Chevron aban­dons Great Aus­tralian Bight drill plans

Manila Times - - FOREIGN NEWS -

En­ergy gi­ant Chevron Fri­day joined BP in ditch­ing plans to drill in the Great Aus­tralian Bight cit­ing weak oil prices, with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists urg­ing other ma­jor play­ers to fol­low suit.

The com­pany had planned to drill ex­plo­ration wells to look for oil or nat­u­ral gas after ac­quir­ing two deep­wa­ter blocks span­ning more than 32,000 square kilo­me­ters (12,355 square miles) off the pris­tine South Aus­tralian coast in 2013.

But its plans sparked en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cern with the huge Bight a haven for whales, seals, dol­phins and pen­guins and home to sea ea­gles and al­ba­tross.

Bri­tish oil gi­ant BP aban­doned its plans to drill in the area last year after re­view­ing its global ex­plo­ration pro­gram.

Chevron Aus­tralia manag­ing direc­tor Nigel Hearne said while the Bight had big po­ten­tial, low oil prices had forced it to con­cen­trate on other projects.

He stressed it was a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion and not re­lated to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns or reg­u­la­tory is­sues.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the strong sup­port from gov­ern­ments, reg­u­la­tors and the lo­cal com­mu­nity for our plans to ex­plore for hy­dro­car­bons off­shore South Aus­tralia,” he said in a state­ment.

Chevron’s fo­cus will in­stead shift to newly­ac­quired acreage off Western Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian Petroleum Pro­duc­tion and Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion direc­tor Matthew Do­man said the de­ci­sion was dis­ap­point­ing, adding that suc­cess in the Bight would ease Aus­tralia’s re­liance on im­ported oil.

“In Aus­tralia, on­shore and off­shore oil and gas con­di­tions, es­ca­lat­ing reg­u­la­tory costs and po­lit­i­cal bans on en­ergy devel­op­ment,” Do­man said.

But en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists cheered the move, with the Wilder­ness So­ci­ety urg­ing Nor­way’s Sta­toil and other com­pa­nies seek­ing to drill in the area to fol­low BP and Chevron’s lead.

“Sta­toil, San­tos, Mur­phy and Ka­roon will face the same mas­sive costs and in­creas­ing com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion that BP and Chevron ex­pe­ri­enced,” said the so­ci­ety’s South Aus­tralia direc­tor Peter Owen.

Jeff Hansen, the Aus­tralian chief of ac­tivist group Sea Shep­herd, also backed the move, say­ing the risk of oil spills in such pris­tine waters was too great.

“BP and Chevron should be ap­plauded for do­ing the re­spon­si­ble and right thing here,” he said.

“We urge Nor­way’s Sta­toil to do the same or face an ever greater op­po­si­tion as the move­ment for the pro­tec­tion of the Bight grows stronger by the day.”

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