by oil in solution or suspension.

2.9.60 In August/September 1971 Mr Grant carried out three

experiments on the effects of Moonie crude oil sprayed on to

water flowing over corals near the reef edge at the north­

western extremity of Wisfcari Reef in the Capricorn Group.

(T10273) For the first experiment a small area about 12'

x 5' was pegged out. Between 08.10 and 09.10 hours on 31 August 10 gallons were sprayed continuously on water to the south side of the pegged area to form an oil slick with a

front of about 71 which was carried on a falling tide over and around the corals in the pegged area. The water cover

initially was about 1 inch. At the conclusion of the experiment on the falling tide, some corals, mainly staghorns had their tips protruding above the surface of the water.

Staghorns and Pocillopora within the pegged area responded by

secreting strands of mucus.(T10275) "The following day (1 September) all corals within the area appeared alive and healthy as they were three days later." On the fifth day "one colony, and possibly two had their uppermost tips whitened.

This followed a period of very low tides and cold winds (4 to 5 September) and similar damage appeared fairly generally over other areas examined. Eleven days after oiling "there

was no substantial change in the general appearance of the corals ... They were colourful ... Two colonies of Pocillopora had their uppermost tips encrusted with a brown filamentous alga ... I conclude that the discharge of 10 gallons of Moonie

crude ... apart from the immediate reactions stated above,


had no apparent effect on the corals ... ." (T10276)

2.9.61 In the second experiment (1 September) an area

measuring about 17 ft 8 inches by 7 feet was pegged. The area

contained a wide array of corals including staghorns, brain

corals and Pocillopora in addition to some clams and serpulid

worms.(T10279) On 2 September between 11.05 and 14.30 hours forty seven gallons of Moonie crude were sprayed by knapsack

sprayer to the side of the pegged site the oil being carried

over it in continuous thin film. Except for 2 minute rests

each half hour, spraying was continuous. The corals had

initially a water cover of about 1 inch on a falling tide. At

low water some corals were exposed, and at the end of the

experiment the tide had risen to 2 - 3 inches cover. At the beginning of the operation oil moved at a speed of about \

knot over the study area; the speed later declined to about l/7th knot.(T10282) During spraying some emergent and some

submerged corals exuded abundant mucus mats which were lifted

clear on the rising tide.

Next day Mr Grant reported "all corals, clams and

serpulid worms alive and normal-. (T10283) A similar report was was given after one and seven days following a further spray­

ing of 35 gallons of Moonie crude.(TIO287)

2.9.62 Mr Grant's third and last experiment in the series

(8 September 1971) involved the enclosure of a small brain

coral within a "polycloth" screen fastened to six hexagonally disposed steel stakes driven into the surface of the reef but

with water free to pass under the "polycloth". The surface area of the container was about 6 sq.ft.(T10291). Some 21

hours after enclosure two gallons of Moonie oil were poured into the enclosure. Wave surge was sufficient to raise and

lower the water from a mean level of some 3' 3" and to disperse a substantial part of the oil into droplets. With

the falling tide the water level in the enclosure fell to about

6 inches at which time a further two gallons of oil were added.

At low tide the coral was at or slightly below water level .

(T10294) The screen was then removed. Then and some 15 hours

later Mr Grant said "the general appearance of the brain coral

was unchanged. It appeared quite normal and healthy as did

the surrounding area." (T10295)

On 16, 18 and 19 January 1972 Mr Grant revisited the

area and examined the corals studied in the September 1971

experiments. He said that there were no differences apparent

which could be attributed to the addition of oil. (T14200)

The corals within the experimental areas were photographed in colour in September 1971 and January 1972. Some 175 slides

(Exhibit 546) were projected for the benefit of the Commission

and were commented upon by Mr Grant. (T10301-49)

Possible damage short of death not recorded

2.9.63 Attention was drawn to some deviations in the experi­

ments from the conditions of oil presentation attending acci­

dental oil spills. The spraying of oil (Wistari: Experiments 1 and 2 ) may result in substantial losses through evaporation

of the lighter fractions of the Moonie oil used (T10277), and

it was admitted by Mr Grant that possible damage short of death was not recorded in observing macroscopically the res­

ponses of corals to oil exposure. (T14229)

Change of colour after the experiments 2.9.64 The difference in colour of some corals before

(August 1971) and some time after exposure to oil (January 1972) as evidenced in the slides shown by Mr Grant, attracted extended attention and comment in cross-examination. (T14200-1)

Mr Grant accepted that colour variations were apparent in many instances but attributed them to such factors as variations in time of day, light intensity, water depth, water rippling, camera distance from subject and camera angle. (T14202 to

14252 various references) It was also suggested by Mr Grant at

T15523-4 that a piece of coral can change colour.

The Chairman has some difficulty in accepting Mr

Grants explanations for the white tips and the brown colour of


certain of the corals four months after the experiments as he

considers from his own interpretation of the photographs that

they are consistent with ill health, (and cf Mr Grant at T14245

and Mr Shinn at T10124)

2.9*65 In so far as the limited number of species put to test

by Mr Grant are concerned, namely one or two species of Acro-

pora, Pocillopora, Pungia and brain corals the conditions of

oil presentation to which he submitted them included direct

contact, intermittent contact, and emulsion and solution expo­

sure, all of which adequately simulated the conditions of expo­

sure that might normally be expected in oil spills. We see no

reason to differ from Mr Grant's appraisal of the tolerance of

the few species of coral tested in his experiments when he said

at T14221, "I conclude that at the actual time of application

of oil, some corals, but not all, are irritated to the extent of exuding mucus. However, again under the conditions of my

experiments, the corals survived what I take to be a rather

massive application of oil," nor - the Chairman however dissent­

ing - would we differ substantially from the views he expressed

in the following questions and answers:

"Mr Grant, would you say that your experiments

and the results you obtained related only to short-term effects. Do you regard them as

short-term experiments or not? -- No, sir,

I do not think I do.

You do not regard them as short-term experiments?

Do you think it would be likely or unlikely that

they could be a reliable basis for general conclu­

sions? -- Within the limits of the experiments,

yes. (T14252A)

What are those limits?

-- That the oil was applied for only two con­ secutive days.

In a running out tide?

-- On both a running out and ascending tide, yes.


In an area where the current was travelling at

about just under 3 miles an hour?

-- At the time of initial application I think that is correct.

At all events you do not agree that your experi­ ments relate only to short-term effects in a

limited area - or do you?

-- The effects, I think, Sir, are long-term. The area is certainly limited by the extent of being 17 ft 8 ins by 7 ft." (T14253)

The Chairman does not agree with Mr Grant. He

regards both the experiments and the effects as short term

within the meaning of that phrase as used by the CSIP.O when

advising the then Prime Minister in 1971 (see reference to the

Prime Minister's letter of 2nd June 1971 to the Chairman in paragraph PI.2.3)

Mr Haysom

2.9.66 Mr Haysom conducted two general groups of experiments.

(Exhibit 351, T10619-10727) In August and September 1970 at Fitzroy Reef, Capricorn Group four separate experiments were

carried out. (T10622) One involved pouring oil on to four discrete pools, each with a similar numerical and species assemblage of corals, with one pool of a similar faunal con­

tent, as a control. The second involved the presentation of oil in plastic bins suspended from the stern of a launch and therefore subject to agitation. The third and fourth involved

the pouring of quantities of crude oil to be carried onto coral

by the tide. A single experiment carried out at Peel Island, Moreton Bay in late October 1970 involved the presentation of

Moonie crude and bunker oil to corals contained in sea water

within perforated plastic bins.

