Revealed: BP’s oil spill plan in Great Australian Bight woefully inadequate, company suggested crisis could ‘boost local economies’

SYDNEY, April 6, 2018 - An oil spill at Statoil’s proposed offshore drilling site in the Great Australian Bight could spread 40 million litres of sludge along a 750km stretch of coastline, anywhere from Western Australia to Tasmania and NSW, according to documents BP reportedly attempted to suppress.

Two letters from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) to BP in 2015 and 2016 show the company had failed to address the regulator’s concerns about managing a number of potential risks.

BP’s Environment Plan, which was rejected twice before its exploration title was acquired by Statoil in June last year, also reveals that the oil major’s proposed operations in the Bight could disrupt the migration of the endangered southern right whale.

“We already knew an oil spill could reach anywhere on Australia’s southern coastline – now we know something about the magnitude of the damage. A 750km stretch of coastline covered in 40 million litres of waste could directly impact dozens of towns and thousands of people.

“Coastal towns from Esperance in WA, to Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island right at the epicentre, and even Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and the east coast of Tasmania should all be on high alert,” Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said.

“There is no way to drill for oil safely in the Bight. BP eventually came to that realisation and gave up on the project, followed out by Chevron. If Statoil is serious about only drilling where it is safe to do so then they should abandon their plans for the Bight too.”

The documents, published by Climate Home News two years after launching a Freedom of Information request, show that the regulator also cited BP for failing to describe the of number vessels required to mount an at-sea response or how it planned to confirm their availability.

Greenpeace research revealed only 148 vessels were registered for offshore work in South Australia, and only a handful of vessel owners had shown interest in registering with BP for cleanup response. To put those figures into perspective, a total of 6,500 vessels were required to respond in the Gulf of Mexico when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010.

“Unless there’s been a sudden boom in boat registrations Statoil would face the same impossible hurdle in the Great Australian Bight and would be unable to prevent oil reaching the shoreline in the event of a spill,” Mr Pelle said.

“At the height of operations, 47,000 people were involved in the response to Deepwater Horizon – it would be impossible for any oil company to guarantee they could mobilise that many people, tooled with the necessary equipment, to even begin to attempt a cleanup of that magnitude in Australia.”

“That BP couldn’t demonstrate they had the resources, in terms of people and boats, to respond to such a spill is frightening.”

Despite presenting a completely inadequate plan to to deal with a potential oil spill, BP said the subsequent ecological crisis could also provide opportunities.

“In most instances, the increased activity associated with cleanup operations will be a welcome boost to local economies,” BP said in its Environmental Plan.


For interviews contact:

Martin Zavan, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner

0424 295 422 / [email protected]