Regulator rejects BP’s environment plan for drilling offshore Australia

Australian offshore petroleum regulator NOPSEMA has once again told BP to modify and resubmit their environment plan for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight (GAB) as the plan does not meet the regulatory requirements. 

BP’s environment plan was previously dismissed by the agency in November 2015, also due to a failure to meet the regulatory requirements.

According to the regulator, if BP accepts this opportunity, the modified plan is expected to be resubmitted by July 15, at which time NOPSEMA will restart the assessment.

The regulator explained that an opportunity to modify and resubmit the plan was a normal part of its environment plan assessment process. In fact, NOPSEMA said, the regulator is required by law to provide a titleholder (the company proposing the activity) a reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit their plan if it doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements for acceptance.

NOPSEMA will typically provide two opportunities to modify and resubmit, but is not restricted to providing only two opportunities, the agency added.

However, if a titleholder has been given a reasonable opportunity to modify their plan and NOPSEMA determines that it still doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements for acceptance, then NOPSEMA will refuse to accept the plan, the agency noted.

Since NOPSEMA was established on January 1, 2012, 4% of all environment plans submitted for assessment have been refused.

BP’s proposed Great Australian Bight exploration drilling program proposes to drill four exploration wells in Commonwealth marine waters in the area, using a semi-submersible drilling rig. GAB drilling area is approximately 400 km west of Port Lincoln and 300 km southwest of Ceduna in South Australia. The drilling area has water depths ranging between 1,000 and 2,500 m.

In order for exploration to start, BP needs to get its environment plan cleared by NOPSEMA. The project is scheduled to start in the summer of 2016-2017, with each well taking between 45 and 170 days to drill.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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