By Andy Rowel
The Norwegian company, Equinor, has announced it is abandoning plans to drill for oil in the highly ecologically sensitive, Great Australian Bight, which has been a battleground between conservationists and the industry for years.
Off the country's southern coast, the area is a marine park home to one of the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world. It is seen as a marine treasure.
Despite this, Equinor, which is two-thirds owned by the Norwegian Government, had been granted environmental approval back in December to drill about 400 kilometers off the South Australian coast. This was despite the fact that BP had abandoned plans to drill there in 2016, and Chevron in 2017.
When these companies pulled out it was seen as a significant victory, so the decision by Equinor to press ahead was "met with an outcry from Traditional Owners and environmental activists," according to the Australian NITV news.
The news this week that Equinor was abandoning drilling due to it not being "commercially competitive" was met with joy by opponents of the plan.
The Great Australian Bight Alliance, a coalition of environmental organizations along with the Mirning Indigenous people, had previously accused Equinor of refusing to formally consult with "key Indigenous groups and local governments."
Once the news broke, they were ecstatic.
Mirning Elder, Bunna Lawrie told NITV news, "It was just fantastic news to hear. To hear that news, it's going to be a collective future for all to enjoy and for our Mirning Elders and our people to continue to celebrate and to practice our culture and traditions and song and dance and our connection to that country."
The Wilderness Society's Peter Owen also told NITV news the decision was "fantastic," adding that "the Australian people have opposed drilling in the bight over a number of years. It's inappropriate to be expanding the fossil fuel industry when we're in the middle of a climate emergency and we should be transitioning away from fossil fuels."
Sarah Hanson-Young, the green Senator for South Australia, tweeted:
Breaking!! Oil giant Equinor has scrapped plans to drill in South Australia’s gorgeous Great Australian Bight. This… https://t.co/SRBFQ9qHV1— Sarah Hanson-Young💚 (@Sarah Hanson-Young💚)1582586731.0
The fight is not over yet, though, as other smaller companies still have plans to drill in the Bight.
And despite the unprecedented bush fires that have ravaged parts of Australia, the Government is still determined to press ahead with drilling, if at all possible, too.
According to ABC, the Federal Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, said the company's decision to withdraw was "disappointing" but "expressed support for future exploration in the Bight."
He added: "The Bight Basin remains one of Australia's frontier basins and any proposals for new oil and gas fields in this area will be assessed fairly and independently."
Amazingly, the Federal Government remains in denial.
Reposted with permission from Oil Change International.
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Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.
In a "worst credible case discharge" scenario—which involves a "loss of well control" and subsea releases of crude oil for more than 100 days—the spill could impact Australia's entire southern coast and even reach as far north as Sydney, the document shows.
This map shown in this tweet is based on Equinor's modeling of 100 different spills in the Great Australian Bight between the October to May drilling season.
Oil spill in Great Australian Bight could reach as far as #Sydney, leaked #environment plan show… https://t.co/3WIS35qil8— Eugene Boisvert (@Eugene Boisvert)1542148981.0
"This leak should be the final nail in the coffin of Bight oil drilling," Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a press release. "Not only does it show that oil could drench a previously unimaginable area that would include iconic beaches such as Bondi and Manly, it also shows that oil companies have no plan for stopping such a leak should it occur."
Not only is the Great Australian Bight a significant southern right whale calving grounds, it's a feeding area for blue whales, humpback whales, orcas, sea lions and is one of Australia's most important fisheries, Greenpeace says.
Equinor's map shows how far an oil spill could spread in 60 days after the flow of oil was stopped by drilling a relief well to kill the impacted well. Under the worst case scenario, a "loss of well control" will release an average of 6,739 cubic meters of oil per day until the well is killed on day 102.
Greenpeace noted that the leaked document comes just days after the Australian regulator NOPSEMA released BP's Well Operations Management Plan, which showed that an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight could release more than twice the amount of crude oil that entered the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
THIS IS HUGE! #BP Abandons Drilling in the Great Australian Bight https://t.co/GQUjqtD5nO @greenpeaceusa @greenpeace @GreenPeaceAUS @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476196098.0
What's more, the safety equipment would be unusable for more than a third of the year due to high waves, Greenpeace determined.
"BP's plan showed that not only would the high waves of the Bight make the use of a capping stack impossible but they also said it was 'highly unlikely' a second rig could be found to drill a relief well and 'kill' the leak," Pelle explained.
