Statoil sticking with Bight for now

THE battle for the Bight is not over, with Statoil telling Energy News that it may continue exploring offshore South Australia.
Statoil sticking with Bight for now Statoil sticking with Bight for now Statoil sticking with Bight for now Statoil sticking with Bight for now Statoil sticking with Bight for now

A Statoil spokesperson said the company had been informed about BP's decision not to proceed with its Great Australian Bight plans, and that it company understood BP's change in strategic direction.

"We will work constructively with BP and relevant authorities to resolve the issues arising from BP's decision, and we will take the time necessary to do this in a systematic manner," the spokesperson said.

"However, we are not ready to take on the commitments of BP necessary to proceed with the exploration program as planned."

BP and Statoil aren't alone in the Bight, either.

Karoon Gas Australia, which was awarded a new permit in the Bight just days ago, told Energy News it was still trying to understand what impact BP's decision may have on its plans.

It, and minnow Bight Petroleum, which owns permits with the east, had been banking on plans by BP and Chevron to spend more than $1 billion to help derisk the southern margin plays.

To the west of BP Santos and Murphy Oil are pledged to spend more than $60 million, Bight to the east has pledged a similar amount and the company had crowed that more than $1 billion would be spent before it needed to spud a well, while Karoon bid just $24 million for its work program and made similar statements.

When asked about its commitment to the region in the wake of the beating BP took Santos referred Energy News to the operator of its permits, Murphy Oil.

Murphy had not responded to a request for comment this morning.

Bight, which has been unable to shoot its Lightning 3D seismic survey, also did not return calls for comment.

The US independent has in recent months scaled back its Australian interests, and no longer employs an Australian country manager at is dramatically smaller office.

A spokesperson for Chevron Corporation, which has pledged to spend $486 million in its primary term for EPP 40, EPP 44 and EPP 45, said the US oiler continued to progress its work program associated with the Great Australia Bight.

"As we do with all our business activities, we work closely with government regulators and stakeholders to ensure any proposed work is completed under the appropriate environmental conditions," the spokesperson said.

The Wilderness Society, which with Greenpeace ran the campaign to chase BP out of the Bight, said all oil and gas companies should follow BP's lead and leave the Great Australian Bight.

"If BP with all its experience cannot produce an acceptable drilling plan for NOPSEMA, the remaining companies exploring in the Bight will be wasting their shareholders' money trying to pursue this folly," Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said.

"This decision shows that it's too expensive to establish the significant and costly risk management and clean up capacity infrastructure needed to protect our communities from the enormous spill risks associated with drilling in this part of the world. Clearly this is a far too high cost oil basin for any oil company to consider exploiting."

The Wilderness Society warned the remaining players that if they continue with their plans they "will face the same massive costs and increasing community opposition that BP experienced".

It wants the Australian government, which is conducting a Senate Inquiry into the Bight, to rescind all of the 11 permits in the region.

Statoil's comments to Energy News appear to defy calls from Greenpeace, which said "other companies … should take the lead from BP, pack up their bags and go home", at least for now.

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