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    Equinor Drops Oz Bight Plans


The Norwegian producer said the project was not commercially competitive.

by: Joseph Murphy

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Equinor Drops Oz Bight Plans

Norway's Equinor has dropped plans to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight, it said on February 25, after concluding that the offshore project was "not commercially competitive."

The company finally secured approval in December from Australia's offshore safety and environment regulator Nopsema to sink the Stromlo-1 exploration well 400 km southwest of Ceduna, south Australia. Work on the well had been due to start in late 2020.

After reviewing its exploration portfolio, however, Equinor has decided to focus on other more commercial opportunities instead.

"The approval of the Stromlo-1 exploration well environment plan confirmed our ability to safely operate in the Bight," Equinor's Australia manager Jone Strangeland said. "However, Equinor has decided to discontinue its plans to drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well, as the opportunity is not commercially competitive."

The company has informed federal, South Australian and local authorities of its decision, it said.

"We hold an exploration permit offshore western Australia and will maintain other ongoing interests and activities in Australia," Strangeland said. 

Equinor secured shares in four licences in the Bight in 2013, partnering with BP. In 2017 it took over as operator of two of the licences, EPP39 and EPP40, while exiting the other two, through a swap deal with the UK major. BP had abandoned its exploration plans the previous year because of low oil and gas prices and subsequently left the Bight.

Other explorers such as ConocoPhillips and Australia-based Karoon Gas have similarly obtained licences in the region over the years only to withdraw before reaching the drilling phase.

Equinor repeatedly stalled work on the Stromlo-1 well because of permitting delays. Environmental groups have lobbied intensively against exploration of the Bight, citing the potential damage to marine life. The Wilderness Society South Australia in late January initiated legal proceedings to challenge Equinor's approval to drill.