Claire Fitzpatrick, 14 April 2016

THE Australian Senate Inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production in the Great Australian Bight off South Australia is welcomed by BP. It provides an opportunity for a fair and factual assessment of the oil and gas industry from a range of viewpoints.

In my view, BP and the broader industry can operate safely and responsibly in The Bight, while bringing potential future benefits to South Australia and the country as a whole.

Since first acquiring permits in The Bight in 2011, we have made it a priority to be open and transparent about our exploration plans. Over the past 18 months we have listened and responded to the questions of more than 60 community groups and industry and government representatives.

Oil has been produced in Australia since the 1960s and most recently more than 50 offshore wells have been drilled each year. More than a dozen exploration wells have been drilled in The Bight, including by BP, with the latest by Woodside in 2013.

While these attempts did not find developable oil and gas, we believe in the potential of the area and have committed to investing $605 million in our planned exploration program.

As emerging economies such as China and India increase their populations, they require energy for heat, light, electricity and transportation. Consumption is expected to grow by 34 per cent between 2014 and 2035, and oil and gas production will help to meet this demand.

We are fortunate to have very robust and rigorous regulatory oversight in Australia.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), the independent national regulator, oversees an ‘‘objectives-based system’’ that requires companies including BP to identify and appropriately manage risk.

This system ensures each activity is assessed based on its circumstances, instead of the one-size-fits-all approach taken in some other countries.

BP has developed a broad understanding of the marine environment in The Bight. We have assessed potential environmental issues and incorporated this into our planning.

Since the tragic Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, BP and the industry have advanced equipment, procedures and training/competency management in drilling safety, and prevention, containment and oil spill response.

BP puts significant emphasis on prevention, but also on preparation and response. Our response planning is based on worst–case scenarios and forms part of our environment plan, currently under assessment by NOPSEMA. Drilling cannot commence unless this plan is accepted.

The oil and gas industry and marine environments can safely exist together – regular offshore drilling activity around Australia is evidence of this.

The Bass Strait oil and gas province in the Bass Strait has operated since the 1960s and supported tens of thousands of jobs. More than 1000 SA businesses have expressed interest in working with BP through the Industry Capability Network. Such partnerships are already resulting in new local infrastructure and jobs.

If the industry makes a successful discovery in the Bight it offers exciting new possibilities for SA and the country.

Claire Fitzpatrick is BP’s Managing Director, Exploration and Production, Australia.

Extracted in full from the Adelaide Advertiser.