Second delay should be the death of a dangerous deep sea pipe dream

December 12, 2018: Norwegian oil giant Equinor’s request this month for an extension on its Great Australian Bight drilling plans - the second this year - proves the immense difficulties faced by oil companies seeking to operate in this extreme environment.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific is calling on the Australian Government to reject the request, cancel all Bight permits, and move to permanently protect the Bight as its extreme depth, unknown pressure wild weather, and lack of infrastructure make drilling unsafe.

“This latest request for more time is a clear sign the company should follow the example of BP and Chevron and quit this high-risk, experimental, inherently unsafe drilling project,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

“These are in water a kilometre deeper than in the Deepwater Horizon disaster – deeper than any previous Australian projects – hundreds of kilometres from safety infrastructure, in seas the oil industry says will hamper response to any accident.”

“The Australian government should take heed of the risks and the community’s outrage and put the invaluable Bight environment and the people who rely on it first by moving to protect the Bight from oil drilling permanently as has been done in the Great Barrier Reef marine park.”

Thirteen local councils, the commercial fishing industry, scientists, and representatives of the tourism industry have publicly opposed Bight drilling.

“Equinor was a former joint venture partner with BP, and has spent years developing their Bight plans. Despite their near limitless financial resources, neither of these oil giants have been able to produce a safe proposal. And the reason for that is that there is no safe way to drill in the Bight. The stakes for the communities, industries, and the environment are far too high for us to gamble on this fantasy.”

Documents recently obtained against oil companies’ will [1] have demonstrated the complexity and dangers of drilling in the Great Australian Bight as well as highlighting the ramifications of a catastrophic accident.

“Recent documents have shown that a potential spill could hit anywhere from South Australia to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and could even reach as far as Bondi Beach,” Pelle said.

“The Australian people will not accept that drilling in a marine park next to a calving ground for endangered southern right whales is a risk worth taking. Oil companies, including Equinor, should get the message and cancel their plans.”

Notes for editors:

[1] After a 2 year legal battle Greenpeace obtained BP’s well operations management plan for the Stromlo-1 well which indicated that;

  • A worst case oil spill could release 7.9 billion barrels of oil into Australia’s southern ocean – double the volume of oil that covered the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers.  
  • Shortcomings with critical pieces of safety equipment such as a capping stack being unusable a third of the year due to sea conditions, or a harsh environment rig, needed to drill a relief well in the event of an oil spill, would be “highly unlikely” to be able to located at all.
  • BP quit the Bight in 2010 after failing to gain approval from NOPSEMA.

A second document from Equinor, leaked to Greenpeace by a whistleblower revealed that oil from the same well location could;

  • Reach as far around the coastline as northern New South Wales, potentially swamping Bondi in oil, with the Great Ocean Road also in the ‘high loading’ spill zone.
  • The documents also showed that Equinor had discounted the worst case scenario indicated by its own modelling and was refusing to develop a response plan for it, optimistically choosing to plan for a lower impact spill.

Link to BP’s 2016 WOMP briefing.

Link to Equinor’s oil spill modelling briefing.


For interviews contact:

Simon Black

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Media Campaigner

0418 219 086 / [email protected]


Martin Zavan

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner

0424 295 422 / [email protected]