Equinor gets OK for Bight drilling. Two more approvals needed

Australian offshore oil and gas safety body NOPSEMA has accepted Equinor’s environment plan for exploratory drilling in the Great Australian Bight. This still doesn’t mean Equinor is allowed to begin operations. It needs two more approvals before the activity can begin.

NOPSEMA recently resumed its assessment of Equinor’s environment plan for the Great Australian Bight drilling following the oil company’s resubmission of the plan requested by the regulator in November.

Equinor submitted the environment plan for the drilling of the Stromlo-1 exploration located in the Great Australian Bight in April 2019. NOPSEMA wasn’t able to make a decision within 30 days so, in late June, it requested further information from Equinor. Equinor then in August requested more time and NOPSEMA resumed the assessment process in September.

Come early November and NOPSEMA issued a notice to Equinor “requiring them to modify and resubmit their environment plan for proposed drilling in the Great Australian Bight.” Equinor was given 21 days to provide NOPSEMA with further information about matters relating to consultation, source control, oil spill risk and matters protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

On November 29, 2019, Equinor re-submitted its environment plan for proposed drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight, following an opportunity to modify and resubmit as a standard component of the assessment process.

In accordance with the Environment Regulations, NOPSEMA resumed its assessment of Equinor’s environment plan early December, and it today said Equinor was given an approval for drilling – the second of four approvals needed.

Equinor’s planned well is located in the Ceduna sub-basin, off southern Australia. The well is located approximately 400 km southwest of Ceduna and 476 km west of Port Lincoln and in a water depth of approximately 2240 meters.

According to Equinor’s plan, the petroleum activity will occur anytime between October and May during the three years validity period from 2020 to 2022. No drilling will take place between June to September inclusive.

The duration of the drilling of the Stromlo-1 well is expected to be approximately 60 days, with the drilling planned to begin in late 2020.

In related news, Australia-based Karoon Gas has recently decided to ditch its exploration permit located in the Great Australian Bight area thus joining oil majors Chevron and BP who had previously abandoned their Bight permits.

“NOPSEMA has imposed stringent conditions on its approval to ensure a high level of protection to the environment, in recognition of the region’s unique values and sensitivities. In the event Equinor secures all approvals, it will be subject to NOPSEMA’s inspection and compliance regime. Failure to comply with the environment plan  will result in enforcement action,” NOPSEMA said Wednesday.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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