Media Releases - 27 June 2019

NOPSEMA shows Bight oil drilling is high risk

Media Release 27 June 2019  

  • NOPSEMA asks for more information on Equinor’s “optimistic” drilling plan 
  • Equinor should drop plans before trashing the company’s and Norway’s reputation further
  • Australian Government must outline its promised review and suspend application process 

Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, NOPSEMA, has 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. 

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 last month.¹ 

“Equinor has consistently made optimistic choices in order to convince the public and NOPSEMA that ‘it is safe' to drill,” the group 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: “Equinor should drop its risky plans to drill for oil in the pristine, rough and remote waters of the Great Australian Bight 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. 

“Equinor has made a great deal about being transparent, so the company and NOPSEMA should reveal exactly what information NOPSEMA has requested. 

“Oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight is so toxic that Australia’s two major political parties committed to review Equinor’s plans. The Centre Alliance and the Greens want oil drilling banned in the Bight. The Australian Government must outline what its review will entail and suspend the application process until the review is complete. 

“Equinor has been facing huge protests all around Australia and even at home in Norway over the Bight. In the past three months, more than 10,000 people have protested at beaches all around Australia, while last month hundreds of people protested in front of Oslo’s iconic Opera House.² 

“Equinor should give up trying to steamroll the huge community opposition, including 17 southern Australian local governments representing more than 600,000 people—recent polling also shows that the majority of Australians and nearly 70 per cent of South Australians oppose drilling in the Bight.³ Equinor’s draft application to drill in the Bight attracted more than 30,000 submissions overwhelmingly in opposition.   

“Everyone from billionaires Sir Richard Branson and Andrew Forrest 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 world’s biggest oil spill accident, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. 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. 

“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 0423550018. 
For more information, contact: Wilderness Society Media Adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416420168.