Mr Haysom said that these two series of five experi­

ments were undertaken after Mr Grant's 1969 aquarium experi­

ments on the effects of Moonie oil on turban corals (Pavia spj

had been completed: "we discussed how perhaps we could expand

h 85

these experiments somewhat to find out to a greater degree what

effects oil might have on corals. We discussed how we might go

about these experiments and decided perhaps some form of con­

tainer anchored out in the reef area to keep oil enclosed so

that it comes in contact with the corals might be the most use­

ful way ... . However, it would be rather difficult to arrange

such a structure ..." and it was decided to do experiments in

"natural enclosed pools ... or some form of bin which would be

easier to erect on the reef" or try "spilling oil in front of

the incoming tide and watching it wash across the corals on the

intertidal area." (TIO696)

2 .9.67 In the Fitzroy Reef experiments (first series) pools

containing corals and other organisms were submitted to oil

cover. Five discrete pools of surface area 1-2 square metres

each near the south-western end of Fitzroy Reef adjacent to the

reef rim were chosen. (T10628) The corals and other organisms

in pools 1-4 served as the test animals for the oil treated

samples. Pool 5, the unoiled control, was made up to include a coral content similar to 1-4. (T10717) The 'hard' (scleract-inian) corals in the pools were (1), 2 Favia sp.; (2) 2 Fungia

sp.; 3 Pocillopora sp., 1 Acropora cuneata; (3) 1 Fungia, 1 Acropora sp., 1 Acropora cuneata?, 1 Favia sp., 1 Seriatopora sp.; (4) 1 Fungia sp., 1 Seriatopora, 1 Acropora sp., 1 Acro­

pora cuneata?, 1 Favia sp.; (5) 1 Fungia sp., 1 Seriatopora sp.,

1 Favia sp., 1 Acropora sp., 1 Acropora cuneata?, 1 Pocillopora


2.9.68 The experiments were carried out at the time of a spring tide. (T10711) Low water at Heron Island, 10 miles dis­

tant from the area of experiment, was 15.46 hours on the day (19

August 1970) when oil was first added to a pool. The height of

the water in the pools at low water averaged about 6-7 inches;

at high tide they had a 2-3 foot cover. (T10634, IO636) Of

the corals in pool 1, Mr Haysom said that they were at all

times submerged (T10633), and, though this was not specifically


stated in evidence, the photographs which Mr Haysom showed to

the Commission indicated that cover was also maintained in

pools 2 and 3· Pool 4, however, "Completely drained out"

during the course of the experiment. (T10650)

2.9.69 The oil treatments of the pools were as follows. Oil

in quantity calculated to give a layer about 1 mm thick

(TIO685) was added to all the pools within half an hour or

less of the time of low water. (TIO633, 10644, 10649, 10650)

Pool 1 received fresh Moonie crude followed by 24 hour 'wea­

thered' crude on the next low tide; pool 2 fresh Moonie oil;

pool 3 fresh Moonie oil; pool 4 'weathered' Moonie oil. The

pools and the overlying oil overflowed 2\ hours after low

water with the tidal rise. The corals in the pools were in­ spected on the day following the oiling of the pools, some­

times at a period somewhat less than 24 hours.

2.9-70 In none of the experiments was any visible damage to

any of the corals detected by Mr Haysom. (TIO637, 10655, 10649, 10650)

2.9.71 The conditions of presentation of oil claimed for

these experiments were, in summary, (i) oil present as an over­

lying but not contacting layer in which oil/coral contact would presumably be through solution or emulsification (ii) oil pre­

sent as a layer equivalent to a "fairly massive contamination" a claim made by Mr Haysom (T10684) on the basis of a published statement (J. Wardley Smith) that "If the water surface is

heavily contaminated, the final thickness may be 1 millimetre or more." (T10684) As a reservation to these conclusions it

must be noted that the oil in the pools was not submitted to the water agitation that occurs in the open sea and which aids solution and emulsification. The second and more important

point to be noted is that the experiments were not designed to discover any toxic effects on corals other than lethal effects.


2.9.72 In the second series of the Fitzroy Reef experiments

the test area chosen was the outer rim of the Reef where the

number and variety of corals was much greater than in the pre­

vious experiment. In each of two trials (TIO663, T10669) one

and a half litres of fresh Moonie oil were released on the

front of the incoming tide on the seaward side of a mixed com­

munity of encrusting and stubby branched coral. "As the oil

was carried towards the crest, it fetched in succession on a

series of coral and Palythoa colonies, but was rapidly lifted

off with the rising level of the water. Some slight discharge

of mucus by some Acropora colonies was noted. No trace of this

spill was found when the area was re-examined 24 hours later."


2.9.73 Special attention was paid in one of the trials to the drift of oil on to two small colonies of Favia and some small

twigs of Acropora when oil contacted them. "Within five min­

utes the corals were seen to exude fine streams of mucus" and

"By the time the colonies were completely covered by the tide,

the Favia heads were completely clear of oil, but some oil drop­

lets still adhered to the Acropora twigs." (TIO669)

2.9.74 In the third trial bunker oil was substituted for

Moonie crude. Five litres were released and "This oil adhered

much more persistently to the organisms with which it came into contact but, even so, within 15 minutes it was obvious that a large proportion of the oil was being sloughed off with the aid

of vigorous mucus production by the coral colonies" (T10666)

"The area of the spill was revisited 24 hours later when I observed that no oil was visible on living scleractinian coral

... though a few small traces were still attached to old dead

twigs." (TIO667)

2.9.75 The contacts of oil with corals in these trials were of

very short duration and no damage was reported. Rapidly con­

ducted trials of this kind can be no more than indicative of

the purposes they are designed to serve, namely, in this

instance of the greater capacity of a viscous oil to adhere

for a while to corals more firmly than does a light crude; of

the greater tendency for oil to adhere to some species than to

others; and of the oil removing effects of the mucus secreted by corals.

2.9.76 The last of the series of experiments performed by

Mr Haysom at Fitzroy Reef involved the placing of a selection

of branched corals (Acropora spp. and Stvlophora) in plastic

bins some 40 cm high and with their sides perforated about 3

inches from the bottom of the bins with \ inch holes. (TIO656)

Three bins were suspended from the stern of a launch the depth of water level inside the bin being about 20 cm. 1 litre of

Moonie crude was run into two of the bins and 1 litre of

'weathered' Moonie oil into the other. An unperforated bin,

containing a similar selection of corals, was placed on deck as a 1 control'. The oil layer in the suspended bins was esti­

mated to be about 8 mm. thick. The bins were left suspended

overnight and joggled sufficiently in a choppy sea to break

tips off some of the coral. The corals remained submerged

throughout the experiment though one bin lost half its water

content so that oil came within a few centimetres of the tip of some corals. (T10660) Inspection the following day led Mr Haysom to report all of them "as being alive and healthy

after the conclusion of the experiment." (T10659)

2.9.77 The main circumstances distinguishing the plastic bin

trials from Mr Haysom's pool and reef-surface exposures of

corals to oil were (i) the longer period of oil cover (but not contact) to which the test animals were subjected and (ii) the probability that the corals were exposed to high concentrations

of oil in solution and droplet emulsification. The design of

the experiments was however unnecessarily cumbersome and in several respects unsatisfactory. In particular, they did not

allow of the quantities of oil which escaped from the perfora­

tions in the bins to be measured; the corals in the bins were

thrown about and damaged; and the ’control* conditions in the

unperforated bin were different from those in the perforated

oiled containers.

2.9-78 Mr Haysom's Peel Island experiments of October 1970

(TIO671 et seq) involved similar procedures but were intended

to be more testing of the capacity of corals to withstand ex­

posure to oil in that there was to be direct contact of oil

with their surfaces over a period of some hours.

Basically they involved the use of three perforated

plastic bins with polystyrene flotation collars and tethered to

stakes on the flat foreshore of Peel Island. The scleractinian

corals placed in the bins were as follows:

Bin 1; 2 Pavia speciosa, 1 Flavia stelligera,

1 Acropora spicifera and 1 Turbinaria peltata.

Bin 2; 2 Pavia speciosa, 1 Acropora digitifera,

. 1 Cyphastrea serailla.

