OPINION: The Australian Full Federal Court judgement that dismissed Santos’ appeal against the challenged regulatory environmental approval for the development drilling campaign for its Barossa gas project offshore Australia has sent shockwaves through the nation’s upstream players.

Last Friday’s ruling could also have implications for proposed offshore wind farm developments.

The court rejected Santos’ appeal against an earlier decision that found the Barossa operator had failed to adequately consult with the Tiwi Islanders before the Environment Plan for the project’s development drilling was approved by Australia’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety & Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema).

Upholding this decision essentially risk more delays, bureaucratic obstacles and increased costs in getting offshore projects off the drawing board Down Under — potentially postponing new production that would boost energy security for both the domestic market and international liquefied natural gas customers.

Like Barossa, Woodside Energy’s proposed Scarborough and Browse developments are intended to provide feed gas for LNG projects with a particular focus on supplying export volumes to North Asian customers.

Just hours before the landmark 2 December Barossa judgement, Woodside chief executive Meg O’Neill told the company’s investor day of the already increasing bureaucracy given Nopsema has wasted no time in requiring greater consultation before it will approve environment plans for offshore projects.

“We are certainly concerned... processes are slowing down to be really frank,” she was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Energy developers should of course engage with a range of stakeholders, including potentially impacted Indigenous Peoples, but dismissing Santos’ last-ditch appeal has certainly put the cat among the pigeons — investors in Australia’s resources sector now face increasing approvals uncertainty.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)

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