Australia to Offer 31 New Offshore Exploration Areas in 2004

Thirty-one new offshore petroleum exploration areas off the Northern Territory, Western Australia, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Victoria, and Tasmania coastlines will be offered in the 2004 licensing round.

Federal Resources Minister, Ian Macfarlane, announced the acreage release as part of the Government's strategy to encourage more exploration of Australia's vast offshore sedimentary basins.

The announcement coincided with the Annual Conference of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) held in Canberra.

The areas being made available for open bidding by the petroleum exploration industry include:

17 areas off Western Australia
5 areas off Tasmania
3 areas off Northern Territory
2 areas off Victoria
4 areas off the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

"This year's release includes a broad range of areas from mature to frontier, offering exciting opportunities for exploration companies of all sizes", said Mr. Macfarlane.

"The Government has also made a strong commitment to back up its acreage release program by allocating $61 million over four years to Geoscience Australia's petroleum program. The funding will open a new phase of geological data acquisition," he said.

Geoscience Australia provides free online access to a range of vital information to petroleum explorers such as data in relation to existing infrastructure and key geological information.

The 31 areas will be the principal release of offshore acreage this year. Bids for 11 of the areas will close on September 30, 2004 and March 31, 2005 for the remainder.

All bids will be assessed under the work program bidding system and any subsequent exploration permits will be awarded for an initial term of six years.