Oil spill in Great Australian Bight could reach Sydney's beaches

Eugene Boisvert...
Swellnet Dispatch

The issue of drilling in the Bight has been vigourously pursued by small surfing communities along the Eyre Peninsula, helped along by the likes of Patagonia who've concentrated their energies on the proposal. Now however, the issue is gaining a wider audience as people realise that should an mishap happen the damage will be felt far beyond those distant coastal towns.

If an oil spill happened in the Great Australian Bight, it could reach as far east as Port Macquarie's beaches, two thirds of the way up the New South Wales coast, according to a leaked draft environment plan obtained by the ABC.

Under a "worst credible case discharge" scenario, more than 10 grams of oil per square metre could wash up on some of Australia's coasts, according to the document authored by Norwegian oil company Equinor.

Maps show coastal areas that could potentially be impacted, from above Sydney to Albany in Western Australia.

Environmental group Greenpeace, which obtained the leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan, said it was the first time modelling had shown an oil spill could reach so far.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the plan would be "utterly terrifying" for anyone who relied on the Great Australian Bight for their livelihoods.

"We've seen some modelling from potential accidents in the Bight before, what we've never seen… is the potential for oil to reach as far north along the NSW coast as Port Macquarie, including famous beaches like Bondi, like Manly, and like Newcastle," Mr Pelle said.

"The reason oil companies have to plan for worst-case scenarios is because sometimes they occur."

A map showing the maximum possible shoreline loading under 100 scenarios for an oil spill from a well in the Great Australian Bight. (Supplied)

Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, wants to drill for oil off South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, with similar plans abandoned by BP and Chevron.

The leaked document shows the combined areas of risk under 100 different spills starting at various times over the October–May drilling season.

It shows how far the oil could travel in 60 days after the flow of oil is stopped by drilling a relief well to kill the original well.

In the plan, the drilling would take an estimated 102 days.

Situation 'extremely unlikely'

Equinor Australia country manager Jone Stangeland confirmed the document was part of an unfinished environment plan that had been distributed to state governments.

He said the map was "based on a extremely unlikely worst-case event, simulated 100 times in different weather conditions and without any response action taken".

In reality, the company would react swiftly, he said.

"The images don't represent an actual scenario, but the combination of 100 different extremely unlikely worst-case scenarios," he said.

"For Equinor, no oil spills are acceptable, and we will not go ahead until we are convinced we can drill safely."

He said the full draft environment plan would be released on the company's website and that of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority in the first quarter of next year for public comment.

"Equinor will be the first company to publish a draft environment plan for an offshore exploration well for public comment," Mr Stangeland said.

"We consider that transparency is essential in building trust with communities."

A map of potential oil exposure on the sea surface from a spill in the Great Australian Bight. (Supplied)

He said Equinor had drilled more than 6,000 wells off Norway without any well incidents that resulted in pollution of the coastline.

It would only undertake drilling in Australia if it could be done safely, he said.

"We have extremely robust response arrangements so we can act immediately in the case of any unplanned event," he said.

Debate over oil jobs versus effect on fishing

Since plans were first floated for oil drilling in the Bight in 2011, a fierce debate has been underway across the communities of the Eyre Peninsula that rely on the area's waters.

Whales in the Great Australian Bight in South Australia. (ABC News: Nicola Gage)

According to a report commissioned by Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, Equinor's plans to drill in the Bight could bring up to 1,500 jobs to South Australia over the next 40 years.

But members of the fishing industry see the plan as a direct threat to the industry that has provided for Port Lincoln since the 1960s and, according to the local chamber of commerce, account for 5,100 jobs in the city of 16,000 people.

Opponents point to the damage to the Gulf of Mexico caused by an explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig.

