BP dumps plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight
Oil giant BP has dumped controversial plans to drill in the Great Australia Bight, axing a proposal that raised fears of an environmental disaster to rival the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
In a surprise move on Tuesday, BP said it would not progress with plans to drill two new wells off the South Australian coast after a review of strategy for upcoming projects found the plan would not be competitive for capital investment in the forseeable future.
The decision comes after the multinational spent millions on planning and approval processes and as development of a new oil rig continued in Singapore.
The federal government’s offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA had repeatedly requested more information about exploration in the Bight, raising concerns from local communities and businesses.
“We have looked long and hard at our exploration plans for the Great Australian Bight but, in the current external environment, we will only pursue frontier exploration opportunities if they are competitive and aligned to our strategic goals,” managing director for exploration and production in Australia, Claire Fitzpatrick, said.
“After extensive and careful consideration, this has proven not to be the case for our project to explore in the Bight.”
The wells, planned for about 600 kilometres west of Port Lincoln and 350 kilometres south-west of Ceduna, could have rivalled oil and gas output from the Bass Strait, Victoria’s Gippsland and Western Australia’s North West Shelf.
One estimate said the potential scale of the project could have been more than 20 times the entire Australian oil production in 2014.
Ms Fitzpatrick said the move wasn’t a result of the lengthy approval processes.
“This decision has been incredibly difficult and we acknowledge it will be felt across the South Australia region,” she said.
“We acknowledge our commitments and obligations and our priority now is to work with government and community stakeholders to identify alternative ways of honouring these.”
Environmental groups had warned a 35-day delay to ship capping technology to Australia in the event of a major oil spill was unacceptable, as tourism, fisheries and local governments pledged to continue to fight the plans over risks to pristine ocean and vulnerable marine life.
Greenpeace Australia oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the decision would be welcomed in the region.
“This will come as a huge relief to anyone whose business relies on clean, green seas in the Great Australian Bight, to the fishing communities, to the tourism industry and it is a huge victory for them,” he said.
“The risk to the Bight is not entirely over. There are still multiple oil and gas companies with titles in the Bight . . . and it won’t be over until all the oil and gas prospects have left.”
Mr Pelle said BP’s plans to move to other frontier exploration was irresponsible in the face of global climate change.
“I think that this move shows that BP were not prepared to provide all of the information for NOPSEMA. The fact they’ve been rejected multiple times means they’ve tried to see this as a pushover and they’ve found it harder to get through without mitigating the risks adequately.
“Let’s hope this is a signal that the end of the oil age is coming nearer,” Mr Pelle said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: “Good riddance to BP.
“BP should never have been given an exploration permit, especially considering the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,” she said.
“Now we need to protect the Great Australian Bight from all of the other companies who are trying to put it at risk.”
Wilderness Society South Australia director Peter Owen said the Bight included some of Australia’s most important fisheries, as well as species of whales, dolphins, sealions and seals.
“It’s time to end the dangerous fiasco of oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight,” he said.
“As conservationists, we have been proud to work as part of the community to ensure that BP was never able to roll the dice off our shores and risk the oceans, beaches and marine wildlife that support our coastal industries, economies and lifestyles.”
Former senator Bob Brown congratulated campaigners on the decision.
”The Great Australian Bight is a national treasure of whales, seals, dolphins, seabirds and deep ocean canyons. It should now get full protection so that this threat of oil and gas rigs is permanently gone.”
The story BP dumps plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.