International energy firm Equinor is seeking environment plan (EP) approval for the proposed Stromlo-1 exploration drilling program in permit EPP 39 license in the Great Australian Bight.


Image:The Stromlo-1 well is located 372km off the coast of South Australia. Photo: Image by C Morrison from Pixabay.

The firm has submitted environment plan to the Australia’s independent expert regulator for offshore drilling National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

NOPSEMA will now begin its formal assessment of the environment plan and the potential environmental impacts of the exploration drilling prior to making decisions.

The Stromlo-1 well is located 372km off the coast of South Australia and 476km west of Port Lincoln, and in a water depth of approximately 2240m.

Equinor fully owns and operates the offshore exploration permits EPP 39 and 40, both located in the Great Australian Bight.

In February 2019, Equinor released draft environment plan for the proposed drilling program in the Great Australian Bight for 30-day public comment, the first time a draft environment plan for an offshore exploration well was published prior to the assessment by the independent regulator.

At that time, Equinor country manager for Australia Jone Stangeland said: “We have made the draft EP available to members of the community and we will take all comments into consideration before updating our EP and submitting it to the independent regulator.

“This draft EP is the result of more than two years of careful preparation and our 1,500-page plan demonstrates how we can drill safely and includes a robust emergency response plan.

“The EP documents the existing environment in the Great Australian Bight and describes all relevant risks, however unlikely. By identifying every possible risk, we can better prepare for safe operations.”

More than 30,000 submissions were received by NOPSEMA during the public comment period which ended in March 2019.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Equinor plans to commence drilling activities in the summer of 2020/2021.

The firm is planning to utilize a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) supported by three offshore vessels and helicopters for the drilling program.

Following drilling, the Stromlo-1 well will not be cored or production tested for hydrocarbons upon potential discovery.

The well is planned to be permanently plugged and abandoned following drilling while the results will be assessed to determine whether to proceed with appraisal or further exploration.