Bin 3; 2 Pavia speciosa, 1 Acropora digitifera.

One litre of Moonie crude was added to Bin 1; 1 litre

of bunker oil to Bin 2. Bin 3, unoiled, served as a control.

(TIO675) Mr Haysom estimated the thickness of the oil layer to

be about 8 mm. (TIO677) Oil was added about one hour before

low water and on the falling tide the oil layer sank to the

level of the corals. "... direct contact lasted for at least

three hours in the case of the lowermost portions of all the

colonies, and up to six hours in the case of the uppermost polyps of the A. spicifera colony, before the incoming tide

again submerged the polyps." (TIO678)

2.9-79 The experiments were started at 18.30 hours on the eve­ ning of 21 October and the first inspection of the corals was

made at 01.30 hours the next day by floodlighting the bins which

at high water had floated to the surface. A few traces of Moonie oil were present in Bin 1 and some slight mucus produc­

tion by Acropora. The bunker oil in Bin 2 coated the inside


walls of the bln, water of which contained a heavy flocculent

discharge of mucus. (TIO679) At 06.15 on the third day

(October 23) the corals were removed to storage bins for

transfer to Brisbane. "All were alive and in good condition."

(TIO679) On arrival at Brisbane via Manly, where they were

placed in muddy harbour water, one specimen of Aeropora dlgi-

tifera from Bin 2, which had been transported in a leaky con­ tainer and had been exposed to air for an estimated 20-25

minutes had an abnormal smell and eventually died. (T10680)

The remaining corals, now under laboratory aeration, "were

examined at 0830 hours on 26th October 1970. The corals all appeared healthy ... They had been held a total of one week

from the time of application of the oils." (T10681)

2.9.80 Mr Haysom himself appropriately described the Peel

Island tests as a "sledgehammer type of treatment." (TIO687)

Certainly the corals were subjected to a variety of stresses

in addition to oil treatment. One colony of the nine which suffered oil treatment died, the remaining eight, drawn from

4 genera and 5 species, survived. The inspection made of them was however insufficiently detailed for the identification of possible tissue damage.

Summary and appraisal of the Australian experiments 2.9.81 Tests of the effects of oil on corals of the GBRP have been on branching corals of the genera Aeropora, Poeillo-

pora, Stylophora and Seriatopora and on species of more massive growth within the genera Favla, Fungia, Turbinaria, Montipora and Cyphastrea. All the corals that have been put to test live

in pools, channels or on the surfaces of the reef flat on the

leeward side of the reef rim; and all have either a very shal­ low water cover at low water of spring tides or may be exposed at least partially, for a short period of this time. They may

therefore be regarded as being potentially susceptible to con­

tact or near contact with oil should a spill invade a reef.

Field and laboratory experiments carried out to test

the effects of oil provided both for contact and the near con­ tact of an oil film, the thickness of the oil film approximat­

ing in the several experiments to thicknesses that might be

expected in an actual spill. In the experiments which provi­

ded for contact, the period of contact was on occasions as long

as would be expected in a real oil spill situation. The simu­

lation of near contact conditions is more difficult to achieve

in experiments, for the period of cover and the quantities of

oil that pass into solution in the open sea are dependent on

the size of the spill, the degree of wave action, sea turbu­

lence and many other contributory factors which cannot be ex­

actly replicated.

Of the many individual corals and coral colonies that

were put to test in the Australian experiments only one (a

specimen of Acropora digltifera) died and the circumstances of

its death (Haysom T10680) were such that oil could not with

certainty be implicated. Of the species of coral tested, the

few experiments which were done appeared therefore to show that

they have a surprising but nevertheless real capacity to survive

the kinds of oil contact and cover that might normally be expec­

ted to be associated with an acute exposure to oil of limited


The reservations which must be entertained concerning

the effects of oil on corals lie in the as yet unexplored con­

sequences of chronic exposure to oil and in the possible sub-

lethal effects which acute as well as chronic exposure to oil

may produce.

Although both Mr Grant and Mr Haysom reported on signs

of stress in corals short of death, notably in the production of copious mucus, tentacle retraction and tissue lesions no single

experiment or instance of microscopic tissue examination was

brought to the notice of the Commission whereby possible short

term damage to the tissues, or short and long term effects on

the feeding, growth and reproductive capacity of corals could

be revealed.

In so far as the Australian experiments are concerned


it is appropriate to point out that the total experience de­

rives from the experiments of only two people - both skilled

biologists who conducted their experiments with care and pre­

cision and who reported on them fully under intensive examina­

tion. Nevertheless the address to the problem in Australia,

some twenty man/weeks in all, has been disappointingly small.

Other experiments (Mr A.E. Shinn, Professor S.H. Chuang, Professor R.E. Johannes, Dr J.B. Lewis).

(a) Mr Shinn

2.9-82 Mr Shinn, "employed as Research geologist by Shell Oil

Company" (T10107) described to the Commission "A short-term oil pollution experiment on semi-in-situ reef corals" (T10149)

which he had undertaken on July 23, 1971 at Key Largo, Florida.

"Three iron stakes were driven into the sea floor in 20 feet of water near a coral patch off Key Largo, Florida,

Branches of Acropora cervicornis collected from a few feet away but never removed from the water, were wired to the top of two

of the fixed stakes. An additional small colony of Porites porites was wired a few inches below the branch of Acropora

cervicornis. A small head of Montastrea annularis, Porites

asteroides and Agaricia agaricites were wired to the remaining stake. A clear polyethylene bag of approximately 10 gallon

capacity containing 5 to 6 gallons of sea water was placed over the stake holding the Acropora cervicornis and Porites porites and tied securely to prevent water circulation. "(T10159) Of the three coral-mounted stakes the last mentioned Acropora/

Porites preparation served as a control.

Over the other Acropora/Porltes stake was placed a similar bag containing a half gallon of Louisiana crude to 3

gallons of sea water. "In placing the bag in position, an

additional 1 to 3 gallons of water entered the bag ... the final ratio of oil and water exposed to the coral was between 1:6 and

1:12. Oil floated at the top of the bag and the upper tips of

the Acropora cervicornis were within a few centimetres of the oil-water contact throughout the two hours exposure and actually


touched the pure crude several times during bag placement."

"A similar bag containing one ounce of crude to 3

gallons of water was placed over the stake holding Montastrea

annularis, Porites asteroides and Agaricia agaracites. Again

an additional 1 to 3 gallons of seawater entered the bag during

placement, bringing the ... oil-water ratio .. to somewhere be­

tween 1:384 and 1:768. (T10151)

"In yet another test an in-situ 8 inch diameter head of Montastrea annularis was covered with a 16 inch clear lucite

dome approximately 3/4 filled with crude oil. Approximately

half of the coral was thus immersed in pure crude oil for two

hours. "All the experiments lasted for two hours." (T10151) Mr Shinn in reporting the effects of these immersions

or near-contacts of oil with corals, said "The extended polyps

of Acropora cervicornis retracted immediately upon contact with

the oil/water mixture. Polyps of the control corals, however,

remained extended throughout the experiment. Since the polyps

of Montastrea and Agaricia are retracted in daylight, it is

impossible to ascertain their initial reaction to oil. (T10151) Although the polyps of Acropora cervicornis remained

retracted for at least hour after the pollutant had been re­

moved, Mr Shinn said that 24 hours later polyps of all the

species "were extended and appeared no different from those of

the control" And further: "After 13 days all the test corals

were still living and appeared to be as healthy as corals grow­

ing on the nearby coral patch" None, including "Montastrea annularis, exposed directly to crude oil for two hours, showed the slightest damage." (T10152) The least convincing aspect of

Mr Shinn's evidence lay in the reasons he gave for not suspect­

ing the slightest damage'. At T10175 he said that "If there had been any damage I would have expected to see some sloughed off tissue ... which we did not see." Under cross-examination how­

ever his reply in answer to the question "... does sloughing, if it has occurred, always reveal itself to ... the naked eye?",

he replied: "I do not feel reasonably certain to answer that."

He added "I place my strongest evidence on the lack of encrust-

ing algae 13 days after the experiment." (T10176) Mr Shinn

said at T10174 that in his experience, the presence of en­

crusting algae was an indication that the coral where they

settled was dead. (110174) The criteria by which damage short of death was assessed were not made known.

Singapore experiments

(b) Professor Chuang

2 .9.83 Professor S.H. Chuang, described laboratory experi­ ments which he had carried out in order to test the effects of crude oils on three species of mushroom corals (Pungia spp).

" Preliminary experiments were carried out on Pungia repanda, Pungia actiniformis, Pungia paumotensis after one day of acclimation to laboratory conditions. Pungia corals were chosen because they can be removed without mechanical damage

from the reef." (T15570) The corals were brought from the Salu and Sudong reef flats separately in polythene bags. (T15644)

Experiment 1: "Four aquaria were set up. One was the

control. Each of the other aquarie contained 2 litres of sea water at a temperature of 27 degrees and three Fungia actini­

formis of 8-12 cm diameter. Aeration from a compressed air

outlet was provided and the aquaria were placed next to a win­ dow with diffuse sunlight coming through this. (The aquaria

were open to the ordinary atmosphere). To one experimental

aquarium was added 0.5 millilitres of BP crude oil, to another a similar quantity of Mobil crude oil and to the last a similar amount of Chemkleen. In each experimental aquarium the concen­

tration of oil or Chemkleen amounted to 250 ppm." (T15571) The tests with the dispersant Chemkleen are described

in Part 8 (supra).

"After 3 hours fresh sea water was added into each aquarium to remove the oil ... and the animals left overnight. The effects of the addition of the two crude oils ... were generally the same. Pungia actiniformis have large and long

(up to 2 cm) tentacles. Some tentacles contracted soon after

the addition of the oil ... and remained contracted during the

course of the experiment. Small droplets of oil were found

trapped in the film of mucus on the oral surface. A thick

layer of mucus accumulated on the aboral surface of the corals.

All corals were dead with some tentacles damaged. The damage

to the tentacles was more pronounced in Mobil crude oil ...

than in BP crude oil. The corals in the control aquarium re­

mained viable and appeared healthy." (T15572)

In later cross-examination Professor Chuang assented

to the following account of the procedures used in the experi­

ment :

"... you put 2 litres of water into the aquarium, the

size of which you told us, you aerated the water both during

the experiment and afterwards; you put coral in, the upper por­

tion of which was emergent from the water, you poured the oil

down the side of the aquarium so that is spread out as a film over the surface of the water and you did not at any time pour

the oil directly onto the coral? ... Yes." (115642) He agreed,

however, that a film of oil was pushed over the surfaces of the

corals by the succession of air bubbles used in aerating the shallow water layer of 2-3 cm depth in which the corals were

kept. (T15642-3) Professor Chuang, in recording damage suffered by the

corals after exposure to the BP and the Mobil crudes, noted

three changes of condition which in his view were symptomatic

of damage. The originally brownish colour of the flesh (main­

tained in the controls) showed some fading, and there were seve­

ral blotches of white due to perforation of the tissues

(T15573); the perforations which were inspected both with the naked eye and under a binocular microscope (T15572) were evident

in the tentacles (T15572), and in the extrusion of septal fila­ ments, normally contained in the control cavity of the coral,

through breakages in the damaged oral disc. (T15647) Death of the corals was judged in the following way:

"The coral has no heart so we cannot tell when it dies but

from the cilia current we can tell. That is the current which


the cilia generate ... When the cilia stop moving it is a sure

sign that they die." ( T15572) An additional sign of death or

of approaching death, noted by Professor Chuang was "the tend­

ency of the water to become very cloudy ... because you get

bits of tissue coming off." ( T15572)

Experiment 2: "This experiment was carried out on

Fungia repanda, a species with smaller tentacles (one specimen .

turned out to be Fungia paumotensis after removal of the

flesh). Two and a half hours of direct contact between oil ...

and the oral surface of the corals was allowed. The tempera -

ture of the sea water was 25°C and the concentration of the crude was 250 ppm. Six corals were put into each aquarium ."

(T15573) Except for the shorter time of oil exposure in this

experiment and the use of a different species of coral the conditions of experimentation were as in experiment 1. Signs

of damage or of death were looked for immediately after the

conclusion of oil presentation and 8 hours later after the

animals had been in oil free sea water overnight. "After the addition of additional sea water to remove the crude ... the

corals were examined with a binocular. Some small oil droplets

were trapped on the thin mucus film of the oral surface of all the corals. More droplets were trapped in the exceedingly thick ( up to 3mm) mucus that formed on the aboral surface of the corals ... On the following day about half of the corals

in each aquarium ... showed signs of damage but the extent of this damage was not as extensive as in the previous experiment.

(T15574) Experiment 3 : In this experiment five or six Fungia

repanda were placed in each of two aquaria of twice the floor area of the containers of experiments 1 and 2. Two litres of sea water gave a water level of only about 1 cm. BP and Mobil crude were again used in 250 ppm concentration. The corals used "were smaller, younger ones, about 8 cm rather than 12 cm,

and had about the same amount of emergence as in the previous

experiments ( T15576). The time of contact with the oils was

1 hour ( T15575).


As in experiment 2, there were no deaths of coral.

After one hour's contact much mucus was produced, but except for

one small coral in the Mobil oil-treated tank which had "swell­

ing along the septa" the animals appeared to be normal. There

were evidences of swollen septa eight hours later but "other­

wise the coral seemed to look healthy." (T15575)

In summary of Professor Chuang's experiments a 3 hour

partial contact with a 250 ppm oil in sea water exposure caused

the death of all three of the Fungia aetinifomis put to test.

Exposures to fresh crude oil of one and of two and a half hours

duration of the 10 or 11 specimens of Fungia repanda did not

kill them but caused in almost all cases lesions of the soft


(c) The Grant experiments on Fungia

2.9.84 After Professor Chuang had given evidence, Mr E.M.

Grant undertook a series of experiments to test the effects of

Moonie oil on mushroom corals at Heron Island on 17th April

1972. The experiments included as test animals Fungia actini-

formis (a species Professor Chuang had used) and F. fungites.

Mr Grant said "I chose the genus Fungia to attempt to replicate

the work of Professor Chuang." (T15978) The experimental con­ ditions were in Mr Grant's opinion chosen as more closely

approximating the natural habitat of mushroom corals than had

been provided by Professor Chuang, it being Mr Grant's view that

small shallow tank exposures would not be reproduced in nature. (T15984) Following presentations of oil comparable to those

used by Professor Chuang, Mr Grant's corals showed no signs of

the acute stress and eventual death suffered by the Singapore


(d) The Johannes experiments 2.9.85 Professor R.E. Johannes carried out two groups of ex­

periments on the effects of oil on corals, the first at Hawaii

in early 1971; the second at Eniwetok Lagoon, northern Marshall

Islands in June 1971. The oils used were Santa Maria crude,


Alaska heavy crude, Murban crude, Iranian medium crude, and

low sulphur fuel oil (T4211). All were used In 250 ppm con­

centrations each In an aquarium containing four litres of sea

water. The corals tested In the five aquaria and In a sixth

non-oiled control were three specimens each of 3-10 gm Porites

compressa, Montlpora verrucosa and Fungla scutaria.

In the first experiment the film of oil was not

allowed to come Into contact with the corals. After 2% hours

sea water was added to clear oil from the tank and the corals

then transferred to running sea water where they were examined

periodically under a binocular microscope for 25 days (T4212).

Signs sought were tearing or deterioration of the soft tissues

and unduly lengthy contraction of tentacles. No such signs were found (T4212).

