Leaked documents show Bondi Beach could be coated by Great Australian Bight oil spill
November 14, 2018: Secret documents created by Norwegian oil driller Equinor and leaked to Greenpeace Australia Pacific paint a horrifying new picture of a potential Great Australian Bight oil spill that could reach as far north as Port Macquarie and coat Sydney beaches such as Bondi, Manly, and Cronulla with oil.
“This leak should be the final nail in the coffin of Bight oil drilling,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said.
“Not only does it show that oil could drench a previously unimaginable area that would include iconic beaches such as Bondi and Manly, it also shows that oil companies have no plan for stopping such a leak should it occur.
“The draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (OPEP) which is yet to be made available to the public shows that a potential oil spill could reach Sydney beaches from Bondi to Manly, the Victorian coastline from the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles, and the majority of the coastline of Tasmania in addition to blanketing parts of the South Australian coast line.”
It also reveals that Equinor shockingly have no plans to respond to a genuine worst case scenario, with the company optimistically choosing to base their response on a far lower volume oil spill than the 7.9 million million barrels BP predicted could flow from the same Great Australian Bight well location.
The documents include claims that contradict those of oil companies that have previously proposed drilling in the Bight. Most notably, Equinor say they can predict the type of oil that would come from their well, despite previous partners BP stating that there is “significant uncertainty in all fluid predictions”.
“The possibility of an oil spill in the Bight reaching farther north than Sydney is horrifying enough. But the scenarios that Equinor have mapped aren’t even the worst case. There is a worse worst case scenario — detailed in BP’s earlier documents — that Equinor is ignoring. This is simply not acceptable for a company that has consistently said it would only proceed with drilling in the Bight if they could prove it could be done to the highest environmental standard,” Pelle said.
“The fact that we could see one litre of oil for every square metre of beach as far away from the site as Sydney should convince any politician in Canberra to block these plans.”
The leak of Equinor’s draft document, the Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (OPEP), comes just days after Australian regulator NOPSEMA finally released BP’s Well Operations Management Plan (WOMP) after waging a two-year legal battle against Greenpeace Australia Pacific to keep the documents secret. BP’s document demonstrated that a spill in the Great Australian Bight could be double the size of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and that safety equipment would be unusable more than a third of the year. 
“BP’s plan showed that not only would the high waves of the Bight make the use of a capping stack impossible but they also said it was ‘highly unlikely’ a second rig could be found to drill a relief well and ‘kill’ the leak,” Pelle said.
“A worst case spill would see oil hit Sydney beaches from Bondi to Manly, the Victorian coastline from the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles, and the majority of the coastline of Tasmania in addition to blanketing the entirety of the South Australian coast line.
“This leak must spell the end of oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight. We cannot risk the destruction outlined and the Federal Government must move to protect our oceans, beaches, and iconic landmarks.”
Notes for editors:
- The BP Well Operations Management Plan (WOMP) says the capping stack cannot be used in seas above 3.5 metres. Greenpeace obtained data from the Australian bureau of meteorology that tells us the sea-state is above 3.5m 33.6% of the year.
B-roll of the Great Australian Bight can be found here.
Great Australian Bight wildlife and oil spill images can be found here.
For interviews contact:
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Media Campaigner
0418 219 086 / [email protected]