BP drops oil drilling exploration in the Great Australian Bight

A Southern Right Whale and calf in the western areas of the Great Australian Bight. Morne De Klerk/Getty Images

BP has abandoned an exploration drilling program in the Great Australian Bight off South Australia’s west coast.

The British multinational oil and gas company says the project didn’t measure up to other opportunities in the company’s portfolio competing for capital investment.

“We have looked long and hard at our exploration plans for the Great Australian Bight but, in the current external environment, we will only pursue frontier exploration opportunities if they are competitive and aligned to our strategic goals,” says Claire Fitzpatrick, BP’s managing director for exploration and production, Australia.

“After extensive and careful consideration, this has proven not to be the case for our project to explore in the Bight.”

BP was awarded exploration licences for four blocks in the Ceduna area of the bight in January 2011.

Other companies, including the US giant Chevron, also have exploration licences in the bight.

Environmental groups, including the Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, have been vocally opposed to drilling in the area.

However, BP says the decision is about strategy and nothing to do with pending approvals from NOPSEMA, the federal agency regulating environmental management of offshore petroleum facilities.

“This decision has been incredibly difficult and we acknowledge it will be felt across the South Australia region,” says Fitzpatrick.