In the second experiment oil was allowed to come Into

direct contact with the coral by siphoning out water until the

corals were partially exposed to air and the oil film. Wave motion was simulated by rocking the aquaria for a few minutes.

The water level was then raised and the corals removed Into

running sea water. (T4213) Oil adhered to an estimated 1% or less of the total surface and only briefly.

Professor Johannes summarised the results of these

experiments thus: "Of the total of 90 coral specimens used, only one died In 25 days, a specimen of Montlpora verrucosa exposed directly to Alaska heavy crude oil. Among the other corals (Including two other specimens of Montlpora verrucosa directly exposed to Alaska heavy crude) no visible changes

that we could attribute to oil were observed." (T4215) The cause of the one death was not known to Professor Johannes

(T4251)· The Enlwetok experiments Involved 22 species of corals

collected under water by hand or by chiselling them from the reef surface (T8659) · They were placed on trays which were

floated on the surface of the lagoon, a part of each coral

being In the water and a part In the air (T8649). 200 cc of

Santa Marla crude In a layer about 0.6 mm thick was poured


into the water around one of the trays. The other was used as

a control. (T8633) Slight wave action caused a gradual accu­

mulation of oil on the corals which were left exposed at midday

for 1\ hours, one hour in full sun and half an hour with cloud

cover. The air and water temperatures were 29°C. "The corals

in both trays were replaced in 2 metres of water and observed

periodically for 4 weeks. Oil adhered with greatest affinity

to the branching corals of the genera Acropora and Pocillopora."

(T8634) "In the case of Pungia and Symphyllia both species

with large, fleshy polyps and abundant mucus, most of the oil

disappeared after submersion for a day. Amongst most of the

branching species (approximately 8 species of Acropora and 2

species of Pocillopora) some of the oil was still visible on

the corals four weeks later. Other species, members of the

genera Turbinaria, Pavia, Plesiastrea, Pavites, Psammocora,

Astreopora, Symphyllia, Montipora and Porites showed interme­ diate "affinities" for the oil." (T8636)

Professor Johannes said that the inspection of the

corals at the end of four weeks showed that "Complete break­ down of tissue occurred on the areas to which oil adhered in

patches of more than a few millimetres in diameter. Areas to

which the oil did not adhere did not appear to be visibly affected in any species. Macroscopic algae colonized the areas

of the skeleton over which the tissue had disintegrated. There

was no sign of recolonization of the affected areas by coral tissue." (T8637) It was Professor Johannes'recollection "that

about half the area to which oil adhered initially had oil on it after 24 hours and subsequently showed signs of damage" but

he agreed that "... at least half the area on which the oil had stayed for an hour and a half apparently was not affected"

(T8674) "None of the specimens was entirely killed ... and the

portions to which oil did not adhere appeared healthy." (T8639) In a note of caution on the interpretation to be

placed on the results of his experiments, Professor Johannes

said "This was a preliminary experiment squeezed in between

other activities which unavoidably had higher priority, so it


leaves many questions unanswered. It does enable us to say

that floating oil can kill coral tissue If It adheres when

corals are exposed to air. It remains to be established if

heating is the primary cause or perhaps only a contributory

factor to tissue death. An experiment was planned for evening hours when over^-heating would not be a significant factor, but time did not permit this." (T8640)

(e ) The Lewis experiments

2.9.86 The last of the series of experiments to come to the

notice of the Commission was submitted as Exhibit 338 in the form of pages from the Marine Pollution Bulletin. (T8121) It

concerned experiments carried out by Dr John B. Lewis at the

Bellairs Institute of McGill University, Barbados. The nature

of the experiments and the results drawn from them were refer­ red to only briefly in the evidence (Professor Johannes,

T4252-54) and they will therefore be only shortly summarised

in respect of their character and findings.

The purpose of the experiments was to test the effects of oil in solution on some responses of the corals Porites porites, Agaricea agaricites, Favia fragum and Madracis aspe-

rula to the presence of an oil supplied by General Crude Oil Co., Barbados. The oil in concentrations of 0, 10, 50, 100,

200, 500 and 1,000 ppm was presented on soaked filter paper to

corals in 350 cc containers which were sealed to prevent evap­ oration of volatile fractions. The signs of oil effects to be

observed were deviations of the normal extension of tentacles and of feeding and tactile responses. "Healthy, normal ...

(animals) would feed on live plankton, hold tentacles expanded and retract them at touch or probe. Without these signs the

colonies were considered unhealthy." (Exhibit 338) The expo­

sures were for 24 hours. After this the corals were given two changes of fresh sea water and observed for recovery after 24


Abnormal responses were shown with concentrations of

oil of 100 ppm and above and in some cases recovery was not


complete after 24 hours though In every case a measure of re­

turn to normality was shown. The controls at all times gave a

substantially higher percentage of normal responses than the

oil treated animals. An interesting observation was the deve­

lopment of ruptures in the oral disc of corals Agaricia and

Pavia under conditions where no oil contacted the animals and

which were therefore presumably caused by damage due to oil in


Section 2 - Organisms other than corals

2.9·87 Although the effects of crude oils on organisms other

than corals have been extensively studied in other parts of the

world and mainly in temperate seas little is known of the ways

in which oil may affect the many kinds of plants and animals

which make up the complex eco-systems within the variety of

habitats to be found in the GBRP.

Such observations as have been made rest, in the main,

on notes made by Mr Grant and Mr Haysom on the responses to oil

contact or oil-on-water cover of a very few types of soft coral,

molluscs, polychaete worms, crustaceans and small fishes,

(rarely identified below the level of genera) during the course

of their coral testing experiments reported in paragraphs


2.9.88 In a pegged out study area near the reef edge of Wis- tari Reef which he sprayed with 10 gallons of fresh Moonie

crude Mr Grant noted at T10275-6 that "One conspicuous clam at

the water surface remained expanded during and after the spray­

ing" It was "agape and apparently healthy," and he further re­

ported that "Serpulid worms within the pegged area were expan­

ded and reactive to vibration and changes in light intensity." These behavioural reactions, Mr Grant explained at T10284-5, are characteristic of normal healthy tube-inhabiting worms of

this kind. Observations made on the following day and ten days

later confirmed the maintenance of the normal colour and behav­

ioural responses of the animals; and in two further oil spray-


ing trials clams and serpulid worms present in the test areas

were reported as unharmed by the oil treatment. (T10279,

T10283) Photographs (colour slides 53, 54, 85 and 91 of

Exhibit 546) illustrating the clams and worms under test were

shown to the Commission and commented upon by Mr Grant at

T10313, 10314, 10321 and 10323.

2.9.89 Mr Haysom's Fitzroy Reef experiments of August/Sept­

ember 1970 (ΊΊ0622-10650), which involved the pouring of fresh

or weathered Moonie oil on to pools of 1-2 square metre sur-

Φ face area to form a layer of about 1 mm thickness, (T10633, IO685) put to test a wider range of animals. These included,

in the oil treated pools 1-4, the following identified and un­ identified species.

Coelenterata: 1 soft coral (Xenia sp.)

Mollusca: Gastropods (Sea snails); 2 Monetaria annularis; 3 Vasum turbinellus; 6 Conomurex

luhuanus; 5 Trochus niloticus; 1 Virroco.nus ebraeus;

1 unidentified turbinid; and 1 unidentified cerithiid.

Rivalves: 1 unidentified oyster and 2 unidentified

juvenile clams (probably Tridacna fossor) Crustacea: 1 unidentified hermit crab and 1 unidenti­

fied crab.

