Exploring in the Great Australian Bight

Update on Great Australian Bight exploration

BP has taken the decision not to progress its exploration drilling programme in the Great Australian Bight, offshore South Australia.

Exploring in the Great Australian Bight

We are proposing to explore for oil and gas by drilling four wells in permit areas in the Great Australian Bight off the South Australian coast. The drilling will seek to determine whether commercial quantities of hydrocarbon resources exist within the permit areas.

The wells will be drilled using a newly-built mobile offshore drilling rig, called Ocean GreatWhite, which has been specially designed for use in deep water.

For more general information, read our fact sheets on exploration and drilling.

Environment plan

Any offshore petroleum activity, from seismic surveys to production facilities, requires operators to submit an environment plan to the independent regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Read an overview of the environment plan that was submitted to NOPSEMA or visit the environment plan section of the website to find out more.

Seismic survey

Regulatory approval was secured from the Australian and South Australian Governments in January 2011. A 3D seismic survey was then conducted over part of the permit area between November 2011 and May 2012.

For more information read our geology fact sheet and Sound exposure level modelling for the Ceduna 3D seismic survey.

Stakeholder consultation

Stakeholder consultation helps us identify and address key operational and environmental issues as we move through the various phases of the project. For example, discussions with interest groups and the fishing industry provided valuable feedback on how we can best undertake the exploration activity.

We continue to consult widely with relevant, interested and affected parties based on the nature, location and duration of the proposed exploration in the Great Australian Bight. These parties include: federal, state and local governments and regulators; other commercial operators in the Great Australian Bight, such as the fishing industry; non-government organisations; and community groups.

Commercialising discoveries of oil & gas

We believe the Great Australian Bight could be a new hydrocarbon basin for Australia and the world.

There are similarities in the geology of the Great Australian Bight to some of the world’s biggest hydrocarbon provinces such as the Niger Delta and the Mississippi Delta.

While we believe the basic elements for oil and gas deposits – hydrocarbon producing shales and coals, porous reservoir rocks and sealing cap rocks which trap the hydrocarbons – exist in the Great Australian Bight, the only way to determine whether commercial volumes of hydrocarbon exist is through drilling exploration wells.

We are still in the early stages of exploration. Any commercial development is subject to hydrocarbons being discovered and, in particular, the type and volumes of hydrocarbons.

External factors such as an enabling regulatory environment, and government and community support will also influence our ability to commercialise any discoveries.

Historical success rate of exploration wells

According to Geoscience Australia between 1955 and 2011, 4248 conventional exploration wells were drilled in onshore and offshore Australia. Of those 4248 wells, 1200 were considered as discoveries, representing a 28 per cent success rate. Once you exclude exploration in the top established proven basins the success rate reduces to about one in 10.

So you can see that our investment in exploration in the Great Australian Bight is by no means assured of success, but we have decades of experience in deep water and we are committed to our exploration program in the region.

Location of the proposed drilling area

The proposed drilling area has water depths of approximately 1000 to 2500 metres. At its closest point, the proposed drilling area is approximately 400 kilometres west of Port Lincoln and 300 kilometres south-west of Ceduna.

Jobs & economic benefits

Our drilling program in the Great Australian Bight creates jobs, opportunities for local suppliers and tax revenues for governments.

If our exploration program is successful, the development of a hydrocarbon province in the Great Australian Bight could substantially contribute to South Australia’s economy through construction, employment and other opportunities for local businesses.

Great Australian Bight Research Program

The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

The program aims to provide an holistic understanding of the environmental, economic and social values of the region.

More than 60 new species have been discovered in the Great Australian Bight as part of this program, which is one of the largest whole-of-ecosystem studies undertaken in Australian waters.

Related documents

Quickly access all documents referenced in the environment plan as well as other documents related to the Great Australian Bight drilling program.