Aussie court blocks Santos from starting work on southern section of Barossa pipe
The Federal Court of Australia has permitted Santos to begin laying gas pipelines for a section of the Barossa gas project. The company can start work on an 86 km section of pipeline for the Barossa gas export pipeline (GEP), but it will be barred from starting work on the southern section of the pipeline pending a final ruling, Santos said on November 14.
“Santos notes the decision of the Federal Court of Australia today ruling pipelay activities can commence on an 86 km section of pipeline for the Barossa GEP,” the company said. “As per the ruling, no activity will occur south of kilometre point 86 (KP86).”
The point KP86 is about 70 km north of Tiwi Islands. The court had on November 2 granted an interim injunction to prevent Santos from commencing work on the GEP.
The decision comes in connection with an application by an indigenous group seeking an order that Santos revise and resubmit the environment plan that was accepted by the regulator, NOPSEMA, in March 2020. The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), a non-profit organization representing the indigenous group, alleges that the pipeline will have significant environmental impacts and risks, in particular to submerged Tiwi cultural heritage.
The court has set December 4 as the date of commencement of the hearing of the application brought by Simon Munkara and two others seeking to restrain Santos from continuing the pipelay until it revises its environmental plan after re-consultation with relevant persons, and NOPSEMA accepts a revised plan.
Drilling at the project has been suspended since September last year after a judge set aside the acceptance by NOPSEMA of the environment plan covering the drilling activities.
Barossa's gas supplies are intended to extend the life of Santos's 3.7mn tonnes/year Darwin LNG facility in the Northern Territory. The $3.6bn investment programme got underway with the project's final investment decision last March 2021, with the first gas due in 2025.
“With the Barossa project set to supply the Darwin LNG plant for years to come, it is important for local jobs, as well as opportunities for Traditional Owners, exports, and relationships with investors and gas customers in Asia, that this project continues,” Santos said.
Santos on November 1 said it would "vigorously defend" the legal proceeding brought by the EDO. The company has said that provided the pipelay is completed in 2023, and drilling activities commence before the end of the year, guidance to the market on Barossa cost and schedule remains unchanged.