Fossil fuel company Woodside Energy’s controversial plan to conduct seismic blasting in endangered whale habitat has been approved by the offshore regulator NOPSEMA, just two months after a Federal Court threw out its previous approval. 

Seismic Blasting off North-East Greenland

On September 28th 2023, Federal Court Justice Craig Colvin ruled Woodside’s environmental plan for the Scarborough part of the company’s Burrup Hub project was not legally approved and was therefore invalid. 

The challenge was bought by Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper, on the grounds that she had not been adequately consulted by Woodside. 

It meant the company could not carry out the seismic blasting until it resubmitted an environmental plan which was then to be approved by the regulator. 

A new seismic blasting approval was granted by the offshore regulator NOPSEMA yesterday and allows Woodside to start as early as today. 

Woodside plans to seismic blast for up to 80 days off the Pilbara coast to assess gas reserves for its Burrup Hub. 

New emissions data released last week from Greenpeace revealed that Woodside’s Burrup Hub is Australia’s biggest climate threat, belching out 6.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its proposed 50-year lifetime.

The new data shows that the predicted emissions from Woodside’s Burrup Hub are bigger than the combined total of the next two largest proposed fossil fuel projects in Australia: the Beetaloo Tamboran and the Peak Downs Extension.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Sophie McNeill warned that Woodside faces escalating community backlash as it starts work on the Burrup Hub.

“Woodside now has the green light to seismic blast in whale habitat, close to an endangered pygmy blue whale migration superhighway and UNESCO-protected Ningaloo Reef. Seismic blasting can deafen whales, who use their sonar to find food – so a deaf whale is a dead whale.

“We are deeply concerned by the gas industry’s aggressive lobbying campaign to water down the environmental regulations that protect Australia’s oceans. We believe the current laws and regulations are failing to protect our oceans and marine life from harmful new fossil fuel projects. The law needs to be significantly strengthened to protect our oceans for future generations.

“Almost 380,000 people have told us they oppose Woodside’s Burrup Hub, and the company can kiss its reputation goodbye if it pushes ahead with harming Western Australia’s wildlife.

“Woodside’s Burrup Hub is a disaster for WA nature and the climate. We will keep opposing this project and ensure the world is watching Woodside’s wanton destruction of our environment.”

Seismic blasting uses underwater airguns to blast powerful sound waves towards the seabed to identify fossil fuel reservoirs beneath the ocean floor. It can seriously injure whales and potentially kill other marine life. A growing body of research indicates that this noise pollution can damage, sometimes permanently, the hearing of whales and fish, as well as kill important prey species like plankton. 


The Burrup Hub will release over 6.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in its lifetime to 2070. You can find out more about Woodside’s proposed climate-wrecking gas plans here.