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Norwegian-based energy company Equinor has decided not to continue its oil exploration program in the Great Australian Bight, offshore from South Australia.

Equinor’s detailed Environment Plan had been thoroughly assessed by Australia’s independent regulator,  the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), and it approved the proposed drilling activity in December 2019. 

Prior to the approval, Equinor had discussed its plans with hundreds of South Australian community leaders and the broader public.

APPEA’s Director South Australia, Matthew Doman, said exploration success in the Bight could have eased Australia’s reliance on imported oil and delivered the state much-needed new investment and jobs.

“A 2018 study by ACIL Allen found successful oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight could see the creation of more than 2,000 jobs in South Australia and generate over $7 billion in average annual tax revenue to federal and state governments over the next four decades,” Mr Doman said.

“Successful development could also boost our energy security. Australia’s oil production has fallen significantly over the last ten years, and we now import over 80 per cent of the oil we use.

“While our energy mix is changing, all credible analysis shows Australia will use a lot of oil and gas for decades to come.

“The proposed exploration activity had been subject to an extreme campaign of false and exaggerated claims that deliberately overstated the risks and ignored the potential benefits.

“Of course, any exploration and development has to be done in an environmentally safe manner. We have to make sure there’s no negative impact on existing industries or coastal communities – and the industry remains committed to that.”

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, said the decision is disappointing but Equinor is not leaving Australia.

“Equinor has made it clear this was a commercial decision and the company will continue to be part of the Australian oil and gas industry,” Mr Pitt said.

“I know many will find Equinor’s decision not to proceed with this oil exploration project in the Great Australian Bight extremely disappointing, and it is particularly hard for South Australia.

“The Liberals and Nationals Government remains committed to encouraging the safe development of Australia’s offshore petroleum resources, which is overseen by a world-class independent regulator in the NOPSEMA.”

Equinor continues to have an interest in oil and gas exploration in Australia, including an exploration permit offshore Western Australia.

“The Bight Basin remains one of Australia’s frontier basins and any proposals for new oil and gas fields in this area will be assessed fairly and independently,” Mr Pitt said. 

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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