Nick Carroll: The Bight Fight Is Just Beginning

21 Feb 2019 28 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

We all need to understand this – and its consequences

On Tuesday this week, Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned oil, gas and alternative energy producer, laid down its environmental plan for deep sea drilling in waters off the Great Australian Bight.

The lease where Equinor plans to drill for oil and gas is 327 k's off Ceduna, South Australia, in about 2.5 kilometres of abyssal plain ocean. To get to any likely reserves, Equinor will have to then drill through roughly three kilometres of seabed rock. This is on par with the deepest sea-oil drilling in the world – in one of the most windblown, swell-hammered places you can imagine.

Reckon something could go wrong with this scenario?

Equinor clearly does. The company has produced a worst case scenario oil spill map of the Australian continent. You may have already seen it on socials. If not, here it is. That’s right, a worst case spill would put oil on every surfable coast of Australia south of 30 degrees S.

Page 40 of Equinor's kinda tough to find "Environment plan Appendix 9-1 Oil pollution emergency plan" shows this image.

Page 40 of Equinor's kinda tough to find "Environment plan Appendix 9-1 Oil pollution emergency plan" shows this image.

So what is the deal here?

This lease was first nominated by the then Federal Labor government in 2011. Since then, two big oil companies, Chevron and BP, have taken a look and pulled back, citing commercial reasons. BP’s environmental plan was also knocked back on its first round by NOPSEMA, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, which is in charge of clearing such plans for takeoff.

The fact that two companies like Chevron and BP thought better of the lease gives you some idea of what a gamble it’ll be.

Enter Norway’s Equinor. If you haven’t heard the name, it’s probably because this company was known as Statoil until recently, when it decided to re-brand itself to its owners (the Norwegian people) as a clean green energy manager. It has since ruled out oil exploration in its own national waters and begun a big investment in alternative energy, particularly in ocean-based wind farms.

But it still has a taste for oil, which over many years has earned vast royalties for Norway, filling a public fund with over $1 trillion in financial reserves.

Basically, Equinor wants to appear clean and green to its owners at home while digging away in other people’s backyards.

The company has stated it won’t go ahead with any drilling if it doesn’t have what it terms a “social licence” – in other words, if enough of us kick up enough of a fuss about it.

This is just one of a number of offshore oil leases in Australian waters. If it’s knocked back or if Equinor decides it’s not feasible, there’s a chance this one at least might be put under a moratorium. If not, it might be a door opening that down the track we devoutly wish had been kept locked tight.

We have 30 days to respond to the plan. No, wait, now it’s 28 days.

To let NOPSEMA know what you think of this, go to nopsema.gov.au

Visit Equinor’s FB page to give them a feel for what kind of social licence you’re prepared to award them.

To support Fight For The Bight, go to fightforthebight.org.au

If you have a surfing friend in Norway, let them know about this. Norway’s surfing population will have a voice at home that could change this game.

Watch for more to come on oil and gas leases and the threat they pose to our surfing coasts both here and overseas.

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