BP Delays Submission of Great Australian Bight Plan

Hundreds of Sea Shepherd supporters rallied in South Australia earlier this year to demonstrate against BP's plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. Photo: Eliza Muirhead

By MarEx 2016-07-14 21:13:18

Australia’s offshore petroleum regulator NOPSEMA has granted BP an extension for resubmission of its environmental plan for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight. The modified plan is now expected to be resubmitted by August 31.

On May 16, NOPSEMA provided BP with an opportunity to modify and resubmit their plan, but did not publicize the issues it found with the plan. The plan was anticipated to be resubmitted by July 15.

An opportunity to modify and resubmit is a normal part of NOPSEMA’s environment plan assessment process. NOPSEMA is required by law to provide a reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit their plan if it doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements for acceptance. NOPSEMA will typically provide two opportunities to modify and resubmit, but is not restricted to providing only two opportunities.

Since NOPSEMA was established on January 1, 2012, four percent of all environment plans submitted for assessment have been refused.

BP’s environment plan was previously dismissed by the agency in November 2015, also due to a failure to meet the regulatory requirements.

BP proposes to drill four exploration wells. Exact well locations are yet to be determined for all wells, however they will be drilled within a defined drilling area. The proposed drilling area has water depths of approximately 1,000 to 2,500 meters. At its closest point, the proposed drilling area is approximately 400 kilometers west of Port Lincoln and 300 kilometers south-west of Ceduna. The wells will be drilled using a new-build mobile offshore drilling unit which has been specially designed for use in deep water.

The project is scheduled to commence in the summer of 2016-2017, with each well taking between 45 and 170 days to drill.

Environmental organization Sea Shepherd has already launched Operation Jeedara in response to BP’s plans. The organization says the Great Australian Bight is rich in beauty and biodiversity, boasting the world’s most significant southern right whale nursery, as well as humpback, sperm, blue and beaked whales. It is also Australia's most important sea lion nursery and supports orcas, great white sharks, southern blue fin tuna and other fish.

"Our mission will be to showcase the beauty and the diversity of life that will be destroyed if BP even have a conservative spill, compared to their catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico. With the recent spill last week by Shell in the Gulf, it’s clear that it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but when." said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia.

Sea Shepherd's operation Jeedara will aim to depart Seaworks, Williamstown, Victoria in early August with the Steve Irwin showcasing Australia's natural wonders that could be devastated by another BP oil spill, places like Kangaroo Island, Neptune Islands, Pearson Island, Isles of St Francis, Fowlers Bay, Nuyts Reef, Head of the Bight and the rich diversity of life in Bremer Canyon.