NORWEGIAN company Equinor has announced it is walking away from plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

In a statement, the company said its exploration drilling plan was “not commercially competitive” compared with other exploration opportunities.

The decision was welcomed by environmental groups, but decried by some industry groups.

Chief executive of Australian energy consultancy EnergyQuest, Dr Graeme Bethune, said it was “a disappointing decision for Australia and South Australia”.

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“In our view, the decision is likely to have been driven by stronger carbon reduction targets of the European oil companies,” Dr Bethune said.

“Carbon costs are starting to bite and the European companies appear to be setting higher hurdles for oil projects than gas.

Dr Bethune said it was another example of European influence on investment globally, similarly to the decisions by the European Investment Bank to no longer invest in fossil fuel projects in developing countries.

Meanwhile international environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision, with Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter describing it as “an incredible win for people power and nature”.

He said the decision followed “years of relentless campaigning by coastal communities, Indigenous traditional owners, surfers, the seafood industry, tourism operators and other local businesses”.

“Never doubt the power and determination of the Australian people,” Mr Ritter said.

Mr Ritter said Equinor took over BP’s exploration licence to drill in deep waters 372km south of the Ceduna coast, but it was now the latest fossil fuel company to pull out of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight. “The only way to protect coastal communities and the Great Australian Bight’s unique marine life is to rule out drilling permanently,” Mr Ritter said.

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