BP Plans to Drill off SA Coast Hit Setback

A proposal by BP to drill off the South Australian Coast in the Great Australian Bight has been rejected by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA). NOPSEMA is the Commonwealth independent statutory agency, separate from the government’s management of resource promotion and allocation, set up to deal with such applications.

All offshore petroleum exploration, production and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters must meet certain provisions outlined in the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006. This act ensures that all petroleum or greenhouse gas activity is carried out in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, and carried out in a manner by which the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable. In accordance all proposals must be submitted to NOPSEMA.

Despite being rejected due to concerns with its environment plan, BP still has the opportunity to modify its environment plan in the hope the $1 billion deep-sea oil drilling program can get the go ahead.

BP is eager to drill in the Great Australian Bight, indicating that the region enjoys similar geology to some of the biggest hydrocarbon regions in the world such as the Niger Delta and the Mississippi Delta.


Location of BP's four exploration wells


The proposal to drill four exploration wells met heavy opposition, primarily from The Wilderness Society of South Australia. Modelling from the Society suggested that an oil spill as a result of BP activity in the Great Australian Bight could risk closing all fisheries from South Australia to Victoria and Tasmania. The South Australia’s fishing industry is valued at $442 million a year.

The Wilderness Society of South Australia further stated “it doesn’t appear that BP even completed an oil pollution emergency plan or a comprehensive risk assessment” while also stating that BP have failed to learn from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years ago.

While the Deepwater Horizon oil spill originated from 66km off the American coast, the BP proposal would see them drilling for oil in an area roughly 395km (213 nautical miles) west of Port Lincoln and 340km (183 nautical miles) southwest of Ceduna.

Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone extends to 200 nautical miles.

BP confirmed their intentions to resubmit to NOPSEMA with a BP spokesperson, widely reported across Australian media, stating that “NOPSEMA is a diligent and thorough regulator and we expect to have to work hard and take the time to demonstrate that we have got our EP right.”



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