Greens against BP’s Bight drilling amid faulty equipment scare

  • Exploration & Production

Australian Green Party and the environmental organization Greenpeace have called for the national regulators to dismiss BP’s application to drill in the Great Australian Bight, following concerns that the rig selected to be used for the project might have faulty equipment.

The calls follow a report in The Guardian Australia, according to which the drilling rig destined for the Bight could be fitted with faulty subsea bolts, which could lead to an oil spill “in the middle of a commonwealth marine reserve.”

To remind, in Feburary this year, the U.S. offshore safety regulator the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement warned the oil and gas industry of a recurring problem with connector and bolt failures in various components used in risers and subsea blowout preventers used in offshore operations. . The BSEE then warned the failures had the potential to lead to a catastrophic event.

Following the report by the Guardian, South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young called for a delay in the approval process for BP drilling in the Great Australian Bight, due to be issued soon by National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

“This revelation is extremely concerning and goes to show why the decision to approve drilling should not be rushed,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“NOPSEMA should delay their decision, due in just a week’s time, and be open about the potential for faulty equipment to be used in the Bight.

“The fact that BP won’t rule out the use of these dangerous, substandard bolts is concerning. The entire process has been so secretive and opaque from the beginning that even basic information like this has been impossible to come by.

“Clearly we need to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on here and whether these questionable bolts will be used.

“The Senate inquiry that we will re-establish in coming days will take a long hard look at how all of this could affect the likelihood of a devastating spill in the Bight.”

Greenpeace: Marine life in danger

Greenpeace Oceans campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle said: “It’s unclear how or whether National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) will take the bolt issue into account when considering BP’s latest environment plan, yet their verdict is due within days. This process has been conducted behind a veil of secrecy.”

“A spill off the southern Australian coast on the scale of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster would be horrific.

“Not only would it wipe out marine life found nowhere else on earth, like the endangered Australian Sea Lion, it would destroy local tourism and fishing industries that rely on a healthy ocean.

“Yet Australians are being kept in the dark about BP’s environmental and safety plans. NOPSEMA has already rejected them twice, and now we’re hearing that the rig may be fitted with dodgy bolts.

“BP’s perilous activities must be abandoned before our southern coastline is put in grave danger.”

NOPSEMA response

In response to media reporting and related commentary, regarding potential safety concerns of some offshore oil and gas drilling equipment, NOPSEMA wishes to clarify actions taken in Australia regarding this matter.

“In early 2013 NOPSEMA contacted all drilling rig operators in Australian waters requesting them to inspect the connector bolts used in offshore equipment such as risers and subsea blowout preventers (BOPs). This request related to a recall by the connector bolt manufacturer, General Electric (GE). As a result of this request by NOPSEMA, an inspection program was undertaken by all operators of offshore oil and gas facilities. Any bolts from the batch of GE manufactured bolts subject to the recall were immediately replaced by operators.”

“While no incidents involving the failure of subsea bolts have occurred in Australian waters, NOPSEMA continues to follow-up during planned inspections of facilities to confirm that operators are ensuring that all equipment, including risers and subsea BOPs, remains fit for purpose,” NOPSEMA said.

Plan rejected

British oil company BP has recently submitted a second environment plan proposing drilling of two exploration wells in the Great Australian Bight.

The oil firm’s first plan, proposing four exploration wells, was rejected by the Australian offshore safety and environmental management authority NOPSEMA, as it didn’t meet the regulatory requirements.  NOPSEMA is expected to come back with the decision by September 19, 2016.

BP’s second environment plan entitled “Great Australian Bight Exploration Drilling Programme (Stromlo-1 and Whinham-1)” proposes to drill two wells.

The wells are Stromlo-1 and Whinham-1 respectively and will be drilled using the world’s largest semi-submersible drilling rig, the Ocean Greatwhite.

Stromlo-1 is located some 600 kilometers west of Port Lincoln and 400 kilometers southwest of Ceduna, in a water depth of approximately 2250 meters. Whinham-1 is located approximately 600 kilometers west of Port Lincoln and 350 kilometers m southwest of Ceduna, in a water depth of approximately 1150 meters.

According to the proposed plan, the drilling program is scheduled to start from Q4 2016 to Q1 2017. BP anticipates that each well will take approximately 75 days to drill. In the event of any technical or equipment delays, the duration may be greater, so the assessment for each of the wells has allowed for up to 150 days.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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