Offshore petroleum exploration acreage release process

The Australian Government releases oil and gas exploration areas in Australian Commonwealth waters each year. Companies can nominate and bid for these areas.

Oil and gas companies can participate in the acreage release by:

  • suggesting areas for future exploration in the nomination process

  • bidding to explore release areas. 

Anyone who has an interest in areas that may be released for bidding can have their say when we consult on nominated areas.

Acreage release process overview

All operational activities are subject to regulatory approval by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA). This includes:

  • comprehensive consultation with all key stakeholders
  • consideration of potential impacts and risks to the environment
  • proposed management and mitigation of those risks.  

Nominating areas for future exploration

The offshore petroleum industry is invited to shape the acreage release each year. You can submit nominations for release areas to be considered.

2023 acreage release

Nominations for the 2023 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release closed on 1 September 2022.

The nominations portal is open year-round. Submissions made after 1 September 2022 will be considered as part of any future offshore acreage release.

Before you start

Your nomination should demonstrate a genuine intent to start activities in the immediate term. As a guide:

  • If you represent an exploration and production company, your nomination would indicate a strong interest in exploring the area and potentially bidding in the next scheduled acreage release.
  • If you represent a geophysical company, you are expected to have recent non-exclusive data products over the nominated area available during the next bidding period.

We do not place limits on the number of nominations you can put forward. However the government may change this if:

  • areas are not routinely bid on
  • nominations consistently lack a well-considered rationale.

The Joint Authorities must consider and endorse release areas before they can progress to the bidding rounds. The Joint Authority is generally made up of the responsible federal minister and the relevant state or Northern Territory minister. 

Submitting your nomination

Complete the online nomination form on business.gov.au 

Please nominate non-contiguous areas separately.

In some cases we don’t progress nominations. Nominated areas, or parts of areas, may be excluded for various reasons including:

  • national security, for example if they impact international maritime boundaries
  • legal, for example if a nominated area extends into a green or yellow Australian marine park zone
  • where precompetitive open-file studies of the geology or other features of the area are being undertaken
  • where exploration activities may impact other marine users or biologically important areas.

See the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) interactive map to determine if your nomination may be affected.

You must provide reasons for nominating an area. This is crucial in frontier areas with limited infrastructure or social licence to operate.

The government will consider their priorities when deciding to release acreage in an area.

    Selection of nominated areas

    The minister considers a range of factors when selecting nominated areas for public consultation. These include:

    • national security and maritime boundaries
    • environmental regulations
    • commercial interest
    • proximity to markets and supporting infrastructure
    • social licence to operate
    • other marine users and offshore titleholders
    • strategic priorities of the government.

    We also consult with:

    • state and territory governments
    • other Australian Government agencies.

    Consultation on area nominations

    Before areas are released for bidding, the government undertakes a consultation process. We seek feedback from anyone who has an interest in a specific area and can provide information relevant to exploration in that area. This includes:

    • other government agencies
    • the public
    • other marine users, like the fishing, aquaculture and tourism industries.

    To be notified of upcoming consultations subscribe to the Australian Resources news.

    Consultation informs the Joint Authorities’ decision to release nominated areas. It also helps companies understand factors they may need to consider when applying for and working in an area.

    We consulted on areas for inclusion in the 2022 acreage release. View details and feedback from stakeholders on our consultation hub.

    Bidding on release areas

    The Joint Authorities invite companies to bid on release areas. Areas available for bidding, and bid due dates, are published in the Australian Government Gazette

    Closed

    Offshore petroleum exploration acreage release 2022

    There are 10 areas for offshore oil and gas exploration. Bidding for this acreage release closed on 2 March 2023. Work bids are currently being assessed.

    Past acreage releases

    Jun 2021 Department of Industry, Science and Resources

    2021 offshore petroleum exploration acreage release

    There are 21 acreage release areas available for new oil and gas exploration investment. This publication provides all the maps, diagrams and geological information about the release.
    Aug 2020 Department of Industry, Science and Resources

    2020 offshore petroleum exploration acreage release

    There are 42 acreage release areas available for new oil and gas exploration investment. This publication provides all the maps, diagrams and geological information about the release.
    Jul 2019 Department of Industry, Science and Resources

    2019 offshore petroleum exploration acreage release

    There are 64 acreage release areas for new oil and gas exploration investment. They are offshore of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

    Planning your work bid

    When planning your work bid, you may want to:

    Applying as a foreign investor

    If you’re a foreign investor, you should familiarise yourself with Australia’s foreign investment framework. Failure to comply with the law may result in penalties.

    You’re responsible for getting any relevant Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approvals.

    You must submit evidence of FIRB approval with your application. You can submit evidence of FIRB approval after your application if the approval was pending when you applied. 

    NOPTA will not offer petroleum exploration permits until they receive the required FIRB approvals.

    See requirements for foreign investment in mining on the FIRB website.

    Email general enquiries to firbenquiries@treasury.gov.au.

    Assessment of work bids

    NOPTA assesses bids against:

    They provide advice to the Joint Authorities who make the decision on successful bids.

    Offer of exploration permits

    Successful bidders are offered an offshore petroleum exploration permit. This 6-year title can be renewed for a further 2 periods of 5 years. 

    NOPTA grants the permits on behalf of the relevant Joint Authority. 

    Oil and gas companies must meet several requirements before commencing offshore oil and gas activities

    Data and maps to support nominations and bidding

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