NOPSEMA knocks backs PGS seismic testing west of Kangaroo Island

Australia’s national offshore oil and gas regulator has again knocked back an application by oil exploration company PGS to conduct a seismic survey west of Kangaroo Island.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) released its decision on Wednesday, April 26.

The decision notification on Duntroon Multi-client 3D and 2D Marine Seismic Survey Environment Plan states “it is not reasonably satisfied that the plans meets the acceptance criteria set out in the regulations”.

“On completion of assessment, NOPSEMA has decided that it is not reasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria (and) is appropriate for the nature and scale of the activity (and) demonstrates that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.”

PGS now as an opportunity to resubmit the application with NOPSEMA identifying the next event due on June 25, 2018.

The Wilderness Society South Australia says the NOPSEMA decision to knock back the Duntroon survey demonstrates that companies involved in oil and gas exploration can not reach the standards required to operate in the Great Australian Bight.

“NOPSEMA has not approved any oil and gas exploration activities in the Bight for more than a year now,” Wilderness Society South Australia director Peter Owen said.

“Statoil and the remaining oil and gas companies wanting to drill in the Great Australian Bight should see the writing on the wall and follow BP’s and Chevron’s lead in quitting all Bight operations.

“PGS, which planned on doing seismic surveys for possible use by Bight Petroleum and Brazil’s Karoon, has twice not been able to produce an acceptable plan for NOPSEMA after the regulator sent back its application in November.

“Seismic testing can have a massive impact on whales and other marine life, with the deafening noise of sonic guns being able to penetrate hundreds of kilometres into the seabed in thousands of metres of water and carrying on for months on end.

“It has led to hearing loss in whales, which sometimes can’t hear each other above the extreme noise, and strandings.”

SEISMIC TESTING: Norwegian company PGS has applied to do seismic testing in a survey area 90km west of Kangaroo Island. PGS is checking if there’s exploitable reserves there, and if they find it, they can sell the license to the highest bidder. Image from NOPSEMA website

SEISMIC TESTING: Norwegian company PGS has applied to do seismic testing in a survey area 90km west of Kangaroo Island. PGS is checking if there’s exploitable reserves there, and if they find it, they can sell the license to the highest bidder. Image from NOPSEMA website

Kangaroo Island mayor Peter Clements and Australian Greens have launched the new #Bight2020 campaign against offshore drilling in the deep ocean of the Great Australian Bight.

Federal Member for Mayo, which covers Kangaroo Island, Rebekha Sharkie said she welcomed moves to have the Bight included in UN’s W

“As a long-time opponent of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, I am extremely supportive of Kangaroo Island’s call for the area to be listed as a World Heritage Site,” Ms Sharkie said.

“If you look at the listing criteria, the Bight has a good chance of making the grade because all the evidence shows this pristine environment to be a biodiversity hotspot.

“Those same strong currents that make drilling such an unacceptable risk draw nutrients up from the deep water onto the shallow continental shelf, creating a smorgasbord for zooplankton and fish.

“The Bight is a special place and I believe one of the major benefits of World Heritage listing would be to focus the attention of Government on conservation in the Bight.

“However, to get a listing, the State Government and Federal Government both need to show their support.

“Towards that end I have written to both levels of Government seeking their support for the World Heritage listing campaign.”

The Wilderness Society South Australia meanwhile continues its calls for greater protection of the Great Australian Bight. 

BP modelling of an oil spill, winter after four months. Source Rebekha Sharkie MP

BP modelling of an oil spill, winter after four months. Source Rebekha Sharkie MP

“The Great Australian Bight’s pristine waters are a haven for 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale as well as many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales,” director Peter Owen said. 

“It’s also Australia’s most important sea lion nursery and supports seals, orcas, giant cuttlefish and some of Australia’s most important fisheries.

“It’s just not possible to undertake any oil and gas exploration activities in the rough, pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight without having unacceptable impacts.

“BP showed that drilling in the deep, rough waters of the Great Australian Bight was unviable when it could not produce an acceptable drilling plan for Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulator, NOPSEMA.

“BP’s decision showed that it’s too expensive to establish the costly risk-management and clean-up capacity needed to protect our communities from the enormous spill risks associated with drilling in the Bight. Chevron followed suit and pulled out a year after BP withdrew.

“Statoil, Santos, Murphy and Karoon will face the same massive costs and increasing community opposition that BP and Chevron experienced. Even with BP’s and Chevron’s withdrawal, community concern keeps growing.

“The Australian Government must now recognise that ultra-deepwater exploration drilling cannot be undertaken safely in the rough waters of the Great Australian Bight, or without presenting unacceptable risks to its unique marine environment.

“We should not be expanding the fossil fuel industry into pristine treacherous seas where the risk of spills is far greater than we’ve seen before. A rapid transition away from this industry is our only hope for a liveable climate for our children.

“BP’s spill modelling showed a spill could reach the coasts of South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW, threatening Australia’s coastal way of life and livelihoods."

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also welcomed the decision.

“It seems nearly impossible for NOPSEMA to make a decision on this project after multiple delays. Let’s make it easy for them and ban offshore drilling,” Ms Hanson-Young said. 

“Fossil fuels companies should not get limitless chances to provide more information or resubmit plans to appease NOPSEMA, there needs to be a point in the process where enough is enough and the applicant gets an F. 

“The Bight is a precious marine wonderland, it’s of deep cultural significance, and it supports tens of thousands of jobs. We cannot allow fossil fuel companies to risk any of that for the sake of profits. 

“The affect that seismic testing would have on wildlife populations, especially whale migration, feeding patterns and communication would be devastating. We must ban offshore drilling and fight for the Bight to be World Heritage protected.

“The Bight’s fate cannot be left to an opaque Government agency to make a decision. Proper international protection would ensure the community and environment would be looked after.”

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