After the accident, 750 million litres of oil poured into the Gulf's waters for 87 days.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


daltz's picture
daltz's picture
daltz commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 4:06pm

It's just insanity, for such a relic (pun) of a resource to be jeopardising the coast. There is too much to lose for the ecosystem and lively hoods of existing businesses, regardless of the precautions and clean up plans. Once its fucked, its fucked for a long time. .
It is not an essential resource (it can be easily sourced from existing channels), ventures owned by offshore interests and is purely profit driven. Its a crazy world.
Yes I know my quiver its petro based, oil is in x, y and z, and it is a case of NIMBY. So be it. That coast is very important for the oceans of the world, and (selfishly)arguably a right of passage for our weird little subculture, crossing the nullabor and getting a few caverns at caves and blacks.
Keep up the fight SA, let me know where to sign.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 6:35pm

sign here
you also get a cool sticker.

daltz's picture
daltz's picture
daltz commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 7:43am

Thanks pal

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 4:35pm

They are practically giving barrels of oil away even though we are getting fleeced at the pump, so why invest in a project that could jeopardize such a unique coastline for no return on investment?

This is insane.

MattBailey's picture
MattBailey's picture
MattBailey commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 6:24am

the answers in the question. when we're getting fleeced, some one some where is making a crap load of money... jerks.

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 4:44pm

Election Now

Baseball bat locked and loaded

michaelwest's picture
michaelwest's picture
michaelwest commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 4:45pm

They keep doing sneaky new deals to flick this Bight project from one Big Oil player to another - BP, Chevron etc. None of the majors pay any tax. Govt needs to nix this idea for good

rhys1983's picture
rhys1983's picture
rhys1983 commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 6:22pm

maybe You should all stop using petroleum products then they wouldn’t need to drill?

Put your money where your mouth is.

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 7:18pm

Exactly the electric vehicle/ electric everything revolution is upon us! Fuck big oil and coal! Sorry to all u coal miners, time to get a job at a lithium mine!

rhys1983's picture
rhys1983's picture
rhys1983 commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 7:41pm

Sounds simple.

What are the EVs like to drive?

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 8:10pm

I don't own one, hypocritical I know after my last statement. I need a ute for work, Tesla is working on one now. Everything else I use for work/garden is battery operated, batteries these days are awesome and only going to get better.
The electric vehicle will be the norm around the world between now and 10 years, most of Europe is banning the sale of 'ice' vehicles or fossil fuel cars between 2020-2030. South Korea banning from 2020, UK 2040, India 2030, China 2040.

rhys1983's picture
rhys1983's picture
rhys1983 commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 8:53pm

That’s all really good. I think EVs are going to be awesome.

I think it’s a complex issue and the only reason oil companies drill is because of demand.

Pretty much everything relies on it in one way or the other - mining and processing lithium / spodumene does.

It’s simplistic and pointless to say “fuck big oil” while we are still reliant. Better off focusing on removing reliance.

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 8:59pm

I agree, sorry I got a bit carried away with the 'fuck big oil' statement.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 2:39am

Nah, don't take it back. Fuck big oil.

The sooner I can get my hands on an EV the better.

Apeedayz's picture
Apeedayz's picture
Apeedayz commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 8:26am

You will need to start making all the roads out of concrete (just as bad) as there won’t be any bitumen/tar, cant use anything bacalite or plastic, or grease any bearings on anything that rotates.
Surf trips will be either very expensive or take a long time as airlines need fuel, or go by yacht to indo.
It’s not just cars and petrol, petroleum products span over a vast range of areas and are part of everyday items we use. They are firmly embedded in a huge amount of our world.
Even the cover on your mobile phone, and your computer keyboard that you are commenting on this topic with.
Not driving a car doesn’t put them out of business, there is a lot more to it than that.

sirboonie's picture
sirboonie's picture
sirboonie commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 9:11am

I've been looking at making the switch. Check out the Renault Kangoo Z.E. (minivan), might suit your needs, only recently available in Oz. Or plonk a trailer on the back? Mitsubishi outlander phev gets good reviews too. They're still pretty pricey, but if you've got solar they are cheap as to run.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 7:48pm

Es un trabajo duro en una mina de litio en el Triángulo Dorado de Chile

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018 at 8:23pm

Entiendo, es hora de que el gobierno australiano apoye el resurso que tenemo aqui australia. They are not helping any lithium miners get off the ground here cos there interests lie in oil and coal

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 10:20am

Que yo sepa, Lynas extrae tierras raras, también hay mineros de cobalto ubicados alrededor de Australia. Algunas empresas australianas están desarrollando depósitos de litio en el Golden Triange mencionado anteriormente en América del Sur, otras están desarrollando tecnología de plantas de proceso. A finales de 2017, sus precios subieron y ahora han caído.

