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After European and U.S. supermajors quit exploration for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight, now Santos and Murphy Oil relinquished on Friday their right to drill in the large open bay off the southern coastline of mainland Australia.
Australia-based Santos thus becomes the fourth major oil and gas firm to abandon efforts to drill in a pristine part of the ocean off Australia’s southern coast—a move hailed by Greenpeace as “a momentous win for people and planet.”
On Friday, Santos said via a spokesman in a statement to Australian media that Santos and Murphy Oil had handed back the permit to explore for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight.
“The Santos strategy is to build and grow around our five core long-life natural gas assets and the Great Australian Bight falls outside these assets,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by ABC News.
“The Santos strategy is to build and grow around our five core long-life natural gas assets and the Great Australian Bight falls outside these assets,” he added.
Santos and Murphy Oil had obtained the permit to drill in the Bight in 2013. In recent years, however, several major oil companies pulled out of exploration in the area due to intense environmental pressure and low prices that didn’t justify plowing money into drilling in sensitive areas.
The first to quit its drilling permit was BP, back in 2016, saying that the project “was not in line with BP’s strategic goals.”
U.S. supermajor Chevron followed a year later, abandoning its drilling program, citing low oil prices.
In early 2020, just before the latest price crash and the race for net-zero announcements, Norway’s Equinor said it had shelved its oil exploration project in the Great Australian Bight amid a challenging environment and strong environmentalist opposition.
Commenting on Santos’ announcement on Friday that it would also quit the Great Australian Bight, David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said:
“This is an incredible win for all of those who relentlessly campaigned for years to protect the Great Australian Bight from offshore drilling.”
“The Australian government should now impose a permanent moratorium on oil drilling in this precious marine wonderland,” Ritter added.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com