BP carbon bomb in Great Australian Bight under spotlight

Intro

Disastrous plans from BP, Statoil, and Chevron to drill for oil in the incredibly hostile Great Australian Bight will soon be under the spotlight, with the Australian Senate instigating an inquiry into the AU$1 billion project. Rejected once already by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA), BP wants to sink an exploratory well in water 2,200 metres deep, to test the waters before drilling over an area covering depths of 1000 to 2,500 metres. By comparison, its infamous Deepwater Horizon well clocked in at 1,500 metres, and was located in an area where immense seas like those in the Bight are but bad dreams for salty oilers. Help was also not physically 32 to 157 days away in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite extreme challenges to its operation and dire risks for the Southern coast of Australia, BP’s fevered dreams of an oil-powered future in an increasingly carbon-constrained world have seen it drop $US755 million on a shiny new rig, as it estimates it can pull up to nine billion barrels from its two prospects alone. This much oil roughly equates to 2.85 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions, making BP’s project alone equal to four-times Australia’s total yearly carbon (0.65 gigatonnes in 2012), and a carbon bomb that would help blow the world’s slimming chances of remaining below 2DegC of average global warming.

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Key Points

  • BP is risking another Deepwater Horizon, and doing it in one of the most remote, inhospitable, and pristine parts of the world. As there is no established offshore oil and gas industry in South Australia, BP’s oil well containment response system would be based in Houston, supplemented by shared equipment based in Singapore and Norway. This would give it an estimated disaster response time of 32 to 157 days, and it would be operating in a far more inhospitable ocean than the Gulf of Mexico, where it took the company 87 days to cap Deepwater Horizon. The only logical conclusion the senate can come to is that drilling in the Australian bight for oil will create unacceptable risks to Australian marine reserves, threaten South Australia’s AU$1 billion coastal tourism and AU$442 million fishing industries, and create these risks for a project that is absolutely incompatible with keeping global temperatures under the 2DegC threshold agreed by all parties to the Paris Agreement.
  • Bight oil is a carbon bomb that will blow any chance of the world remaining below 2DegC of warming. The message of the Paris Agreement was loud and clear: the day of fossil fuels is over, and investments in new fossil infrastructure is incompatible with a healthy climate. BP’s project in the Great Australian Bight is a carbon bomb larger than four times Australia’s annual CO2 emissions, and it has no place in a world trying to rapidly and justly transition to clean energy and clean economies.
  • BP doesn’t need a Bight oil plan, it needs a Plan B for a just transition to clean energy. BP is a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, “an industry-driven initiative which aims to catalyse practical action on climate change in focus areas such as the role of natural gas, carbon reduction instruments and tools, and long-term energy solutions”, but it is dropping billions on white elephant hunts at a time when it is losing billions in profits and dropping thousands of workers. This demonstrates that it has no interest in being part of climate solutions, only greenwash.

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Coverage

Tools and Resources

PR: Australian Senate to probe BP’s Bight oil drilling plans (The Wilderness Society)

 

Brochure: The Great Australian Bight Research Program (BP/CSIRO)

 

Background on the The Great Australian Bight

The Great Australian Bight is a large bay extending approximately 2000km along the southern coast of Australia. It contains many national parks and marine reserves, as well as a wide range of wildlife. The Bight contains calving regions for the endangered Southern Right Whale, colonies (including pupping areas) of Australia’s only endemic pinniped, the Australian Sea-lion, and is home to great white sharks, humpback whales and several species of albatross. It is also a foraging area for migratory sperm whales and migratory short-tailed shearwater.

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Key Quotes

  • “The inquiry presents a much-needed opportunity to properly scrutinise the environmental, economic and social impacts of BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, especially with the company in such a precarious financial situation.” – Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders
  • “BP must be held to account for its shocking environmental record and poor community consultation. BP’s initial submission to drill for oil off the Great Australian Bight was turned down by the regulator, NOPSEMA and it is high time this issue was put under the microscope. We know BP don’t have the capacity to handle disasters – we have seen this in the past with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that took 87 days to be contained. Companies like this should not be given carte blanche access to drilling in this precious habitat. The seas off the Great Australian Bight are infinitely more remote and difficult to access. With this in mind it is imperative that we take all questions around BP drilling for oil in this region very seriously.” – Greens Senator for South Australia Robert Simms
  • “Allocating capital to high cost, high risk projects in the Australian Bight appears unwarranted in a low demand, low carbon future – shareholders should challenge whether this is the best strategy for the companies to create value.” – James Leaton, Research Director, Carbon Tracker Initiative
  • “It is an act of criminal irresponsibility for BP to seek to bring new carbon into a saturated atmosphere. If we are to limit climate change below 2 degrees, at least three quarters of the already-known fossil fuel reserves must stay safely in the ground; yet BP wants to dig us even deeper into the problem by opening up a whole new oil province. If this project goes ahead, BP will cause devastating loss of life and economic damage.” – Oil Change International’s Senior Adviser, Greg Muttitt

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