BWO prevented from leaving Tui oil field

23 April 2020

We have declined to issue a ruling that would have allowed BW Offshore (BWO) to disconnect its vessel from the subsea equipment and temporarily place the equipment on the seabed in the Tui oil field off the coast of Taranaki.

BWO requested rulings on eight interconnected activities that it would need to carry out in order for the vessel to disconnect and leave the Tui oil field.

We can only issue a ruling if it determines that the adverse effects on the environment and existing interests of the activities are likely to be “minor or less than minor”.

Because we have not issued rulings to authorise all eight activities, today’s decision means BWO cannot disconnect its vessel and remove it from the Tui oil field.

Read the Ruling EEZ500029 decision memorandum, the ruling certificate, and supporting information

BWO sought two rulings to allow it to remove its vessel

BWO wishes to remove its vessel (Floating Production and Storage Offloading ship – FPSO) from the Tui oil field. Oil production in the Tui field has stopped due to the insolvency of operator Tamarind Taranaki Limited (TTL).

BWO sought two rulings from the EPA covering the eight activities that would have to happen in sequence before it could remove its vessel (the Umuroa) from the Tui oil field.

The eight activities are listed in full in the Ruling decision memorandum.

We issued a ruling on 27 March 2020 that allows BWO to disconnect the mooring lines and retrieve the anchors, as it determined that the adverse effects of those activities were likely to be “minor or less than minor”.

In the decision released today, we declined to issue a second ruling allowing BWO to disconnect its vessel from the subsea equipment and lay it on the seabed. We consider the information provided in relation to some of the proposed activities is too uncertain and inadequate to determine whether the adverse effects on the environment and existing interests are likely to be minor or less than minor, and that providing a ruling would not achieve the purposes of the EEZ Act.

We did issue a ruling to allow BWO to use remotely operated vehicles in the disconnection process.

In making our decision on the first and the second rulings, we sought the views of parties with existing interests including four iwi in Taranaki and Tamarind Taranaki Ltd.

Rulings are issued on activity that started before the EEZ Act

Rulings allow petroleum operators to continue with activities that existed before the EEZ Act came into force. We can only issue a ruling if we consider the adverse effects of the activities, on the environment and existing interests, are likely to be minor or less than minor.

Rulings are provided under s 162(2) of the EEZ Act.

Compliance action in relation to BWO activity

We are currently taking compliance action against BWO in relation to activities it was undertaking in the Tui oil field.

We served four abatement notices on BWO and a BWO staff member.

This compliance activity is a separate matter from the rulings issued on 27 March and today.

Read more about the compliance activity

Read background information on Tamarind Taranaki Limited and BW Offshore