The BP plan said that a capping stack cannot be used in seas above 3.5 meters. Greenpeace obtained data from the Australian bureau of meteorology that said the sea-state is above 3.5 meters 33.6 percent of the year.
Equinor Australia country manager Jone Stangeland told ABC Australia the leaked document was part of an unfinished environment plan distributed to state governments.
He explained that the map was "based on an extremely unlikely worst-case event, simulated 100 times in different weather conditions and without any response action taken."
"The images don't represent an actual scenario, but the combination of 100 different extremely unlikely worst-case scenarios," he added. "For Equinor, no oil spills are acceptable, and we will not go ahead until we are convinced we can drill safely."
Disastrous BP Oil Spill 'Flattened' Microbe Biodiversity in Gulf https://t.co/DuaZkGRN9u @NRDC @UCSUSA @350 @foe_us @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530283164.0
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
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And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
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Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
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Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Andy Rowell
First came BP, which went from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum. Then Denmark's Dong Energy changed its name to Orsted, to mark its departure from oil and gas. Then earlier this year Shell announced it was morphing from an oil company into an integrated energy company.
And now, the Norwegian company Statoil is proposing to change its name to "Equinor." The rebranding exercise—or what some may call greenwashing exercise—will cost as much as 250 million kroner or $32 million.
The name change, says Statoil, "supports the company's strategy and development as a broad energy company." The name Equinor, in case you are wondering, is formed according to Statoil "by combining 'equi,' the starting point for words like equal, equality and equilibrium, and "nor," signaling a company proud of its Norwegian origin, and who wants to use this actively in its positioning."
Despite the fancy name, it transpired that it originated from an Oslo veterinary practice specializing in horses, but somehow it must have resonated with the oil company's spin doctors. They have even made a slick video to promote the name change.
"The world is changing, and so is Statoil," said Jon Erik Reinhardsen, chair of the board of Statoil. "The biggest transition our modern-day energy systems have ever seen is underway, and we aim to be at the forefront of this development. Our strategy remains firm. The name Equinor reflects ongoing changes and supports the always safe, high value and low carbon strategy we outlined last year."
The company's CEO Eldar Sætre added, "Looking towards the next 50 years, reflecting on the global energy transition and how we are developing as a broad energy company, it has become natural to change our name. The name Equinor captures our heritage and values, and what we aim to be in the future."
"I don't expect Equinor to be love at first sight for everyone," he added. "Give it a little time, let it mature. I feel very confident that this is right and important for the company to do."
The company's hierarchy will propose the new name to shareholders at Statoil's AGM on May 15. The Norwegian government, which is a majority shareholder in the company, supports the proposal and will vote in favor of the resolution.
Not everyone was convinced. As Bloomberg reported, "Oil majors aren't famed for their pranks, but Statoil ASA had analysts checking it wasn't April Fool's Day when it announced a new name that turned out to have been acquired from an Oslo veterinary practice specializing in horses." Bloomberg reported that the SpareBank 1 Markets analyst Teodor Sveen Nilsen said in a note to clients, "We checked the calendar. It's not April 1."
Reaction on social media was mixed, too, as people picked up on the origins of the word: "Equinor sounds like a princess on a horse in Game of Thrones," one Twitter user said. "Equi" is the genitive singular in Latin for "horse," noted another.
Statoil is just repeating history. Years ago, a book on countering corporate greenwash, edited by Eveline Lubbers, noted that BP's "rebranding was part of an effort to portray BP as an energy company, not just an oil company." Critics noted that the rebranding, which cost BP $200 million and was designed by Ogilvy & Mather, was a greenwashing exercise. Years later BP remains predominantly an oil and gas company.
Statoil's rebranding looks like greenwashing, too. Buried deep in the company's press release last week, Statoil stated that it "will develop long-term value on the Norwegian continental shelf, deepen in core areas and develop new growth options internationally …. Statoil is building a material industrial position within profitable renewable energy, and expects to invest 15-20% of total capex in new energy solutions by 2030." Put another way, in twelve year's time, some 80 percent of the company's capex will still be oil and gas.
Given the climate crisis and need to disinvest from oil and gas, this is hardly a revolutionary shift. So the company may be called "Equinor," but it will still essentially be Statoil to its core. So it really does look like an early April Fool's joke.
World's Biggest Investment Fund Considers Divesting From Fossil Fuels https://t.co/X9Ynl45yTZ @GreenCollarGuy @350 @billmckibben— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1511060103.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.