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February 19, 2019updated 24 Apr 2019 12:42pm

Equinor presses on with drilling plans in Great Australian Bight

Norwegian energy company Equinor has released its draft Environment Plan (EP) for proposed exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

By Umar Ali

Norwegian energy company Equinor has released its draft Environment Plan (EP) for proposed exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

This is the first time a draft EP for an offshore exploration well has been published before submission and assessment by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

The EP is for the Stromlo-1 exploration drilling programme in permit EPP 39 and has been released for public comment. For a period of 30 days, members of the public can submit comments about the draft EP directly to NOPSEMA.

The draft outlines the company’s responses to risks involved with the exploration project, including protocols and predictions for potential major oil spills.

Equinor is the operator and 100% equity owner of offshore exploration permits EPP 39 and 40, both located in the Great Australian Bight, covering approximately 12,000km2. The Stromlo-1 well is located 372km offshore South Australia.

Previous operators in the Great Australian Bight BP and Chevron have cancelled exploration drilling plans in the area, citing the inability to compete for capital in their global portfolios as contributing factors to their departure from the area.

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Environmental groups have consistently protested offshore operations in the Great Australian Bight. The Australian Greens party launched a campaign in 2018 to protect the Bight from oil and gas companies by giving it World Heritage protection.

Equinor country manager for Australia Jone Stangeland said: “Over the last two years we have engaged with more than 100 different organisations in the South Australian community and they have consistently asked us to be open about our plans. We have listened, and today we are releasing the complete draft EP for our offshore exploration well.

“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 1,500-page plan demonstrates how we can drill safely and includes a robust emergency response plan.

“The EP documents the existing environment in the Great Australian Bight and describes all relevant risks, however unlikely. By identifying every possible risk, we can better prepare for safe operations.”

Equinor plans to start drilling in late 2020/early 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

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