Echinodermata: 16 Holothuria leucospilata (sea


Almost all of these animals were, at the time of appli­

cation of the oil, covered by water and therefore not in

direct contact with the oil film. One of the clams, however, projected through the surface film and oil was for a time in

contact with its soft tissues, (T10654-5) and one Trochus was seen to break the surface of the oil. (TIO633) When the pools

were examined some 12-24 hours later (the periods varied,in respect of the different pools) about half of the more mobile

species of sea snails and crabs were missing from the pools but


those which remained were described in every instance as appa­

rently unaffected by the oil. Mr Haysom's note on the species

in pool 3 will exemplify comments made at various places in his

evidence" ... all the organisms were apparently alive and un­

affected. The clam reacted instantly to a poke from a stick by

contracting its adductor muscle ..." The pool was re-examined

again two weeks later (2 September 1970). "The Conomurex and

Trochus had disappeared but all other fauna appeared normal and

healthy." (T10649) The exposure to oil in each case, either

by direct contact or as an overlying film, had been of the

order of 2-2% hours. (T10633, 10689) w

2.9.90 In a separate series of Fitzroy Reef experiments,

selected species of animals were placed in sea water in perfor­

ated plastic bins suspended from the stern of a launch. There

was added to the surface of the water fresh or weathered Moonie

oil in a layer estimated by Mr Haysom to be some 8 mm thick.

(TIO685) There were included with a variety of corals in three

oil treated bins the following animals:

Echinodermata: 6 unidentified crinoids (sea lilies)

Mollusca: 1 unidentified abalone (a sea snail) and 1 unidentified chiton (coat-of-

mail shell) 1 unidentified crab and 1 unidentified

alpheid prawn (pistol-prawn) 1 Dascyllus aruanus (a small 'humbug'

fish) and 1 unidentified gobioid fish.

One of the bins, which included in its contents the two

crustaceans, developed a leak overnight and lost about half its

water content. All animals were examined 24 hours after oil treatment. Mr Haysom reported that "All the organisms in the perforated bins were alive and appeared in the same condition as

when first placed in the bins ..." (TIO658A) and he showed

photographs (numbers 13 to 16 inclusive of Exhibit 351) in illu­

stration of their condition. In a later comment he reported

however that the gobioid fish had escaped through the perfora-




tions in the bin and was not available for examination

(T10660), and that the crab and the prawn in the damaged bin

had both died. (T10661) Mr Haysom was unable to say whether

death had been due to the presence of oil or to some other cause.(T10661)

2.9.91 Two other trials conducted by Mr Haysom can be

briefly reported. One involved the flooding of lh litres of

fresh Moonie oil, and on another occasion of 5 litres of

bunker oil in front of an advancing tide in an area on the

south side of Fitzroy Reef on 1 September 1970. The area

supported "an extensive and prolific epi-rim coral fauna and numerous colonies of the colonial anemone Palythoa caesia"

(TIO663) The anemones suffered a brief contact with the oil which "was rapidly lifted off with the rising level of the

water". (TIO663) When examined 24 hours later " a few small patches (of oil) were still adhering to Palythoa colonies"

(TIO667) the colour of which (shown in photograph 23 of

Exhibit 351) appeared to be normal and to indicate a healthy condition. The second trial, of animals exposed to fresh Moonie oil and bunker oil in perforated bins tethered to the

shore off Peel Island in Moreton Bay, involved a contact or near contact of oil at low water with the colonies of the soft coral Xenia and one other unidentified soft coral.

These experiments, as earlier noted, resulted in the death of

one scleractinian coral (Acropora digitifera) but all other corals (including the soft corals) were reported by Mr Haysom

as healthy on examination 48 hours after exposure to oil.


2.9.92 No other observations deriving from experiments on

the effect of oil on adult marine organisms of the GBRP other than scleractinian corals were reported to the Commission.

Mr Bryson however made an interesting comment suggestive of

a deleterious effect of oil in the recruitment of new

populations of animals. Mr Bryson described himself as an


oyster farmer working on a 13 acre oyster lease at Horseshoe

Bay off the northern shore of Magnetic Island,Townsville.

(T13538) Oyster spat used for restocking of his lays were

obtained by suspending fibro plates in the sea and allowing

the larval oysters to settle on them. He said, at T13587,

"I have found on neap tides that the oyster throws its spat and

it takes about a week to a fortnight to settle." The spat, he

said, settles "only in certain times, in October and November;

sometimes depending on the wind, September, October or March

or April" ... "I have fibro plates out to get the spat. On

gathering these fibro plates I have found some of them have

been covered by oil and suchlike. This, having been formed,

no spat has formed on these plates" ... "if I have oil around

at the time I am depending on the spat fall and it gets on to

my plates, that means I am out of production for the next year."


2.9.93 The observations reported in the foregoing paragraphs

vividly reveal the limitations of present experimentally based

knowledge of the effects of oil on GBRP organisms. They rest

on the reports of three witnesses, and relate to little more than a dozen species drawn from the five groups of the

coelenterates, molluscs, Crustacea, echinoderms and fishes. It is not possible to draw general conclusions from them, but they

appear to be indicative of the ability of the majority of the animals tested to survive applications of oil which simulate

oil spills of very limited periods of cover. They give no

information however on possible sublethal effects on the

organisms that were exposed to oil. Nor, save for Mr Bryson's observation, do they reveal possible developmental or behaviour­

al disturbances which may affect the recruitment of new populat­

ions and which are among the many factors affecting the dependencies implicit in the maintenance and functioning of the

complex eco-systems of reefal waters.


B. Oil spills including overseas spills in coral

reef areas

Section (1) - Massive spills - effects on corals

2.9.94 Reports on the consequential effects of oil spilled

from tankers or as a result of shore handling and processing

activities were brought to the notice of the Commission in

respect of three tanker spills; 'Argea Prima', Puerto Rico, 16 July, 1962; 1Witwater1, Panama Zone, 13 December 1968; and

1 Oceanic Grandeur', Torres Straits, 3 March, 1970; and three

localities or regions where oil terminals are sited in the

neighbourhood of reefs, namely Singapore, the Persian Gulf , and

the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez. The Commission did not receive

evidence on the effects of the tanker 'General Colocotronis' spill off Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

The ecological situations and the communities associated with them that are referred to in these accounts

are coral reefs, the open sea plankton and shore lines,

including mangrove areas.

'Argea Prima1

2.9.95 The 1Argea Prima' ran aground on reefs off Guayanilla Harbour on the south shore of Puerto Rico. In an endeavour to refloat the vessel some 10,000 tons of crude oil were discharg­ ed into the sea (T4229)· A short paper "The effects of an oil

spill on the shore of Guanica, Puerto Rico" by Manuel Diaz - Piferrer, Institute of Marine Biology, University of Puerto Rico, which was read into the transcript by Professor Johannes

at T4229-31 contains the following passage: "Offshore coral reefs to the west also received a heavy blanket of thick oil."

The damage was said to be "most extensive." A reference thereto is made in paragraph 2.5.28 supra. It appeared,

however, that the effects on corals were not investigated, for Professor Johannes informed the Commission at T4240-40A that

though "... I wrote to two people in Puerto Rico to find out

what they knew about it ... I got the impression from the


correspondence I received that these people had heard that the

oil had covered an off-shore reef but I was unable to find any

evidence that anybody had actually gone out and investigated



2.9*96 The 'Witwater' spill was reported to the Commission in

Exhibit 259, a paper by Klaus Rutzler and Wolfgang Sterrer "Oil

Pollution: Damage observed in tropical communities along the

Atlantic seaboard of Panama." The authors dived over the reef

some two months after the wreck of the tanker. They say in

respect of the coral reefs "The reefs seemed to be the least

affected communities of all. Shallow coral patches, consisting

mainly of Porites furcata, P .asteroides, Siderastrea radians,

Millepora complanata ( a hydrocoral) and associated organisms

showed no ill effects at the time of the survey. This can be

explained by the fact that these corals were subtidal and did

not come into direct contact with the oil, which is mainly

confined to the air-water interface. Further, due to high winds, water level at low tide was higher than usual; some of

the corals observed would probably be partly exposed during

very low tides, but they were not exposed or affected by oil

during this period." (pp.222-3)

'Oceanic Grandeur'

2.9-97 Some consequences of the wreck of the tanker 'Oceanic

Grandeur' on March 3,1970 in the main inter-ocean steamer

channel to the north-east of Thursday Island, Torres Straits

were reported in detail by Mr E.M. Grant (T2472 et seq and

T12848 et seq) and Mr D.J. Tranter (T7514 et seq ). Each independently visited shores on nearby islands where approaching

slicks had been reported to locate and to examine areas where

oil had stranded. The heaviest infestations were found on the

sandy beaches of Thursday Island and Horn Island. (Mr Grant

T12870; and Mr Tranter T7542). Mr Grant was of the opinion

that living coral was sparse in the vicinity of the wrecked


tanker and said "It is necessary to go eastward a

considerable distance before coral reefs of any substantial

size are found." (T2472) His report makes no reference to

any living coral having been oiled or adversely affected.

