Australian Govt Grants Exploration Offshore Permits

The Australian Government announced that seven offshore exploration permits from the 2009 Offshore Petroleum Acreage Release have been awarded in Commonwealth waters off Western Australia and South Australia.

The proposed work programs across the seven permits will result in guaranteed offshore petroleum exploration investment of $682 million over the next three years.

Three permits, awarded to Finder No.4 Pty Ltd, Woodside Energy Pty Ltd and Riverina Energy Pty Ltd, are in the highly prospective Carnarvon Basin which remains Australia’s leading offshore petroleum-producing area.

The remaining four permits, awarded to BP Exploration (Alpha) Ltd, are in the frontier area of the Ceduna Sub-basin within the Bight Basin off South Australia.

"Increasing exploration levels in our un-explored and under-explored frontier basins is essential to finding Australia's next offshore petroleum province," said Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson AM MP.

"Australia has a $16 billion trade deficit in crude oil, refined products and LPG which is expected to rise, possibly as high as $30 billion by 2015. Our energy security will be greatly enhanced by opening up new geological frontiers and reducing our dependence on imports."

Exploration permits were last granted in this frontier area in 2000. These areas are again being titled for exploration in order to re-assess their petroleum potential following the evolution of exploration technology during the intervening period.

The permits awarded to BP follow an extensive assessment and due diligence process that examined the technical and financial competence of BP to undertake the proposed work program in accordance with the stringent requirements of Australian legislation.

Additional conditions have also been attached to these permits, emphasizing the need for oil field best practice behavior by the operator. This reinforces BP's undertaking, given as part of the assessment process, to fully integrate lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident into its systems and processes.

"BP's exploration activities, and indeed those of all operators in Australian waters, will be undertaken in accordance with our stringent environmental and safety standards," Minister Ferguson said.

"Australia already has one of the world's most effective petroleum regulatory regimes and it will be further strengthened as we progress legislation to put in place a national offshore petroleum regulator by 1 January 2012, at the same time as we continue to implement recommendations from the Montara report.

"The safety of our workers and environment is fundamental and will remain the priority as we progress the responsible development of our natural resources – both on and offshore.

"I am satisfied that we have put in place the appropriate safeguards and note BP's commitment to work with government and regulators to ensure the highest possible safety standards as they carry out this work."

The exploration work programs proposed by BP Exploration include over 11,400km2 of 3D seismic surveying within the first two operational years along with the drilling of four exploration wells in the third operational year (anticipated to occur in 2013 or 14). This represents the most comprehensive geological analysis ever undertaken in the Bight Basin.