Apache Plan Rejected by Australian Minister

PERTH - U.S. energy company Apache Corp. has hit a snag in its oil and natural gas exploration program offshore Western Australia state, after the federal government rejected an application to carry out work in an area close to a marine reserve.

Apache's plan to conduct a seismic exploration program in the next few months near the Ningaloo Marine Park in the Carnarvon Basin would have had "clearly unacceptable impacts", Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a public notice.

At its nearest point, Apache's proposed survey area in the WA-155-P permit would have been 13 kilometers northeast of the Ningaloo Marine Park, famous for its reef system and migrating whale sharks.

However, the wider North West Cape region offshore Exmouth is also one of Australia's biggest sources of oil and gas production.

Apache had hoped to carry out the seismic survey between February and March. In a statement Tuesday, Apache said it "takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and is currently assessing the minister's decision."

Apache is currently expanding its production in the region via the Macedon gas project, a joint venture with BHP Billiton Ltd., and has approved a new oil venture at Coniston.



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