Mr Tranter however noted the occurrence of a fringing reef

on Twin Island only 3 miles from the anchored tanker, and

only 7 miles from where it was supposed to have been holed.

"A landing was made on Twin Island at low tide to inspect

its fringing coral reef and shores for oil or detergent

pollution ... No trace of oil was to be found on either

shore or coral reef. The situation was entirely normal.

Many corals and other marine animals were seen in the sub-

tidal and inter-tidal shallows and all appeared to be

healthy(T7519-20) Mr Tranter was doubtful whether any

oil had reached Twin Island which lies to the north-east of the place where the tanker grounded. "No oil was washed up

on any of the several inhabited islands to the north and north-east of the tanker (Department of Native Affairs communication). It therefore seemed that any oil that had

been spilt must have been carried either to the west or the east ...".(T7516) There is, in short, no evidence from the observations of Mr Grant and Mr Tranter that oil from the

'Oceanic Grandeur' came in contact with corals.

2.9.98 In the light of these findings it is necessary to refer to the damage reported by Mr R Cantley who described himself as a freelance journalist who had spent some years

in the Torres Strait area.(T13684) Mr Cantley visited the area of the wreck on the day following the initial oil spill but

found at that time "no effect at all" on the corals within the area.(T13713) Three months after the spill in June 1970, he returned to the area and saw" ... reefs, especially the reefs of Cape York and Albany Island but all reefs showing

signs of great deterioration with lack of colour in corals, great discharge of mucus which is the protective device of

corals." (T13717) About January 1972 he again revisited the


area and he said that he observed in totally submerged areas"

... 100 per cent devastation in areas as large as hundreds of


As a result of this evidence Mr B Goldman of the

Australian Museum Sydney and Mr R.G. Pearson and Mr G.M.J.

French from the Fisheries Branch of the Queensland Department

of Primary Industries visited Torres Strait and inspected the

areas which had been marked on a map by Mr Cantley as being

those in which he had reported that there had been "total

destruction". (T13927) After that inspection they gave

evidence (T15738-15820; T15824-15893-15930) on the conditions

of reefs in the. area to .which Mr Cantley had referred, but which the

they were unable to relate in all cases precisely with the

localities in which Mr Cantley had reported the most extensive


In the result, it can be said that their evidence did

not support Mr Cantley1s claims.

2.9.99 The Commission notes that Mr Cantley's explanations

of the cause of the damage to which he referred seems to contain


Thus in his original written statement which became

Exhibit 416 at page 2, he said:

"That the effect of oil spillage in coral environ­

ments and waters contained by the Great Barrier Reef

can cause catastrophic imbalance ... with continuing deleterious effects on interacting eco-systems, I

have proved with my own experiments and checking on

the once fertile reefs on the Somerset influence

north of Cape York which suffered from the massive

spillage of oil from the holed oil tanker Oceanic

Grandeur1 in March of 1970 ..." During his evidence, however, he said at T13922:-

"I have blamed detergents for the death of viable

corals on these reefs ... I never, never said oil

would kill coral, no-one can say that yet because


the research has not been done on it." (T13922)

Later again however, (TI3928) he referred to the

damage as having been caused by oil and detergent.


2.9.100 In summary, none of the three incidents involving

large spills of oil in areas neighbouring coral reefs has

yielded well substantiated evidence of damage by oil to reefs.

It must however be noted that in the Oceanic Grandeur' spill, no oil was found on any reef in the area;

that the 'Witwater1 oil was considered as unlikely to have

contacted coral on the reef surveyed by Rutzler and Sterrer;

and that the Puerto Rico reefs suspected as having received a cover of oil were not, so the Commission was informed,

surveyed for possible damage.

In the result, such evidence unfortunately seems •to offer little assistance one way or the other.

Section (2) Chronic spills:Effects on corals overseas The oil spills remaining to be examined concern

chronic spills - recurring low level releases.


2.9.101 Dr Maxwell said, at TI667, "Singapore is an island of 2245.5 square miles, fringed on the south by a shallow shelf (mostly less than 10 fathoms) occupying an area of 220

square miles. The shelf edge is more than 500 miles distant (to the east and north-west). Situated on this shallow shelf are 44 small islands and 70 reefs (28 fringing reefs and 42 platform reefs), mostly on the western half of the shelf area.

Surface area of reefs approximates 7 square miles. The natural environment does not appear to be one favourable for luxuriant

reef growth because of the shallow sea, the great distance

from the shelf edge and open sea, the turbid water which has


a high sediment suspension and the low wave activity resulting

from the protection afforded by the surrounding land areas of

Malaya and Indonesia. In spite of these factors, reefs with

a limited variety of coral species (remarkably few Acropora)

and a high density of plant growth (particularly Enhalus

acoroides or sea tape grass) are surviving. Past tidal streams

(lh to 2\ knots), particularly from the west, tend to compensate for the less favourable factors by causing effective exchange

of water."

2.9.102 "In 1892, oil storage facilities were built in Pulau

Bukum (one of the islands in the central part of the reef zone)

and Singapore imported its first major cargo of oil - 20,000

barrels of Russian oil. In 1925, the storage facilities were

greatly extended and in 1961 a large refinery was built on the

island Pulau Bukum in the middle of this reef zone. Its

current through put is 120,000 barrels per day and by the end

of 1970 this rate will have increased to 235,000 barrels per

day. Two other refineries operate on the coastal region less

than three miles from the reef zone and a fourth is under

construction on an island within the reef zone. By the end of

1969, Singapore's refining capacity was 200,000 barrels per day (i.e. approximately 1/3 of Australia's total) and predicted

capacity by 1971 is 365,000 barrels per day. Singapore is now

the largest refining and bunkering port in the Far East. In

terms of general cargo as well as oil, it represents the fifth largest port in the world. Between 20,000 and 30,000 ships

use the port facilities each year (Singapore Government

information pamphlet).

2.9.103 "All of the crude oil is brought into Singapore by tanker and the anchorage area for tankers (prior to berthing at

the refineries) is approximately 8 square miles of sea between

the reef zone and the south-west coast of Singapore Island.

During my survey of the Singapore shelf, a minimum of five

large tankers were discharging oil into the main refinery


continuously. More than five tankers were normally at anchor

awaiting their turn to use the refinery berths, while others

serviced the smaller refineries and oil storage depots.

During the Japanese invasion of Singapore,the main storage

terminals on Pulau Bukum and other islands were sabotaged

by the retreating allied forces (by fire and explosion),

consequently releasing substantial quantities of oil in the

reef zone. Since that period, I have been unable to locate

records of any major oil spill in the region. However, oil

slicks and grease lumps are not uncommon on the sea, and I have photographs of small occurrences on the margin of Pesek

Reef. These may have originated from the refineries or the

tankers or from normal cargo vessels which pass through the area.

