Esso to plug and abandon the five Whiting wells

ESSO Australia plans to permanently plug and abandon the five Whiting platform wells.

The Whiting plug and abandonment campaign will utilise the Noble Tom Prosser jack-up rig, which is currently in Bass Strait, to undertake the work.

This campaign will take place about 34 kilometres off the Gippsland coast in about 54 metres of water depth.

Esso hopes to begin the work later this month, and complete it no later than the third quarter of this year, with each well taking about 20 days to plug and abandon.

The company expects rig mobilisation to site and demobilisation on completion will take an additional 10 days.

The proposal is currently under assessment by the offshore industry regulator, NOPSEMA.

A NOPSEMA spokesperson said when any piece of property or equipment used in offshore operations was no longer used, it must be removed, and until that time, be maintained in good condition and repair to ensure its eventual removal.

“In situations where production operations have been temporarily suspended, all property and equipment must continue to be maintained in good condition and repair,” the spokesperson said.

“NOPSEMA will not allow property and equipment to be left to rust and degrade to a point where it becomes a risk to the safety of the workforce when it is used again and-or its removal becomes impossible.

“NOPSEMA has always required petroleum companies to demonstrate how they will maintain and remove all property and equipment.

“A plan must be in place to remove, in a timely manner, all property and equipment when it will no longer be used.

“If removal is to be delayed, or full removal is not practicable, then alternative arrangements must be demonstrated to, and approved by, NOPSEMA to deliver equal or better environmental outcomes, and can be done safely.”

The spokesperson said if a petroleum company did not comply with the legislative requirement to maintain and remove property and equipment, then it would be viewed as “an offence of strict liability and NOPSEMA may seek to prosecute and have civil or criminal penalties applied”.

“Where needed, NOPSEMA will take enforcement action including directing the responsible, or formerly responsible, petroleum company to remove all property and equipment.”

A number of aging platforms are no longer operational in Bass Strait – and some haven’t been for years.

Esso currently has its Gippsland assets on the market, and it is unclear what will happen to these platforms as part of the terms of any potential sale.

Esso was approached for comment.