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Norway’s Equinor plans to start exploratory drilling offshore Australia next year, the company said in the draft environmental plan it released today for public comment as part of efforts to assuage worries that oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight could cause an environmental disaster.
The draft is also a mandatory part of the regulatory approval process for the project, which the Norwegian company took over from BP two years ago when the UK-based supermajor decided it had enough regulatory and public opposition problems in Australia and pulled out of the Great Australian Bight.
“We have made the draft EP available to members of the community and we will take all comments into consideration before updating our EP and submitting it to the independent regulator. This draft EP is the result of more than two years of careful preparation and our 1500-page plan demonstrates how we can drill safely and includes a robust emergency response plan,” Equinor’s country manager for Australia, Jone Strangeland, said.
Opposition, however, remains strong. Last year, environmentalist media reported that Greenpeace had obtained a draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan from the Norwegian company that confirmed some of their worst fears: in the worst possible scenario, a spill from a gushing well could spread along all of Australia’s southern coast and even reach Sydney, threatening a sensitive ecosystem including endangered species.
Reuters notes there has been no oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight since 2003 and all the wells drilled in the region previously had come up dry. However, Wood Mackenzie estimates suggest that the area could hold 1.9 billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas. Equinor, used to operating in harsh climatic environments, could be better suited than BP and Chevron to try its hand at the Great Australian Bight, but the go-ahead is far from certain given the strong opposition.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.