Whatever their origin, it is clear that the Singapore marine area represents an oil-influenced environment

which has probably been subjected to at least one major influx

of oil (during the demolition of the storage terminals in 19*11) and to minor but frequent pollution from oil that has escaped

from some of the 20,000 to 30,000 vessels which use the port and anchorage facilities each year."(T1668)

2.9.104 Professor Chuang expanded this information in quoting figures from the Port of Singapore Authority Report and Accounts,

1970. The figures showed a roughly 50% increase in the arrivals and departures of ships of 75 n.r.t. and over in Singapore

roads from 1966 to 1970, and in 1970 the passage of coasters

of smaller size outnumbered the larger vessels. "For the first time in 1970 21 giant tankers of more than 200,000 dwt. were handled off Pulau Bukum. Mineral oil loaded and discharged at Port of Singapore wharves and in the roads rose from less

than 20 million freight tons in 1966 to 32.5 million freight tons in 1970." (T15562)

2.9.105 Professor Chuang did not offer an opinion on the

extent to which the increased volume of traffic and of


refining activities had added to the oil pollution of

Singapore waters. He considered however that "spillage in

various degrees from these refineries is inevitable"(TI5563)

and in a reference to the spills from ships he was of the opinio

that the smaller vessels "which are usually less well maintained

than ocean-going vessels, may pollute the sea more than these

large vessels." He added that "A source of constant pollution

in the harbour area is the large number of still smaller craft,

such as bumboats, lighters with inboard engines, bunkering

lighters and others .... Many of these vessels pumped bilge

water into the sea even in broad daylight." (115562-3)

2.9.106 The question as to whether or not oil pollution in

Singapore Harbour and its environs has caused an impoverishment

of the coral fauna in comparison with unpolluted areas, either

by reducing the number of species or the number of individuals

within the several species, was not satisfactorily resolved

through the evidence given by Dr Maxwell, Professor Chuang, and Dr Serene ( Exhibits 484,485 and 486) on the fauna of this area.

The difficulties met with in attempting to resolve this problem

derive mainly from the absence of good historical records of

species present in particular situations before the onset of

oil pollution, and in relating present conditions of species diversity and total biomass of the living coral to particular

causal conditions.

2.9.107 On the first point Professor Chuang said, in quoting

at T15595 from a letter he had written to Dr Weatherley of the

Australian National University (Exhibit 485) that "historically Dana (1846) Brueggemann (1878) Brooks (1893) Verrill(1902) and

others described altogether about 39 species of Acropora of which only 15 are available today including 6 species not

recorded by previous authors." In this letter he referred to

three possible reasons for the discrepancies, namely -(1) "Presumably some specimens from the older

collections could have come from places


other than Singapore and the adjacent

southern islands;

(2) the recent collection was incomplete and not

thorough enough; and

(3) that presumably there could have been a

gradual depletion of the staghorn corals

during the last one and a half centuries."


Whatever the basis for Porfessor Chuang's presumptions, the

doubtful locations of origin of the historical collections

makes speculation on possible changes in the fauna of

individual reefs from oil pollution or other causes

unprofitable without the benefit of a more accurate series

of "before and after" surveys. Support for this view was given in a letter from Dr R. Serene, a biologist and UNESCO

official living in Singapore to Mr B.F.L. Crommelin,

Commonwealth Crown Solicitor's Office (Exhibit 484) in which

he said "The statement of Professor W.G.H. Maxwell that "the

Singapore reefs have survived" is correct. The extent of the

survival still has to be evaluated. I do not think that data exists for such an evaluation. What was the coral reef in Singapore fifty years ago in regard to what it is today is


2.9.108 Professor Chuang gave evidence at T15545 to the

following effect:

"The geographical distribution shows an increase in the number of coral species of the sublittoral slopes from Labrador (on Singapore Island) south­

wards to Raffles Lighthouse. Actually there is also an increase in the number of speciments of each species southwards. One exception is Sultan

Shoal at the western end of the port limit where

the corals are few and dying.

More coral specimens and more coral species occur

on exposed reef flats the farther these flats are


from the south coast of Singapore. On reef

flats near Raffles Lighthouse the exposed

corals are richer in species in places more

exposed to strong tidal currents than in

others where the current is weak."

and earlier he had said(T15536):-"I attribute the gradual decline of corals

in both quantity and number of species on

the reef flats of Singapore and the various

little islands to the south as due to increased

pollution including oil pollution. The most

prolific reef flats as far as corals and organisms

associated with them are concerned are those of Pulau

Senang, P.Pawai, P.Sudong,etc. far away from

Singapore harbour and the oil installations

(bunkering and storing services)."

2.9.109 At T15548-50A he provided tables of species found in

five localities along this line which confirmed and gave detailed expression to his statements. Dr R. Serene was of a

similar opinion when stating in a letter (Exhibit 484) "there

are still a lot of coral reefs around Singapore including some

within the Harbour area." These reefs were, however, graded as "relatively poor" and "It is obvious that the corals are

much more developed on islands close to oceanic waters like

Raffles Lighthouse and Hasbourg Lighthouse."

2.9-110 Possible reasons for the diminishing richness of the

reefs towards and in Singapore Harbour were discussed by

Professor Chuang at T15563-5· He listed sediment loaded turbid water, sewage, toxic industrial effluents, fresh water

kills, and oil pollution as factors unfavourable to coral maintenance and growth. Sedimentation, he regarded as a

particularly serious problem. The presence of areas of "soft

or quite soft mud" on the sea bed led to the stirring up of

sediment "when ocean-going steamer propellers revolve in the


Eastern Roads of the Singapore Harbour." (T15556-7)

Dr Serene, too said that "The main limitations to the corals

on surrounding Singapore islands seems to be related to the

turbidity of water and the consequent silting ... the

turbidity apart from flooding during the rainy season is

limited to a few hours in relation to the tidal currents.

In Singapore the turbidity created by the propellers of the ships must be added. Every ship passing nearby a coral reef

is creating waves of turbid waters which increase the silting."

2.9· Ill Dr Maxwell said at T1668 "I found no dead reefs in this region and no indication of dying reefs."

2.9. 112 However, Professor Chuang said of the corals and the fauna associated with them in Singapore and in the Malay

Peninsula, on which he had been working since December 1950, "My records indicate that even in the space of 21 years there have been changes in the fauna which I attribute partly

to oil pollution and partly to the increased sewage and drainage outflow ... of the enlarging city of Singapore and

the budding small industries."(Exhibit 485) He contrasted, in this respect, 38 species (listed by name) occurring on

"reefs at Pulau Serang, P.Pawai, P.Sudong etc., far away from Singapore and the oil installations" with 13 species

taken in 1961 from"the reef flat of Pulau Hautu (less than 1 English mile from Pulau Bukum, where Shell Oil Refinery is)" and where "Today several of these have disappeared." Under later cross-examination (T15620-22) Professor Chuang amended

the 13 species to the number 16 and said that by "several"

he meant 3 or 4.

2.9. 113 A further example of a suspected reduction in number

of species in recent years was given by Professor Chuang in respect of the reef flat of Tanjong Berlayar at the western

end of Keppel Harbour, the deep water harbour of Singapore.

"On this reef flat in 1957 there were about 30 different


species of corals, some of which were of large size. About

6-10 years ago, a jetty with pipeline for supplying oil to

ships was built on the reef flat. Today there are only 8

species of reef flat corals found ... there were about 20

sponges in 1957; today there are 3·" (Exhibit 485)

2.9.114 Dr Maxwell, when recalled to give evidence on the

observations of Professor Chuang and Dr Serene (T15650-15730)

questioned the validity of the comparisons made of the numbers

of species of coral in the different areas in that it had not

been made clear whether the areas and zones in the different

places had been ,of comparable size or variety of situations.

He admitted however that he had not visited the Tanjong

Berlayar area and he accepted Professor Chuang's assessment of

the recent impoverishment but he did not regard the area as a coral reef in the usually accepted sense of the term. (T15664)

2.9.115 The Commission considers that Professor Chuang's

evidence does indicate a recent impoverishment of the coral

fauna in this and other areas. The possible causal factors

such as increased sedimentation and water turbidity t