BP receives setback for Bight drilling campaign

Australia’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has expressed dissatisfaction with BP PLC’s environment plan for its proposed exploration drilling program in the Great Australian Bight.

BP has been told that planning for the first well, Stromlo-1, has not met regulatory requirements.

NOPSEMA made a rigorous and thorough assessment of BP’s plan before making its decision. It appears that BP has so far failed to demonstrate how it would manage the risk of an oil spill and address community concerns about the environmental impact of a spill.

BP’s first submitted documents to NOPSEMA said that a blowout could take at least 35 days to plug and that a semisubmersible rig to drill a relief well could take weeks to mobilise to the Stromlo location.

Various environmental groups have seized on NOPSEMA’s decision, saying it is proof that BP had submitted an inadequate drilling application and had failed to take seriously an oil pollution emergency plan or a comprehensive risk assessment for the well. They say a spill could devastate South Australia’s $422-million (Aus.) fishing industry along with coastal tourism from Albany in Western Australia to Beachpoint on the South Australia-Victoria border.

The green groups renewed calls for BP to scrap the proposed $1-billion (Aus.) Bight drilling program.

NOPSEMA is required to give BP a reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit its environmental plan. BP has said that it will submit an alternative proposal.

BP says it will work hard to demonstrate it has an acceptable environmental plan. It adds that it is usual for NOPSEMA to provide feedback that permit titleholders need to address before resubmitting an updated plan.

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