The Norwood Resource (TNR) has previously written about the manner in which KI Council mislead the KI community in an article entitled “Is KI Council misinforming the KI Community regarding seismic surveys?“.  Commenting on that article, the then deputy mayor (now mayor), Peter Clements, made a vain attempt at trying to defend the Council’s actions, mainly by changing the topic (fallacious argument strategy), but interested readers can judge for themselves the veracity of the mayor’s claims by reading the article and the comments at the end of the linked article.

The recent series of unsupported comments by Peter Clements, reported in an article entitled “Council Voices Opposition to Drilling” in the KI Islander on 23 June 2016, is yet another example of the extremely biased and misinformed position KI Council has adopted against the responsible development of the petroleum industry in South Australia.

If a reader is aware of the facts, it soon becomes very obvious that many of the claims made in the article are totally false.  Let’s have a look at a few:

1.Either Clements or the reporter, states “BP forges ahead with testing for planned sites in South Australian waters – including an area 140 kilometres west of Kangaroo Island.”  Incorrect! How could BP drill in an area that is 140km west of KI when it is not their licence area?  The following figure, sourced from BP’s publicly available Drilling Environment Plan (EP) Summary, demonstrates that their drilling area is more like 500km west of KI (and 395km west of Port Lincoln). How wrong can you be?!

Location of BP's permits in the GAB
Location of BP’s permits in the GAB

2. He also states “The oil spill modelling carried out by independent consultants for the oil industry paints an honest picture but this is based on the least likely scenarios of an oil spill in the Bight…..“.  Note his use of the words “least likely scenarios“, in which he is deliberately setting out to mislead the reader.  In general, the oil industry and the regulator have to consider worse case scenarios, which actually have very little likelihood of occurring (but can, of course, be devastating if they do occur).  Given the very significant shipping lane to the north of KI, there is actually a greater risk of significant oil being spilled during transportation than during petroleum exploration/development.  The following figures show vessel movements in the Eastern GAB during 10 January to 2 May 2012 (generated by the Australian Marine Safety Authority – AMSA – as part of consultation during preparation of Bight Petroleum’s EPBC Referral).

Vessel movements in Eastern GAB 10 January 2012 - 02 May 2012
Vessel movements in Eastern GAB 10 January 2012 – 02 May 2012

Any thinking person can immediately understand why there is a greater risk of an oil spill from a fully laden tanker moving along the Northern coast of KI than from a well being drilled in the Great Australian Bight.  In fact, despite the constant references to the Gulf of Mexico disaster (which actually tightened up on regulation around the world and led to a dramatic improvement in the industry’s performance), oil spill statistics, such as the following, support the fact that less oil is spilled into the oceans from drilling than many other sources:

2.i) Despite being the Australian petroleum industry’s worse spill, the Montara Commission of Inquiry reported that “the volume of oil spilt from the Montara WHP makes the Blowout Australia’s third largest oil spill after the Kirki oil tanker in 1991 and the Princess Anne oil tanker in 1975.” Furthermore, significant learnings have been derived from the Montara incident to minimise the risk of a similar event occurring;

2.ii) Despite drilling and transportation being high profile events, the amount of oil entering the ocean from such events (combined!) is only 8% of the total. There are website articles dedicated to such statistics, one being the “water encyclopaedia” site, which states: “It is estimated that approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil enter the ocean every year, with over half coming from land drainage and waste disposal; for example, from the improper disposal of used motor oil. Offshore drilling and production operations and spills or leaks from ships or tankers typically contribute less than 8 percent of the total. The remainder comes from routine maintenance of ships (nearly 20 percent), hydrocarbon particles from onshore air pollution (about 13 percent), and natural seepage from the seafloor (over 8 percent).” and “…offshore drilling operations contribute about 2.1 percent, and transportation accidents (both ships and tankers) account for another 5.2 percent“.  Thus, it is rather obvious that the main degradation of the oceans is not caused by drilling accidents but by the 97.9% of oil that enters the oceans by other means.

3. With statements such as “Knowledge of the effects of seismic blasting in pristine waters has been the subject of very little study globally but the research that has been done provides much insight into the potential destructiveness of the marine ecology and particularly the migratory patterns of whales and many cetaceans” and “With the help of experts in the field who donated their time and expertise, Council was able to force two separate ‘controlled actions’ on Bight Petroleum which has put off their attempts, so far, to undertake their seismic survey” at worse, Clements shows his deceit in his knowledge of seismic surveys and marine life or, at best, his ignorance. For example:

3.i) How is it that 122,000km of seismic surveys had been acquired (and 12 wells drilled) in the SA sector of the GAB by 2011 and over 40,000 sq km recorded from late 2011 to early 2015 and, in Clements’ own words, the GAB waters are still “pristine”? His claim of “potential destructiveness” in the face of very obvious facts is very disingenuous.

3.ii) Contrary to Clements’ claim, a significant amount of research has been conducted globally and, along with 100% monitoring of seismic surveys (significantly more than the monitoring of shipping, fishing and the navy) no evidence of the claimed “destructiveness” has been identified in over 4 decades of seismic surveying. In fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary, which many researchers and activists choose to ignore. For example, since the cessation of whaling in the ’60’s, the humpback whale population migrating along the NW Shelf of Australia has grown at a rate close to biological maximum. During this period, the area has also developed into an extremely important petroleum province for Australia, involving extensive seismic surveys, drilling and construction of production facilities. See item 3 in the article entitled “The right to protest or lobby should not be abused“. It is interesting to note that there are many areas on the NW Shelf (eg Ningaloo Reef, Broome) that are as “pristine” as the waters around KI and derive far greater tourism income than KI.

3.iii) Clements attempts to mislead the reader when he implies that Bight Petroleum’s attempts to undertake their seismic survey was not approved by the relevant authority due to the efforts of KI Council and “the help of experts in the field“. It was approved on 6 June 2014 and would have been acquired in early 2015 or early 2016 if the price of oil had not dropped so dramatically and new investment in oil exploration became very difficult to secure. Furthermore, KI Council’s submission against the seismic survey, along with Bight Petroleum’s responses, which can be viewed on the Council’s own website, demonstrate how the Council and their “experts” lack the expertise to present a balanced view of the facts and science. Of course, as there were no valid reasons to accept the Council’s claims, the regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), approved the survey.

In conclusion, given NOPSEMA make decisions on the basis of factual, scientific and verifiable information, as opposed to the previous environmental approval system which was heavily impacted by politics and emotive public pressure, surely the final decision will be positive for BP and not be based on Peter Clement’s and KI Council’s vacuous claims.