Renewed call for Heritage Listing for Bight

Renewed call for Heritage Listing for Bight

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has renewed her call for Heritage Listing of the Great Australian Bight following the recent release of modelling showing an oil spill in this pristine environment could end up being the largest in world history.

The BP modelling for a proposed drilling site in the Bight (now held by the company Equinor) was only released after a two-year legal battle by Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

It shows a Bight oil spill could release more than twice the amount of crude oil that entered the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, considered to be the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

“I find it incredible that Greenpeace had to fight to make this information public and it just reinforces my determination to bring in Heritage Listing protection for the Bight,” Rebekha said.

“I have a Private Member’s Bill drafted and will push the Federal Parliament to allow me to introduce it in the final sitting weeks of the year.

“The Bight is one of the most ecologically diverse marine environments in the world and so many communities in southern Australia, including the coastal areas of Mayo, stand to lose so much from an oil spill disaster that could spread as far east as Tasmania, perhaps even New Zealand.

“Imagine what would happen to the economies of our coastal communities if that happened?

“The fishing industry, the tourism industry - every fish and chip shop, every bed and breakfast would be affected. Too much is at stake.”

The information about a potential spill was contained in the Well Operations Management Plan accepted by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) in 2016.

The documents were released after a two year FOI battle by Greenpeace starting in August 2016

Equinor plans to drill the proposed site in 2019.

According to Greenpeace, the documents show:

  • A Bight oil spill could release more than twice the amount of crude oil that entered the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
  • Critical equipment needed to ‘cap’ a well blow-out could not be deployed in seas greater than 3.5m which at the well location occur more than a third of the time and equal to 122.8 complete days a year.
  • Although a “harsh environment” rig would be used for exploration drilling, it is ‘highly unlikely’ a second harsh environment rig could be found to drill a relief well and ‘kill’ the leak in case of an accident.
  • The pressures and temperatures any oil company might encounter when drilling in the Bight are subject to “significant uncertainty” due to the experimental and unprecedented nature of the project.