Australian regulator rejects BP’s Bight plan

Sarah Parker Musarra

PERTH, Australia Australian regulator National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has decided that it “was not satisfied that BP’s environment plan for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight had met regulatory requirements.It has advised BP of its decision.

NOPSEMA said it is required by law to provide BP with a reasonable opportunity to modify the environment plan. If the company chooses to resubmit a modified plan, it will then be assessed again.

Additionally, the regulator noted that the environment regulations and NOPSEMA’s assessment policies clearly outline the environment plan assessment process including timeframes for resubmission and the number of times modification and/or additional information may be required.

In late October, NOPSEMA advised BP that it needed additional time to reach a decision on the proposal. At that time, it noted: “The environment plan must also include a comprehensive oil pollution emergency plan that outlines the detailed arrangements that will be in place to respond to and monitor any environmental impacts in the unlikely event of an oil spill.”

Under Australian law, NOPSEMA has to notify the titleholder of its initial decision within 30 days of submission. NOPSEMA CEO Stuart Smith said that notification could include determining that the governing body needed more time to reach its decision.

BP originally submitted its environmental plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight, a first for the basin, on Oct. 1. NOPSEMA said at that time that the plan would be checked against the requirements of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 and its own assessment policies.

Under the 2009 regulations, petroleum activity may not begin without the approval of NOPSEMA, and its acceptance only relates to exploratory drilling.  Further activities must also be cleared by additional assessment processes.

The drilling area under assessment is the previously acquired Ceduna 3D seismic survey area, which covers 12,100 sq km (4,672 sq mi) across exploration permit for petroleum (EPP) EPP 37, EPP 38, EPP 39 and EPP 40. BP and Statoil are the registered titleholders of EPPs 37, 38, 39 and 40, with BP holding the operatorship.

The drilling area has water depths ranging between 1,000 and 2,500 m (3,280 and 8,202 ft), and is located around 340 km (211 mi) southwest of Ceduna in South Australia.

The project is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016-2017, with each well taking between 45 and 170 days to drill.

The wells will be drilled using a dynamically positioned semisubmersible mobile offshore drilling unit.


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