Media Releases - 11 November 2019

Equinor’s Bight drilling plans fall short again

  • NOPSEMA asks for more information on Equinor’s “optimistic” drilling plan
  • More than 10,000 have protested against Equinor’s drilling plans around Australia
  • More protests to comeNATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST November 23
  • Vast majority of Australians oppose Bight oil drilling; Equinor’s plan trashes its reputation

Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, NOPSEMA, has again asked Norwegian oil giant Equinor for more information for its application to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, showing that Equinor’s Environmental Plan is not up to scratch.

NOPSEMA’s announcement specifically notes that Equinor must provide further information about matters relating to consultation, an issue that has been consistently raised by opponents including the Wilderness Society South Australia for many months. NOPSMEA has also demanded more information about source control, oil spill risk, and matters protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, with includes wildlife threatened with extinction.

A group of experts convened by the University of Sydney compared Equinor’s overconfidence in its Environmental Plan to BP’s before the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days in a report released this year.[1]

“Equinor has consistently made optimistic choices in order to convince the public and NOPSEMA that ‘it is safe' to drill,” the group’s report said. “However, we saw a similar style of overconfidence demonstrated in BP’s proposal to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, which led to one of the world’s biggest oil spills in 2010.”

Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen said: “To be clear, the community has already resoundingly disapproved of Equinor’s risky plans to drill for oil in deep, rough waters of the Great Australian Bight. Equinor’s continued push to gain the regulatory’s approval won’t change that and it should drop this farce before it damages the reputation of the company and Norway further. 

“Equinor changed its name from Statoil to promote its green credentials just last year but the Norwegian Government-owned company’s new brand now stands for bulldozing local communities in its relentless search for oil.

“It is no wonder NOPSEMA have requested more information about Equinor’s “consultation”, given that numerous organisations have consistently criticised it’s extraordinary refusal to consult environmental, indigenous and local government stakeholders.

“The Fight for the Bight is one of the biggest environmental protests Australia has seen. More than 10,000 people have already protested against Equinor’s Bight plans all around Australia and even in Norway this year[2] and there will be more protests all around Australia on Saturday, November 23.

“Equinor should give up trying to steamroll the huge community opposition, including more than 20 southern Australian local governments representing more than 600,000 people, and recent polling shows that the majority of Australians and nearly 70 per cent of South Australians oppose drilling in the Bight.[3]

“Everyone from billionaires like Sir Richard Branson to surfing world champions Stephanie Gilmore, Layne Beachley and Mick Fanning are opposed to drilling in the Bight.

“Ultra-deepwater oil drilling is a high-risk operation that caused the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010. Equinor’s drilling operations aren’t as safe as it would like to make out. Just a month after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, only luck saved Equinor-Statoil from a major disaster at its Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea.[4]  The Great Australian Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea.

“Equinor’s oil spill modelling revealed that an oil spill from an uncontained blowout was guaranteed to impact the South Australian coast, and a spill could impact anywhere along much of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Australia’s east coast past Sydney and around Tasmania.

“The Great Australian Bight is a unique, pristine marine environment, with 85 per cent of its marine species found only in these waters.[5] The Bight is a haven for 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale. It’s the most important nursery for the endangered Australian sea lion and supports Australia’s biggest fishing industry. Equinor plans to drill in the incredibly biologically significant Great Australian Bight Commonwealth Marine Reserve.”

For further comment contact:

Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen on 0423 550 018

For more information, contact Bight Alliance media adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168