Anger at gas plan – Oil giant to drill in Bass Strait

PLANS to start drilling for gas in Bass Strait near King Island next year have been announced by a joint venture partner of US oil giant ConocoPhillips.

Despite fierce opposition to seismic testing conducted last year off the north and west coast of the island, the King Island community has not been informed of the plans.

3D Oil Ltd managing director and executive chairman Noel Newell told investors in an online webinar recently that the joint venture between 3D Oil Ltd and US energy company ConocoPhillips was planning to start drilling for gas in the permit area next year.

This is an escalated timeline to the one that was indicated to the community at the end of last year’s seismic testing.

King Island residents, Mayor Julie Arnold and environmental groups mobilised against last year’s testing, concerned it would damage local fisheries and marine life, threatening economic and environmental viability.

There were also fears for migrating whales, which at one point halted the seismic testing.

The seismic survey finished at the end of October and ConocoPhilips indicated it would spend up to two years analysing the data.

Mrs Arnold has expressed concern around the latest development.

“The stakeholders have not been consulted or engaged, so how can they make decisions?” she said.
“I expect to see a solid report before any drilling starts. I also expect to see an environmental impact report.”

Mr Newell told investors in March the seismic data was being processed in Houston.

“We will be seeing that data shortly,” he said.
“Very exciting. These are large features down there, and in my view, this could really change the East Coast gas market. It was successful. We are planning to drill in 2023.
“It’s a frontier, it’s in shallow water. It’s new infrastructure, and it’s close, and feeds the East Coast gas market.”

Melbourne-based 3D Oil Limited is a listed energy company with a focus on exploration and development of upstream oil and gas assets in the Gippsland Basin, Victoria and the Otway Basin, Tasmania.

ConocoPhillips Australia acquired 80 per cent interest in 3D Oil’s T/49P exploration permit in 2020.

ConocoPhillips completed the acquisition of Sequoia 3D MSS (the seismic survey 18 km off the west coast of King Island) on behalf of the joint venture and completed it on 31 October 2021.

The purpose of the Sequoia 3DMSS was to acquire geophysical data to provide a 3D image of the subsurface geology within the T/49P permit area to identify prospective commercially viable gas reservoirs for future development.

In response to the 3D Oil Ltd announcement, a ConocoPhillips Australia spokesperson said the company continued to develop and refine plans for the T/49P permit which included evaluation of the seismic data acquired in 2021.

“Evaluation of this data will be ongoing through 2022. As with seismic acquisition, drilling also requires an accepted environment plan which involves stakeholder consultation,” the spokesperson said.

Greens Senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson opposed the seismic testing and wants the government to “kill” the project.

“Scott Morrison killed oil and gas drilling project PEP-11, located offshore of Sydney and Newcastle, due to significant community and environmental concerns. “Labor leader Anthony Albanese also supported this project being stopped,” Senator Whish-Wilson said. A Bill has been launched to ban all offshore leases around the North West of Tasmania and King Island.

This will be voted on by the Tasmanian Parliament in the coming months. It follows the rejection of the PEP-11 leases in NSW.

Federal Liberal member for Braddon Gavin Pearce, who last year expressed his concern at seismic testing off King Island said the evaluation of the data was still ongoing.

“No decision has been made by ConocoPhillips. Once a decision is made and if ConocoPhillips wish to proceed, there are still significant processes that must be completed, including having an accepted environmental plan approved, which includes community input.

“This is not over by a long shot and I am on the side of King Island. I will be ensuring the views of the island are represented, you can trust me on that.”

Labor candidate for Braddon Chris Lynch is also reported as it being vital that the King Island community be consulted and informed.

Last year ConocoPhillips said it had strictly complied with regulatory requirements imposed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema), which approved the testing.

The required reports can be viewed on the company’s website au/what-we-do/otway-basin.

To listen to Mr Newell’s investor webinar go to NK00aSo56KE

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