Last Year Ningaloo, Now The Twelve Apostles
In a clear sign that nowhere in Australia is off limits to the offshore oil and gas industry, the release yesterday of the 2021 petroleum exploration acreage includes an area just five kilometres from the world famous Twelve Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.
You might remember last year’s annual release of new exploration territory for the oil and gas industry was to include an area adjacent to the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. The move provoked outrage from ocean lovers around the world, and the idea was shut down at the eleventh hour.
This has done nothing however to slow the march of oil and gas into pristine Australian waters, and yesterday’s announcement saw over 80,000 square kilometres of new marine territory – an area larger than Tasmania – handed over to the oil and gas industry for exploration. While the releases yesterday saw new 21 areas added – from the Bonaparte Gulf in the northwest right across the country to Gippsland in the southeast – it was the new releases in the Otway Basin that signalled the most significant shift in the future of the offshore gas industry in Australia.
The addition of a huge offshore area between Cape Otway and Cape Bridgewater off Victoria’s West Coast signals the oil and gas industry’s intent to develop the Otway Basin on a huge scale, shifting focus from its long established production fields over off Gippsland, many of which are reaching the end of their working lives as gas reservoirs dry up. In the Otways there are already several wells in production close offshore to Port Campbell, but yesterday’s release vastly increases the reach of the industry.
Of most interest in the Otway Basin release was area V21-3, just to the east of Port Campbell. The area is just five kilometres from the world renowned tourist attraction of the Twelve Apostles and runs parallel to the Great Ocean Road. How the gas industry and the area’s huge tourism industry will coexist is anyone’s guess.
The news of the release yesterday was condemned by environmental groups. “Is nothing sacred to these guys?” said Sean Doherty of the Surfrider Foundation. “Australia is swimming in gas production right now, and the idea of gas rigs and seismic testing next to the Twelve Apostles feels like satire. Instead of the Twelve Apostles we’ll have the Twelve Gas Rigs. You couldn’t make it up, and it makes a mockery of the Federal Government’s claim to be meaningfully interested in hitting net zero emissions by 2050. While the rest of the world is putting the handbrake on new fossil fuel development, Australia is hitting the gas.”
Banner image: GPInfo database