Great WHITE hope
Momentum builds towards unlocking potential oil & gas reserves offshore South Australia, with exploration expected to start late this year. By Lindy McNamara
Attention will be focused off the West Coast of South Australia later this year, as people search for one Great White that has the potential to change the fortunes of the State. People won’t be looking for the fish variety, however, but instead they will be following the progress of the ‘Ocean GreatWhite ’ – a drilling rig that is being purpose built to undertake BP Australia’s much awaited exploration program in the Great Australian Bight (GAB). Norwegian company Statoil is also a 30 percent partner in the project. At this stage, BP plans to start its drilling program in late 2016, subject to approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA). In November, NOPSEMA determined that the environment plan did not yet meet the criteria for acceptance under the environment regulations; BP is now working toward resubmitting an updated version of the plan. While this occurs, planning continues for an end of year start to drilling of the first of four wells in its expansive 12,100 square kilometre acreage, located approximately 395 km west of Port Lincoln and 340 km southwest of Ceduna. Regardless of the results of the exploration program, BP says it will bring many benefits to the South Australian community.
Already BP has shown its commitment to the State as a founding partner of the Aboriginal Business and Industry Chamber for South Australia that will create opportunity for Aboriginal enterprise. The company, together with CSIRO, SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, is also involved in a research project which aims to improve the understanding of the environmental, economic and social values of the Bight (see story Page 8). Logistical support for its exploration program will be provided by supply vessel from a marine support base in Port Adelaide and by helicopter from the Ceduna Airport and an alternative helicopter landing facility at Coorabie. BP and its contractors are using the Industry Capability Network portal to maximise the exposure of opportunities to local businesses, with nearly 1000 companies registering an interest to work with BP on the project. Contracts have already been awarded in connection with onshore supply base infrastructure, with local company Flinders Logistics partnering with global company ASCO to run the marine supply base. Diamond Offshore Drilling is building the ‘Ocean GreatWhite ’ drilling rig, which will be tested in sea trials before being moved on location later in the year. “All of the activity underway means jobs, contracts, infrastructure and community
development for South Australia – whether we find any oil or gas or not, this activity is of real value today,” says Claire Fitzpatrick, Managing Director BP Australia Upstream. “We have conducted face-to-face meetings with identified stakeholders, ranging from fishing and aquaculture associations and licence holders, councils, environmental groups, indigenous groups and State Government departments. BP is not reaching these new frontiers alone – we are doing this together, in partnership,” she says. Two other petroleum companies are also involved in the search for oil & gas in the GAB. Chevron Australia was awarded two deep water exploration permits in October 2013 and has now completed a seismic survey, with 22,000 square kilometres of data acquired. It is currently interpreting the data to determine its drilling program, including drilling locations and rig selection. At this stage, it hopes to begin drilling in late 2017/18. There are encouraging signs from Murphy Australia Oil and its partner Santos in their commitment to the exploration program. Since award of permit EPP43 in October 2013 Murphy has accelerated its work schedule to include the collection and processing of 7367km2 of 3D seismic data. According to its schedule, drilling would begin in October 2018 at the earliest. Executive Director of the Energy Resources Division at the Department of State Development, Barry Goldstein, is excited by the “giant oil & gas potential” in the Bight. “You could potentially see an industry of the size of what we have on the North West Shelf,” he says. “We know it can happen in an environmentally sustainable way, but we need to wait for the drilling from the end of this year to have a better handle on things.” Like everyone else in the petroleum industry, all eyes will be on that special Great White later this year.
ISSUE 02 RESOURCING SA Autumn 2016