BP's Australian Drilling Plan Rejected Again
Australia’s offshore petroleum regulator NOPSEMA has once again rejected BP’s environmental plan for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
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. If BP accepts this opportunity, the modified plan is expected to be resubmitted by July 15, at which time NOPSEMA will recommence the assessment.
An opportunity to modify and resubmit is a normal part of NOPSEMA’s environment plan assessment process. In fact, NOPSEMA is required by law to provide a titleholder (the company proposing the activity) 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.
In April, protesters helped clean up a mock oil spill outside BP’s headquarters in Melbourne saying an oil spill from well blowout could affect all of southern Australia’s coast. The region supports a large fishing industry although much of it is protected by nature reserves.