Una advertencia: el litio en sí mismo es un recurso no renovable. Se acumula en un proceso geológico muy singular. Mire la cantidad de toneladas minadas frente a la cantidad que se requeriría para que se convierta cada automóvil en la tierra. Alcanzaremos restricciones sobre el litio en sí, y su minería sí tiene un impacto ambiental. Tendremos que hacer una transición más allá del litio para nuestra tecnología de batería.

Niza hablando en español contigo. Buenas olas para ti mi amigo

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 8:12am

Has anyone been able to cross the Nullabour in a fully electric car that can carry a couple of people, a heap of gear and several boards? Until an electric car can go further than the next town with a power plug then its not on my list

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 11:39am

A straight through road trip from Adelaide to Coffs would certainly take a lot longer than 20 hours in an EV. A modern Transporter with 80lt fuel tank can do the trip with one stop for fuel at Dubbo. An EV would need several stops culminating in many hours of charge time.

Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 11:40am

Wouldn't/Couldn't a Bass Strait spill end up on the beaches in Sydney?
Wouldn't/Couldn't an Otway spill end up on the beaches in Sydney?
Come on swell net, why start the topic with a media typical "fear" driven headline ( to sell the story of course )
There seems to be a lot of social media driven fear pushing this one a long...
There is substantial Oil n Gas infrastructure now along the Ningaloo, Pilbara & Kimberley coast but no one seems to concerned and for the most part ( excluding PTTP ) managed responsibly...
Of course there is always a chance of something going awry but in my experience the industry understands the spotlight is shining brightly on offshore Oil n Gas and the industry cant afford a mishap therefor that alone helps set and maintain worlds best practise...
While we rely so heavily on crude then it has to come from somewhere and it seems the not in my back yard team are out in full force on this one....
Just remember all you daddys out there, there is a cup of crude in every nappy you throw on your grommets shitty arse.....
When all the west coast prawn trawlers, sardine boats etc etc are back running on steam then those folk can perhaps jump up n down a little louder in the meantime its all hypocritical....

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 1:26pm

Boon how hard would it be for Oz to run its vehicle fleet on CNG?

We already have the infrastructure for this, correct me if wrong.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 2:16pm

Pre- 2000 universal battery-terminal/fuel nozzle.(So simple it had to be too good to be true)
Beyond 2000 patents warrant a different power lead for each Car/country/Recharge Station.
Each Electric Car has different leads/Plugs/Sockets.Did we mere mortals expect otherwise?
It's really simple to follow...
A/C usually double ended BYO leads are mix'n'match
D/C usually Bowser style single ended handle feed (set/combo + BYO adaptors)

Portable Home Charger = very low charge (Universal electrical socket adaptor)
Type 1=Slow (Can't adapt to Type 2)(Type 2 + Type 2 Tesla can adapt via Type 1 lead)
Type 2=Slow (Type 2 in non compatible with Type 2 Tesla)
Type 3 =Fast (10mins = 1hr drivetime)These are confined to Major Transit Hubs/Airports.

Japanese/US drive on opposite sides of the road therefore share the CCS Combo Type I
Europe/Australia drive on opposite sides of road therefore share the CCS Combo Type II
Japan/Australia drive on same side of road therefore need some weird unheard of Combo
European/US drive on same side of road therefore require an even more mental Combo

Every 5 years a bright spark tries to design universal charge socket larger than space station
More chance of winning lotto than combo a charge lead... Barrel of laughs for Big Oil. Cogswell cog's cables are non compatible with Spacely Sprocket's sprung out sockets

For a Cable-Car to enter each town costs $500/lead. ('Haveoneafterthelongweekendmate!')
Car Yard Sharks declare it's the law to sell you a bootload of snakes.
My pet driverless car still can't find the jack...On the road to nowhere!

