Up to five weeks wait for emergency cap for controversial Great Australian Bight oil well plan

by admin on July 14th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in 2010.A 35-day delay to ship capping technology to Australia in the event of a major oil spill has prompted warnings the Great Australian Bight could suffer an environmental disaster to rival the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
Nanjing Night Net

Tourism, fisheries and environmental groups have pledged to continue to fight plans by oil giant BP to dig two new wells of up to two kilometres deep in waters off the South Australian coastline, saying the project risks pristine oceans and vulnerable marine life.

Environmental assessments presented to the federal government’s offshore oil and gas regulator show in the event of a major oil spill from the wells, about 600 kilometres west of Port Lincoln and 350 kilometres south-west of Ceduna, BP plans to bring an oil well capping stack from Singapore, taking about five weeks.

BP says buying a new capping stack to be based in the region would cost at least $15 million but require up to a year in construction and testing time, while a facility and experts to complete regular maintenance and testing are not currently available in Australia.

The technology was developed after BP’s Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a catastrophic blowout, causing 11 deaths and more than 4.9 million barrells of oil to hit marine habitats and shorelines across southern states.

Greenpeace, the federal opposition and the Greens have questioned the project, while South Australian independent Nick Xenophon recently moved to have a Senate inquiry re-established.

BP said in March exploration in the Great Australian Bight would provide a significant boost to the Australian economy and create jobs.

While a commercial discovery has yet to be made, the company estimates said the Bight could rival oil and gas output from the Bass Strait, Victoria’s Gippsland and Western Australia’s North West Shelf.

One estimate said the potential scale could be more than 20 times the entire Australian oil production in 2014, while the company said it had improved technology, staff training and processes since Deepwater Horizon.

Warning against inadequate contingency plans in the event of a spill, the South Australian Oyster Growers Association said any large-scale spill could see local industries and businesses crippled.

Association executive officer Trudy McGowan said the industry wanted to work with BP as long as all available safety measures were put in place, including provisions for industry compensation in the event of a spill.

Environmental modelling showed a 100 per cent chance of oil from a spill reaching the shoreline and making contact with oyster growing areas within 10 days, prompting calls for a capping stack to be based closer to the wells to cut down on the 35-day delay.

“The capping stack was something that was developed after Deepwater Horizon so we believe it is something that has to be in place on site or at least off the coast of South Australia,” she said.

“Their modelling shows it could spread, depending on whether it is a summer or winter blow, right round to Western Australia and into NSW.

“Where we are, Kangaroo Island and along the Eyre Penninsula is the most important from our point of view and could be devastated.”

More than 6500 boats were used in the Deepwater Horizon clean-up, while the association believes as few as 20 boats could be used in the event of a spill in the Bight due to the water’s depth.

This week Australia’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority requested more environmental information from BP about the controversial plan, delaying consideration of the full application until at least late October.

It is the third delay for the project’s environmental plan, which has already been rejected twice.

Kangaroo Island mayor Peter Clements told the regulator his community and others on the coastline were opposed to drilling in the Bight.

“There is no level of risk capable of realistically including the oil and gas drilling plans for the Great Australian Bight,” he said.

“It is unchartered territory using unproven technology by companies that can and have abrogated their responsibility to Australia and the global community in the past.” 

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