Equinor has released a draft Environment Plan (EP) for the proposed Stromlo-1 exploration drilling program in permit EPP 39, located in the Great Australian Bight, but is already facing strong opposition against its intended activities.
The Stromlo-1 well location is situated 372 kilometres off the coast of South Australia and 476 kilometres west of Port Lincoln.
The development of an EP is an important step in any offshore exploration regulatory process. The draft EP details Equinor’s planned activity, the existing environment in the Great Australian Bight and the measures which will be put in place to avoid and mitigate impacts on the environment.
This is the first time a draft EP for an offshore exploration well has been published before submission and assessment by the regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).
Equinor Country Manager for Australia Jone Stangeland said over the last two years the company has engaged with more than 100 different organisations in the South Australian community and they have consistently asked Equinor to be open about their plans.
“We have listened, and today we are releasing the complete draft EP for our offshore exploration well,” he commented.
Until March 20 2019, public comments to the draft EP can be submitted directly to NOPSEMA.
“We have made the draft EP available to members of the community and we will take all comments into consideration before updating our EP and submitting it to the independent regulator,” said Mr Stangeland.
Once all regulatory approvals are in place, Equinor plans to start drilling in the summer of 2020/2021, but the company is facing some strong opposition to their activities.
Even though 13 wells have already been drilled in the Great Australian Bight to date, both Greenpeace Australia and the Australian Greens Party have spoken out against the company’s proposed drilling program.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle commented that drilling in the Great Australian Bight, with its extreme depth and violent oceans, ‘is dangerous and irresponsible’.
“This place is Australia’s whale nursery, it’s populated by probably the highest concentration of dolphins in the world and is home to more unique species than the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has also made public comments stating that the Bight is ‘too precious to risk’.
“The Bight waters are rough and remote. Equinor has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this project. In the case of an oil spill, it will be South Australians, not Equinor, who pay the price. At a time when we know we must transition away from fossil fuels to arrest climate change, the costs of opening up a new oilfield to the planet are too great,” she said.
“Instead of opening up another oilfield, Australia should be showing the world how great the Bight is. It is home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world – 85 per cent of marine life found in the Bight is found nowhere else.”