Johno210's picture
Johno210's picture
Johno210 commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 2:45pm

The proposed drill site is 350km SW of Ceduna with drilling depth of 2,250m. According to Brian Jefferies spokesperson for Southern Bluefin association if an oil leak occurred there would only be a handful of boats in the region capable of assisting. Very different scenario to Gulf Of Mexico oil spill which was in protected waters and 5,000 boats assisted. By BP's own admission if a serious oil spill was to occur the local coastline would be oiled after 7 days. The response time to cap an oil spill in this region will be weeks if not months so the worse case scenario of East Coast oiling is very credible.

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump commented Thursday, 15 Nov 2018 at 4:29pm

rhys1983 - “Better off focusing on removing reliance”. Spot on. We are all greedy fuckers who expect so little of ourselves. It’s a finite resource causing a barrel full of problems, but we can’t get past bickering with each other enough to take the action to fix the issue. We are hopelessly addicted.

Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 9:11am


Would you expect Brian Blue Fin Tuna man to state anything different!?!
Of course Brian will be anti anything that can be detrimental to lining his pockets.
Dont be so naive....
How many thousands of litres of diesel does the Tuna industry chew up as a collective per week per year...
Stating how many boats required if a spill was to occur is like saying if there is a fire in the back paddock you need X amount of fire trucks....
There are so many variables.
No body likes change and especially if its something foreign, social media driven fear will have a huge impact on peoples emotions...

Johno210's picture
Johno210's picture
Johno210 commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 10:37am

Well Brian Jefferies (AM) is not some left wing zealot quite the opposite .

I'm not opposed to oil & gas exploration per se but there are some locations which are either too environmentally sensitive (Antarctica) or in this case too risky.

What's an acceptable risk factor of a mayor oil spill ?

What will be the response time by Equinor if a major spill occurs ?
35 days plus ? Will a capping rig be ready in the region if such an event occurred or will it based in Singapore ?

Too many unanswered questions by Equinor !

Do your research take a look at what is being proposed by Equinor but to make an informed decision the community needs to see the final submission to NOPSEMA & have that submission explained in laymans language.

adambol1's picture
adambol1's picture
adambol1 commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 10:49am

If EV's become the standard, does anyone know how all the E is to be produced?

If it was easy eveyone would do it.

Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 12:56pm

Take a wild stab in the dark Adam, But i'd say Coal, Gas, Solar and then last in line would be wind powered generation....

Not sounding so clean n green now aint it....

Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 1:09pm


After the Montara fuck up in the Kimberley and Macondo in the GOM, I was pissed off that Nopsema granted PTTP access again to Montara but with the dispersant COREXIT still the product listed in the safety case should there be a spill. It is my understanding COREXIT did arguably as much damage as the crude itself in the Gulf...
If i was in anyway involved in the Bight Campaign i'd be wanting to find out more about that side of things...
To Equinors defence regarding releasing more info about additional resources if there was a spill that one is a tough one for them to answer but you can be sure any company that has a vested interest in Oil n Gas would be throwing the kitchen sink at any problem should it arise....
The depth of the proposed exploration area is going to provide challenges but the conditions expected out there are nothing new to places like the Arctic, North Sea, Alaska, Sakhalins etc...

adambol1's picture
adambol1's picture
adambol1 commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 4:16pm

So we've got E for our transport generated by one of coal venting atmospheric CO2, off shore hydrocarbons with possible oil spills, solar panels covering pastures, wind turbines giving folks close by head aches and blighting the views and U scaring us all with possible radiation.
Who is up for less power and less adverse outcomes?

If it was easy eveyone would do it.

