AUSTRALIA: Shell keen to drill for oil and gas off proposed WA heritage reef

GLOBAL petroleum giant Shell has applied to start drilling for oil and gas less than 50km from the edge of Western Australia's prized Ningaloo Reef, which the federal government has nominated for World Heritage listing. The move for the deepwater drilling to a depth of 5650m puts Shell on a collision course with environmentalists, who say exploring near the Ningaloo Marine Park is fraught with danger because of the risk of oil spills and the prevalence of rare marine life, including the famed whale sharks.

Ningaloo was the scene of one of the biggest environmental battles in Western Australia in recent years when conservationists led by author Tim Winton stopped a tourist resort being built. Shell's application comes amid heightened sensitivity for the oil and gas industry after the disastrous Montara oil spill off WA's coast and BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.