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Santos becomes fourth company to abandon drilling intentions in the Great Australian Bight

ABC Business logoABC Business 16/07/2021
a rocky island in the middle of a body of water: Drilling in the Great Australian Bight has been strongly opposed by environmental groups. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght) © Provided by ABC Business Drilling in the Great Australian Bight has been strongly opposed by environmental groups. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)

Santos has surrendered its right to explore for oil in the Great Australian Bight. 

The company announced on Friday that along with Murphy Oil Corporation, it had relinquished the permit it was awarded in 2013 to explore the site.

Murphy Oil had a 20 per cent interest in the permit. 

In a statement, a Santos spokesman said the permit was surrendered in good standing after completing "the joint venture's work program obligations". 

"The Santos strategy is to build and grow around our five core long-life natural gas assets and the Great Australian Bight falls outside these assets," he said. 

The spokesman said Santos was focused on "pursuing disciplined growth" across its core assets.

"This includes our sanctioned Barossa gas project offshore the Northern Territory which will backfill our Darwin LNG project," he said. 

"Our Moomba carbon capture and storage project in the Cooper Basin is planned for a final investment decision later this year.

"The Dorado oil and gas project offshore Western Australia and the Narrabri domestic gas project in New South Wales will both face investment decisions over the next couple of years."

Conservationists welcome decision

Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter described the development as a "momentous win for people and the planet". 

"This is an incredible win for all of those who relentlessly campaigned for years to protect the Great Australian Bight from offshore drilling," he said. 

"So many determined Australians worked incredibly hard to kick big oil companies out of our precious Bight, including coastal communities, Indigenous traditional owners, surfers, the seafood industry, tourism operators and other local businesses." 

Last year, Norwegian company Equinor dropped its plan to drill for oil in the Bight, concluding that the exploration was "not commercially competitive" compared with other exploration opportunities. 

BP abandoned its intentions to drill for oil in the Bight in 2016 and Chevron followed suit in 2017. 

Now that Santos has surrendered its permit, Bight Petroleum is the only contender — but in February, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) knocked back the exploration company's request to extend its work program

Mr Ritter called for the federal government to impose a permanent moratorium on drilling for oil in the Bight. 

"The only way to protect coastal communities and the Great Australian Bight's unique marine life is to rule out drilling permanently," he said. 


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