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AsianOil: Santos suffers further delays at Barossa project

Australia’s Santos has suffered more delays at its $3.6bn Barossa gas project in the country’s north, after a regulator instructed the company to assess environmental risks to underwater indigenous cultural heritage before commencing pipeline construction.

Australia’s offshore regulator announced the requirement on January 13. It follows a court order made in December, which stated that Santos must consult indigenous people on the Tiwi Lands regarding the environmental impact of the project’s drilling plan.

Pipeline construction was meant to begin at the end of this month, with first gas from Barossa targeted for the first half of 2025. Santos has no date for when the new assessment will be completed, and it is now unclear when drilling will resume, a spokesperson told Reuters.

Underwater cultural heritage includes, for example, ancient stone tools that might be found, like those discovered in waters off the Dampier Archipelago. The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority issued the order after inspecting Santos’ offices on short notice on December 21-22.

Santos has said it will evaluate the impacts and risks of underwater work that were not previously included in its environmental plan for the pipeline. But the regulator nevertheless ordered the company to do so. The order does not prevent pipeline work starting, but a regulator spokesperson told Reuters that it expects "Santos won't undertake any work that may result in impacts and risks that haven’t been adequately identified, evaluated and managed."

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