Australia Plans Major Boost to Offshore Exploration

Petroleum exploration in Australia will receive a major boost with the injection of an extra $61 million into Geoscience Australia as part of the Howard Government's commitment to encouraging exploration in Australia's offshore waters.

Federal Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, announced the new funding which will be used over four years to provide vital geological and seismic data to companies considering oil exploration in Australian waters.

"Without major new discoveries, Australia's oil production is expected to fall by 40 percent over the next ten years. This additional funding is an investment in maintaining an acceptable degree of national energy self-sufficiency," said Mr. Macfarlane.

Ninety percent of all oil exploration success in Australia since World War 2 has been directly underpinned by geoscience information and advice given by Geoscience Australia.

"The scientific data gathered and interpreted through the Geoscience Australia oil program is vital to attracting new private sector exploration investment. Geoscience Australia is the first stop for potential investors in our long-term energy security," he said.

The $61 million funding will be divided into two pools.

The first, $36 million, will be new core funding for Geoscience Australia's oil program. Importantly, this funding will be on-going. This enables the Government to provide basic geological data concerning Australia's offshore petroleum reserves free of charge – further proof of the importance the Government places on attracting investment.

"The Howard Government's commitment to unlocking this resource potential is on the table. We've responded to the call to maintain this free service. It's now up to the exploration industry to respond with similar vigor," said Mr. Macfarlane.

"The industry talks of the need to find a new Bass Strait. The Howard Government is providing substantial support, free-of-charge, to help them in the search," he said. The balance of $25 million will fund Geoscience Australia's new Seismic Data Acquisition program for remote, untested frontier areas.

It will also enable the copying of more than half a million data tapes held by Geoscience Australia onto modern storage media. This preservation is necessary to ensure valuable seismic data is not lost because of the deterioration of old technology tapes.