THE National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has accepted Equinor’s environment plan for exploratory petroleum drilling in the Great Australian Bight, which represents the second of four approvals required before activity can commence.

The first approval was granted in 2011 when the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator and the Ministerial Joint Authority, comprising federal and state government resources ministers, granted an exploration title for activity in the Bight.

Under Commonwealth legislation, energy companies must have a petroleum title, an accepted environment plan, well operations management plan and facility safety case before they can undertake any offshore oil and gas activity.

The rigorous assessment process undertaken by NOPSEMA took almost eight months and involved a range of specialists with considerable environmental, scientific and engineering experience.

Through the iterative assessment process under the environmental regulations, Equinor modified and re-submitted its Environment Plan twice, responding to NOPSEMA’s requests for additional information.

The Environment Plan was also subject to public review and comment, with NOPSEMA and Equinor reviewing more than 30,000 submissions and taking into account all relevant information provided.

NOPSEMA has imposed stringent conditions on its approval to ensure a high level of protection to the environment, in recognition of the region’s unique values and sensitivities.

In the event Equinor secures all approvals, it will be subject to NOPSEMA’s inspection and compliance regime. Failure to comply with the environment plan  will result in enforcement action.

The accepted Equinor environment plan, letter of acceptance (including the conditions imposed), and a comprehensive report addressing key environmental matters relevant to the activity is available at: