Offshore greenhouse gas storage

We regulate greenhouse gas storage (also known as carbon capture and storage) in Australian Commonwealth waters.

Greenhouse gas storage plays an important role in lowering emissions. Greenhouse gas storage is commonly known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). It is a method used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes.

The CCS process involves:

  • capturing carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) from industrial processes
  • condensing the carbon dioxide into a liquid form for transportation
  • transporting the liquid carbon dioxide to a suitable location
  • injecting and permanently storing the liquid carbon dioxide in an underground geological formation, where the liquid is trapped within the geological formation.

You can find out more about CCS on the Geoscience Australia website. For CCS and CCUS policies and programs, see the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water website.

Note: When explaining Australian CCS and CCUS requirements, we use the legislated terminology ‘offshore greenhouse gas storage’.

Releasing offshore greenhouse gas areas

The Australian Government releases offshore areas for greenhouse gas storage exploration through the offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage release (GHG acreage release).

The GHG acreage release is an important part of the government’s strategy to encourage exploration for greenhouse gas storage prospects in Australia’s offshore area.

The acreage release is the beginning of a title’s lifecycle. It’s the process by which companies are awarded a title that gives them rights to explore the geology in an area. Offshore exploration contributes to the understanding of the geology and resources in Australia’s territory.

The government has designed the process to meet industry’s needs for ongoing exploration in a structured, transparent and well-regulated way.

Note: the greenhouse gas storage acreage release is separate to the offshore petroleum exploration acreage release.

Nominating offshore greenhouse gas storage areas

Companies can nominate their offshore areas of interest to the responsible Commonwealth Minister (RCM) for assessment.

Consulting on offshore greenhouse gas storage areas

We consult the public on nominated areas before releasing them for exploration. The community can have their say on these areas.

Consultation helps the government identify and consider any potential impacts early. This includes impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage, the environment, other marine users (like tourism and fishing industries) and communities.

Ensuring offshore exploration activities meet requirements

Permit holders must meet requirements before starting offshore exploration activities in Australian Commonwealth waters. These activities may include:

  • acquiring a seismic survey
  • an appraisal well.

One of the requirements is having a detailed environment plan assessed and accepted by NOPSEMA.

These plans must outline how the company will mitigate potential adverse impacts on the environment and other users. NOPSEMA must assess and accept these plans before any activity starts.

Once a company’s plan is accepted, they may start exploring in the permit area.

Exploration may, or may not, be successful in discovering geological formations suitable for greenhouse gas storage. If companies are successful and find suitable formations, they must apply for assessment and approvals to develop further infrastructure.

If they find a suitable site for permanent storage, they must apply for a declaration of greenhouse gas storage formation. If they are not ready to inject greenhouse gas into a declared greenhouse gas storage formation they can apply for a greenhouse gas holding lease.

Injection and storage in a declared formation requires a greenhouse gas injection licence.

Find guidelines on meeting requirements on NOPSEMA’s website.

Consulting on offshore exploration activities

Companies consult with the community at various exploration stages.

When proposing on-water exploration activities, they must consult with stakeholders to prepare their environment plan. Stakeholders include:

  • state and federal government agencies
  • fishing, tourism and other marine users
  • relevant indigenous groups (including Land Councils and Native Title Holders)
  • community groups
  • relevant local governments
  • non-government organisations (including conservation groups).

NOPSEMA must be satisfied with the consultation the company has done.

Find information about consulting with Australian Government agencies and the community on NOPSEMA’s website.

Managing coexisting petroleum titles

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 describes how the petroleum and greenhouse gas industries coexist. In some circumstances, one activity could impact the other. To manage this, the legislation differentiates between pre-commencement petroleum titles and post-commencement petroleum titles.

A petroleum title includes:

  • an exploration permit
  • a retention lease
  • a production licence.

Pre-commencement petroleum titles

Pre-commencement petroleum titles are any titles awarded a petroleum exploration permit before November 2008.

This includes titles where the retention lease and production licence were granted after this date.

Pre-commencement titles are protected by a ‘significant impact test’. Under this test, the responsible Commonwealth Minister (RCM) can only approve greenhouse gas activities if either:

  • the activity does not pose a significant risk of causing a significant adverse impact on a pre-commencement petroleum title, or
  • the 2 titleholders have made an agreement.

Post-commencement petroleum titles

Post-commencement petroleum titles are any titles awarded a petroleum exploration permit after November 2008.

If there is no agreement between a petroleum titleholder and a greenhouse gas titleholder and the 2 activities cannot co‑exist, the RCM decides which activity should proceed in the public interest.

All post-commencement petroleum production licenses are protected by the significant impact test.

For more information about pre-commencement and post-commencement titles email petroleum.exploration@industry.gov.au.

Decommissioning requirements

Companies that have undertaken greenhouse gas storage activities must pay for and undertake decommissioning in a safe and timely way.

Decommissioning is a normal and planned part of greenhouse gas storage projects. It refers to:

  • plugging and permanent closing of wells
  • safe removal of equipment, infrastructure and property
  • restoration of the environment.

We ensure that the Australian Government's offshore decommissioning and remediation policies, and legislative frameworks, are robust.

Read the offshore decommissioning requirements and guidelines on NOPSEMA’s website.

Latest news

Surface of the sea

Consultation requirements for offshore oil and gas activities: have your say

Tell us how we can make consultation requirements clearer for titleholders and the community. Have your say by 8 March 2024.
A rough ocean with circle graphics overlaying the image.

2023 offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage release now open

The Australian Government has opened the 2023 offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage release. Companies can bid until 28 November 2023.

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