Equinor submits environmental plan to NOPSEMA

Equinor submits Bight drill plan

Norwegian oil company Equinor has used 13 of the more than 30,000 public submissions to implement changes to its environment plan before submitting the plan to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

The company released its draft plan in February which was open for public comment before it submitted the final plan to NOPSEMA on April 23.

The company concluded only 1039 submissions addressed specific parts of the plan.

Thirteen of those led to the removal of a reference to oil and gas economic benefits, its climate change position and a map of Australian offshore drilling.

Mistakes and words were changed for clarity in the plan but submissions arguing on 15 other points did not lead to changes.

Equinor has since released a report addressing the comments.

One of the recurring issues raised by the submissions was the proposed activity ignored Australia's principles for Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) and did not adhere to precaution.

Equinor said in its report that it took a conservative approach to address the ESD.

The company said it still considered the potential impact as low, and did not underestimate the potential effects of a major oil spill.

A number of submissions were concerned about threats to local industries but Equinor said the project could co-exist with fishing, aquaculture and tourism industries as it had in other states.

Ocean conditions and Equinor's inability to operate safely in the Bight were also raised but the company said while the Bight had harsh conditions it could operate safely and in extreme weather would stop operations and secure the well.

Some submissions said Equinor had failed to engage and consult well enough with the public but the company disputed these claims, saying it met with more than 100 organisations, allowed public comment and held community drop-in sessions.

Equinor said animals from invertebrates to whales were examined within a 40-kilometre radius of planned activity and found that no feeding, migratory path, calving or other habitats, known or predicted, would be impacted.

The company said while the proposed drilling area was in a marine park, the well was located in a multiple use zone which allowed exploration drilling.

Equinor said after exploration it would permanently seal the wellhead with cement plugs which would be about two to three metres above the seabed and would not effect marine users.

While many submissions argued that the risks were unacceptable, Equinor said the plan was consistent with industry standards.

Submissions also raised questions about Equinor's compensation plans.

Equinor has voluntarily put a scheme in place if its operations cause financial loss.

While the oil pollution emergency plan and the dispersing chemicals to be used also received attention from public submissions Equinor said the company had to be prepared for the 'highly unlikely' event and the dispersants used were approved in Australia.

NOPSEMA will have access to all of the public entries submitted.