Energy giant Chevron Corp yesterday joined BP PLC in ditching plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight citing weak oil prices, with environmentalists urging other major players to follow suit.
The company had planned to drill exploration wells to look for oil or natural gas after acquiring two deep water blocks spanning more than 32,000 square kilometers off the pristine South Australian coast in 2013.
However, its plans sparked environmental concern, as the huge Bight is a haven for whales, seals, dolphins and penguins, and home to sea eagles and albatross.
British oil giant BP abandoned its plans to drill in the area last year after reviewing its global exploration program.
Chevron Australia Ltd managing director Nigel Hearne said low oil prices had forced it to concentrate on other projects.
He said it was a commercial decision and not related to environmental or regulatory issues.
“We appreciate the strong support from governments, regulators and the local community for our plans to explore for hydrocarbons offshore South Australia,” he said in a statement.
Chevron’s focus is to shift to newly acquired acreage off Western Australia.
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association director Matthew Doman said the decision was disappointing, adding that success in the Bight would ease Australia’s reliance on imported oil.
“In Australia, onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration is at 30-year lows due to difficult market conditions, escalating regulatory costs and political bans on energy development,” Doman said.
Environmentalists cheered the move, with the Wilderness Society urging Norway’s Statoil ASA and other companies to follow BP and Chevron’s lead.
“Statoil, Santos, Murphy and Karoon will face the same massive costs and increasing community opposition that BP and Chevron experienced,” said the society’s South Australia director Peter Owen.
Jeff Hansen, the Australian chief of activist group Sea Shepherd, also backed the move.
“BP and Chevron should be applauded for doing the responsible and right thing here,” he said. “We urge Norway’s Statoil to do the same or face an ever greater opposition as the movement for the protection of the Bight grows stronger by the day.”
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