Features, Oil & Gas Leaks

Equinor drilling plans knocked back by regulator

By Eve Sinton | Fossil Fool Bulletin 2.28 • 28 June 2019

Norwegian company Equinor’s plan for petroleum exploration drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight has been knocked back by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

On June 27, NOPSEMA requested further information from Equinor on its environment plan for drilling activity, and halted assessment of the plan for up to 60 days until Equinor submits the requested information.

NOPSEMA declined to elaborate on the nature of the information required.

Greenpeace said NOPSEMA should have just rejected Equinor’s environmental plan outright because of the unacceptable risk of a catastrophic accident and oil spill this project poses to the Great Australian Bight.

According to Equinor’s own report, a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Australian Bight could smash the coastline from South Australia to Sydney and as far north as Port Macquarie – coating Sydney beaches such as Bondi with oil, destroying World Heritage coastline in Tasmania, and devastating tourism and fishing industries.

Extreme project defies logic

“Extreme oil projects like Equinor’s proposal to drill in Australia’s pristine Great Australian Bight defy all logic and fly in the face of climate science. We can’t afford to burn this oil if we want to avoid the worst climate damage – increased heat waves, droughts, fires, and related ecological catastrophes like widespread extinctions. Any new oil is unburnable and unjustifiable,” Greenpeace said.

The Australia Institute welcomed Equinor’s setback.

“NOPSEMA have made the right decision in knocking-back this application. BP and Chevron have already been sent packing and now the other companies lining up to exploit the Bight should take the message and move on,” said Noah Schultz-Byard, The Australia Institute’s SA projects manager.

“Our research has found that the majority of people in South Australia and across the country do not want to see the Great Australians Bight opened up to drilling.”

Equinor’s poor safety record exposed

The news comes after Equinor evacuated oil workers from its Statfjord A platform in the North Sea after it was struck by a supply vessel on June 7.

There was also a major gas leak in Equinor’s Aasta Hansteen gasfield in the Norwegian Sea, which shut the platform from April 8-17.

That followed an Equinor well incident during exploration drilling in the Barents Sea on January 16. The Norwegian oil industry safety watchdog PSA Norway said, “During the drilling operation, the lower marine riser package on the blowout preventer was unintentionally disconnected and the work, therefore, had to be halted. No personal injuries or environmental discharges have been reported as a result of the incident. Its cause is so far unknown.”

In the last three and a half years, Greenpeace has identified more than 50 separate incidents (onshore and offshore) at Equinor facilities, with Norwegian regulators noting a troubling number of “non-conformities” in Equinor’s safety procedures and equipment maintenance.

The research shows that Equinor had experienced six offshore incidents since the start of the year – a shocking average of almost two a month.

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