Resources Minister says oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight is needed for fuel security
Summary: Drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is the nation’s greatest opportunity to strengthen its fuel security, Federal Resources Minister Matthew Canavan says.....
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As Australia’s fuel storages drop to worryingly low levels, Mr Canavan has emphasised the importance of oil exploration in the Bight.
However, opponents of the controversial drilling plan have accused the minister of using fuel shortages to push the Coalition’s appetite for fossil fuel exploration. The Australian Greens argued any oil drilled in the Bight would be years away and earmarked for overseas refineries anyway.
Australia’s liquid fuel reserves haven fallen well below the International Energy Agency mandate that countries hold at least 90 days’ supply.
According to the latest Department of Energy figures, Australia has 22 days’ worth of petrol, 17 days of diesel and 27 days of total petroleum products.
Mr Canavan said work was being done to increase storage, including a review being undertaken that will be released in coming months, but increasing Australia’s own domestic production of oil was more important.
“One of the biggest opportunities is in waters off South Australia,” Mr Canavan said. “The Great Australian Bight is recognised as one of the most prospective offshore oil basins in the world.
“All of our military transport needs such as fighter planes, submarines and tanks will continue to be powered by diesel and jet fuels.”
Mr Canavan said developing the Bight and the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory should be a national priority.
Australian Greens environment spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Canavan’s argument was manipulative and highly misleading.
“The Minister has himself said that drilling for oil in the Bight, if approved, wouldn’t be in operation for at least a decade,” she said.
“Even then, the oil is earmarked for foreign companies to ship straight overseas, not for use here in Australia.”
Australia has just a handful of oil refineries still in operation, with most closing in the past two decades due to their inability to compete in the global marketplace.
Mr Canavan said the production of a raw petroleum gives Australia a ready-made ability to refine if a security risk eventuated.
“It is a lot easier to build a refinery than develop a whole new oil base,” he said.
“While much of Australia’s domestic oil production is exported, a lot continues to be refined in Australia, including what remains from the Bass Strait. It is likely that any production of the Great Australian Bight would support a mix of exports and domestic refining.”
But Senator Hanson-Young said Mr Canavan’s attention was focused in the wrong place.
“Renewables are on the rise and electric car technology is getting better every day,” she said.
“In 10 years’ time, with a bit of ambition and political will, we will be less reliant on fossil fuels. There is no social licence to drill in the Great Australian Bight.”
Mr Canavan said any exploration in the Bight would be done responsibly.
“We must ensure the environment is protected,” he said.
“We have a robust and independent regulatory processes for offshore and onshore oil production. The Bass Strait has had more than 900 wells safely drilled.”
Mr Canavan said production in the Bight could generate more than 2000 jobs and generate $7 billion a year in taxes for state and federal governments.
Drilling in the Bight is set to be a key issue for South Australian voters ahead of this year’s Federal Election.