Group urges BP to clarify Bight plans

An environmentalist group has called on oil giant BP to clarify its position on drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

The company in October said it had dropped long-running plans to drill four exploration wells in waters off South Australia.

But a Senate inquiry in Adelaide has been told that two environmental plans remain before the regulatory authority, prompting the Wilderness Society to urge the company to withdraw the applications.

"BP needs to come clean with the Australian people and follow through its promise to stop its drilling program and withdraw its applications, not leave the applications hanging like a sword above the Australian people," the group's South Australian director Peter Owen said.

BP said it was working with its joint venture partner Statoil "to establish the next steps" and an extension of time on its environmental plan until December 31 allowed for those discussions to continue.

Statoil, which is based in Norway, still has the Ceduna Basin project listed on its website.

But, as a 30 per cent stakeholder, it said it had been informed of BP's decision not to proceed with exploration.

At Wednesday's Senate committee hearing the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority said it had noted BP's public statements about withdrawing from the drilling program but it still had two environment plans from the company under assessment.

It said one of those plans was the subject of a request for further information and BP was expected to provide that material by the end of the year.

When it scrapped the exploration program, BP said the decision followed a review of its future global opportunities with the project failing to deliver enough reward on investment.

"We will only pursue frontier exploration opportunities if they are competitive and aligned to our strategic goals," managing director for exploration and production Claire Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

"After extensive and careful consideration, this has proven not to be the case for our project to explore in the Bight."

SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said BP's decision was "bitterly disappointing" but the government believed the Bight would be explored at some stage.

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