FOR THE second time BP has been asked by Australia’s national petroleum regulator to resubmit its plans for a drilling program off the Great Australian Bight.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) said it would give BP the chance to modify and resubmit their environment plan for drilling in the region.
While the regulator did not specify the reasons for its request, it pointed out that it must be reasonably satisfied any plan is appropriate for the nature and scale of the activity, or that it demonstrated any environmental impacts and risks would be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.
BP and its project partner Statoil plan to drill up to four wells in exploration permit for petroleum (EPP) areas 37, 38, 39 and 40, about 400 kilometres west of Port Lincoln and 340 kilometres south west of Ceduna.
BP said it would assess NOPSEMA’s feedback ahead of resubmitting the environment plan in the coming months, it said in an announcement.
“We have allowed sufficient time in our program schedule for this regulatory process and continue to work toward commencing exploration drilling in late 2016, subject to the acceptance of our environment plan,” the company said.
NOPSEMA said it expected the resubmitted application by 15 July.
After that date, NOPSEMA may determine a reasonable opportunity has been given and therefore refuse to accept the plan, though BP may request an extension to this schedule.
BP submitted its first environment plan for drilling the region on 1 October 2015, only to be asked to modify the plan in mid-November of that year.
NOPSEMA is seeking another review of the revised plan, submitted on 15 March, adding in an announcement that giving companies an opportunity to modify and resubmit the plan was a normal part of its assessment process.
“NOPSEMA will typically provide two opportunities to modify and resubmit, but is not restricted to providing only two opportunities,” it said.
“If a titleholder has been given a reasonable opportunity to modify their plan and NOPSEMA determines that it still doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements for acceptance then NOPSEMA will refuse to accept the plan.”
Only four per cent of all plans submitted for assessment since NOPSEMA was established on 1 January 2012 have been refused.
The wells, which were to be drilled in water depths of between 1,000 metres and 2,500 metres by a mobile offshore drilling unit, were designed to determine whether the target formations had commercially recoverable volumes of hydrocarbons.
The company forecast that the drilling of each well would take between 45 and 170 days to drill, each in the previously acquired Ceduna 3D seismic survey area, which covers 12,100 square kilometres.
BP’s plans for drilling in the Great Australian Bight had also been the catalyst for an inquiry by the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee launched in February.
While the inquiry lapsed due to the Federal Election, Greens senator Robert Simms has called on BP to abandon its drilling plans after the second request.
“It’s clear BP aren’t respecting of the precious Great Australian Bight environment as once again NOPSEMA determine that BP’s shoddy environmental plan requires modifications,” he said.
“The Greens demand that BP abandon its plans to drill in the Bight rather than resubmitting the same secretive sub-standard environmental plan over and over again while expecting a different result.”