Johno210's picture
Johno210's picture
Johno210 commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 10:15pm

Boon, have you looked at the information provided in the Senate Inquiry into drilling in the GAB ? The risk is too big ! Because the perceived benefits to a nation are less than the loss of income to the small towns which are frontline of an oil spill / contamination. This is not a case of winner take oil !
In regards to depth of drilling and NW shelf oil spills - there has been no depth of drilling in an environment similar to the Bight...fact . Other locations may share similar depth but not an open ocean which is so subject to wind & ground swell. Oil spills on the NW shelf end up in Indonesia, via tidal currents.
Look at the results of the Senate Inquiry, which in the end, had more recommendations about strengthening NOPSEMA than any other issue!!! Despite the Gov of the day, saying yeah, there's no problems with our regulation body, we've got it covered - The Turnbull Gov did add more authority to NOPSEMA because they could see how deficient they were (in both expertise and authority) AND then look at Nick X's extra comments about the 'Precautionary Principle' and you'll understand why many "consider this an unacceptable risk"
So in conclusion this has nothing to do with social media or opposition to change but the power of Science & Technology and the ability of Equinor to prove to the Community & Government that they have all risks accounted for and that no major oil leaks will occur.

Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 1:37pm

You are asking too much IMO,
While worlds best practises will be implemented you seem to be asking for a 100% guarantee, that is not possible...
At the start of the cray season do the cray fisherman ( that line the beaches with plastic ) have to sign an affidavit stating they wont loose one pot/pot rope, no bait baskets will wash ashore and certainly no whales will become entangled... No they dont and IMO more should be done to clean up the pollution associated with that industry but i'm getting off topic...
At this point in time you cant put a dollar value on the pros vs the cons of a successful/unsuccessful drilling campaign followed by the construction/production should commercial oil be found/developed...
I'm not pro not anti as i haven't read enough about this one but ultra deep water drilling in harsh environments is common practise nowadays....

.cylinders's picture
.cylinders's picture
.cylinders commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 4:25am

I support opposition to drilling in the Bight.

weasel's picture
weasel's picture
weasel commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 10:22am

I am not real keen on the idea of drilling in the Bight.
Just an aside to the conversation on the need for oil. The petroleum industry supplies most of the ingredients to the surfboard industry polystyrene and polyurethane foams, epoxy and polyester resins. The plastics in your legrope, board bag, deckgrip fin boxes etc.


Johno210's picture
Johno210's picture
Johno210 commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 3:38pm

Boon, have a read of the attached link.

"Oil giant BP claimed an oil spill off the Australian coast would be “socially acceptable” and even of benefit to local communities, newly released documents have revealed."


cyclichigh's picture
cyclichigh's picture
cyclichigh commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 7:00pm

Currently on a platform tethered to seabed 250 metres below and around 450 kms north of Broome and Roti just up the road. In case you were wondering what a NOPSEMA is:
Whether you like it or not O&G industry will be around for a very long time yet - educate yourselves.


Boon's picture
Boon's picture
Boon commented Tuesday, 20 Nov 2018 at 6:40am


I had a read, something is a miss in that article...

I'm not sure if you are in anyway familiar with the Gorgon project on Barrow island in WA. The lengths Chevron went to to get the biggest project in this countries history completed was quite incredible ( barrow island being an "A" class flora and fauna reserve )
By the way IMO the island was already pretty fucked and most of what was done was to be seen to be "attempting" to do the right thing environmentally....
Anyway my long winded point here is.....
Why would a company like BP make damaging comments like that to its own campaign especially off the back of the GOM spill?
These companies throw massive amounts of money into ensuring they cross the T's and dot the I's so you have to ask yourself why would they make statements that are naive and incorrect.
By the time 2016 came a long BP would have spent a massive amount of money ( i've heard the Ocean Great White was built at a cost of $900,000,000 ) so why would you derail your own drilling campaign with cowboy statements such as the ones printed in the article?
A PR disaster and one that makes no sense....