Equinor abandons Bight drilling plans

The Norwegian-based Equinor had intended to drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well in the Ceduna sub-basin offshore South Australia later this year, after the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) accepted the company’s environment plan in December 2019.

The company has now informed Australian authorities of its decision to withdraw from the operation, citing a lack of commercial potential compared to its other opportunities.

“The approval of the Stromlo-1 exploration well environment plan confirmed our ability to safely operate in the Bight,” said Equinor Country Manager for Australia Jone Stangeland.

“However, Equinor has decided to discontinue its plans to drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well, as the opportunity is not commercially competitive.

“We will engage with the federal and state authorities regarding our decision to discontinue the exploration program.”

Plans to drill in the Bight had attracted significant attention and criticism from local residents and environmental groups, with opponents concerned about the impact seismic testing or an oil spill would have on marine life and the coastal environment.

Additionally, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) launched legal action in the Federal Court last month in a bid to stop the drilling under a claim Equinor had not completed consultations with all relevant parties to assess and identify the risks of the project.

Among those who had campaigned against the drilling, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young celebrated Equinor’s decision on Twitter as a win for “SA’s gorgeous Great Australian Bight”.

“This is a huge win for the community, the environment and SA’s tourism and fishing industries. Congratulations to everyone who fought so hard,” she wrote.

However, EnergyQuest CEO Dr Graeme Bethune said the decision was “disappointing” for Australian and SA.

“In our view, the decision is likely to have been driven by stronger carbon reduction targets of the European oil companies,” he said.

“Carbon costs are starting to bite and the European companies appear to be setting higher hurdles for oil projects than gas.

“This is another example of European influence on investment globally, similarly to the decisions by the European Investment Bank to no longer invest in fossil fuel projects in developing countries and the decision by the Swedish Central Bank to no longer invest in bonds issued by the Alberta, Queensland or West Australian governments.”

Equinor said despite the move it would continue to pursue operations in Australia.

“We hold an exploration permit offshore Western Australia and will maintain other ongoing interests and activities in Australia.”

If you have news you would like featured in The Australian Pipeliner contact Managing Editor David Convery at dconvery@gs-press.com.au.

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