BP ditches plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight
Decision follows outcry by environmentalists over risk to delicate
marine ecosystem, safety concerns and a corporate review within the company
BP has decided not to go ahead with its controversial plans to drill for
oil in the commonwealth marine reserve in the Great Australian Bight.
It had boasted that the Great Australian Bight had the potential to be
as big an oil field as the Gulf of Mexico, where there are now more than
4,000 oil rigs.
Karoon, which just announced its plans to explore for oil last week,
said the bight held “the world’s last underexplored Cretaceous basins”.
The move comes despite the company already investing millions in the
venture, with a state-of-the-art oil rig being prepared in Singapore.
It is unclear where that leaves other companies with exploration
licences in the region, including Chevron, Santos and Karoon.
The news comes after repeated requests for more information from the
Australian regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and
Environmental Management Authority, and growing public concerns about
the impact the drilling and any potential oil spill would have on the
pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight.
Less than two weeks ago Nopsema found BP’s environmental plans
inadequate for a third time. Nopsema said in a statement it was aware of
BP’s announcement but that BP had not yet withdrawn its environmental plans.
“The environment plans submitted by BP for drilling in the Great
Australian Bight remain under assessment by Nopsema. This assessment
process will proceed until the environment plans are withdrawn by BP.”
But the company said in a statement the decision was purely commercial.
Claire Fitzpatrick, BP’s managing director for exploration and
production, Australia, said: “This decision isn’t a result of a change
in our view of the prospectivity of the region, nor of the ongoing
regulatory process run by the independent regulator Nopsema. It is an
outcome of our strategy and the relative competitiveness of this project
in our portfolio.”
The Wilderness Society, which has been leading a campaign against the
venture for several years, was thrilled with the announcement.
Peter Owen, the South Australian director of the Wilderness Society,
told Guardian Australia that BP had “made the right decision”.
“Credit to BP for doing the right thing here and pulling out of this
push to expand the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “It’s a pristine
marine wilderness area and a totally inappropriate place to be trying to
turn into an oilfield.”
Owen said the government must now step in and rescind all permits for
oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight.
The national director of the Wilderness Society, Lyndon Schneiders,
called on all other oil and gas companies to pull out of the Great
“If BP with all its experience cannot produce an acceptable drilling
plan for Nopsema, the remaining companies exploring in the bight will be
wasting their shareholders’ money trying to pursue this folly,” he said.
“This decision shows that it’s too expensive to establish the
significant and costly risk management and cleanup capacity
infrastructure needed to protect our communities from the enormous spill
risks associated with drilling in this part of the world. Clearly this
is a far too high cost oil basin for any oil company to consider
Fitzpatrick said the venture in the bight either wasn’t competitive or
didn’t align with the company’s “strategic goals”.
“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. After extensive and careful
consideration, this has proven not to be the case for our project to
explore in the bight.”
The South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed BP’s
decision. “BP have said goodbye to the bight, I say good riddance to
BP,” Hanson-Young said.
“The Greens have a bill before the Senate that would permanently protect
the Great Australian Bight from companies that are trying to drill for
oil and gas. It’s time that bill was supported, so that this precious
natural environment can be protected for generations to come.”
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