Federal Resources Minister, Ian Macfarlane, announced the release to coincide with the start of the Annual Conference of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association in Melbourne, which he will address tomorrow.
"We all hope to see new discoveries in 2003 with the completion of deep water drilling campaigns in new frontiers and the use of new 3D seismic technology that may well bring new life to previously explored fields," said Mr. Macfarlane.
"The areas being released will build on this current exploration activity, adding pieces to the jigsaw puzzles that are Australia's vast offshore sedimentary basins," he said.
The sites being made available for open bidding include: 15 areas off Western Australia; seven areas off Northern Territory; four areas off Victoria and Tasmania respectively; 2 areas off South Australia; and 3 areas off the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
"These areas will be the principal release of offshore acreage this year and will be subject to the work program bidding system. Iím confident Australia's attractiveness as a place to invest will lead to strong bids for these areas," said Mr. Macfarlane.
The Federal Government has also delivered on its commitment to improve both the quality and access to spatial data with Geoscience Australia now providing free online access to a range of vital information for petroleum explorers.
For the first time, any exploration permits arising from this release will be subject to a maximum of 2 five year renewals. This new initiative follows from the 2000 review of petroleum legislation against competition policy principles.
Bids for 18 of the areas will close on September 25, 2003. Bidding for the remaining 17 areas will close on March 25, 2004.
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