Australian regulator pauses review of Equinor’s Bight drilling plans, asks further info

Australian offshore regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), has requested further information from Equinor on its environment plan for the company’s proposed petroleum exploration drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight.

The Great Australian Bight
The Great Australian Bight. Source: Equinor

The assessment will now pause and re-start when Equinor submits the additional information, the regulator said on Thursday.

Equinor has been provided with 60 days to submit the requested information to NOPSEMA.

According to NOPSEMA, the request for information was made in order to clarify matters raised in the plan and to address information gaps identified by NOPSEMA’s specialist team assessing the plan.

This request for further information comes after the Liberal Party of Australia last month said it would commission an independent audit of NOPSEMA’s consideration of exploration in the Great Australian Bight.

In addition, Australian Labor Party also said that, if elected, one of its first acts would be to commission an independent scientific study into the impact of an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight. The purpose of the study would be to help inform the decision making of the independent regulator.

Also in May, NOPSEMA delayed its decision on Equinor’s Bight drilling plan and postponed it for Thursday, June 27. Now that this deadline has expired, NOPSEMA has requested further information from Equinor.

Under Australia’s objective-based regulatory regime, a request for further information is a normal step in the assessment process, according to the regulator.

“To ensure a fair and unbiased process and to provide natural justice to all parties, NOPSEMA does not comment on the specifics of environment plans under assessment,” NOPSEMA said.

NOPSEMA’s primary role is the prevention of major accident events offshore, to ensure the safety of the workforce and protection of the environment.

As a reminder, Norway’s oil and gas giant Equinor in April filed an environment plan to Australian offshore regulator for its proposed petroleum drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight amid claims by environmental groups of it being too risky.

Following the submission of the plan, NOPSEMA started the formal assessment of the plan, under which a proposed activity must be found to meet all legislative requirements to proceed.

Equinor Australia is the sole titleholder of exploration permit EPP39, located in the Ceduna Sub-basin in Commonwealth waters off southern Australia. As part of the permit commitment, Equinor plans to drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well, which is located approximately 400 km southwest of Ceduna and 476 km west of Port Lincoln and in a water depth of approximately 2,240 meters.

Equinor plans to spud the Stromlo-1 exploration well in late 2020. The duration of the drilling of the well is expected to be approximately 60 days.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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