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Regulating offshore greenhouse gas storage in Australian Commonwealth waters

We regulate greenhouse gas storage in Australian Commonwealth waters under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (the Act).

Australian Commonwealth waters start 3 nautical miles from the coastline and extend to the boundary of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

We also regulate offshore oil and gas activities in Australian Commonwealth waters under the Act.

The Act is supported by 4 regulations that apply to both greenhouse gas storage and oil and gas activities:

Our regulatory role includes:

  • providing companies the opportunity to apply for assessment permits, holding leases and injection licences
  • ensuring greenhouse gas is safely and securely stored
  • providing mechanisms to manage interactions between the greenhouse gas and petroleum industries
  • regulating site closures and long-term liability.

Regulatory responsibilities

The Australian Government awards offshore greenhouse gas storage titles in Australian Commonwealth waters. The responsible Commonwealth Minister (RCM) is responsible for the administration of greenhouse gas injection and storage provisions. The RCM makes major policy decisions under the Act, including:  

  • granting greenhouse gas titles
  • imposing title conditions
  • title cancellations
  • releasing offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage areas
  • assessing greenhouse gas storage acreage area bids.

The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) perform regulatory functions for offshore greenhouse gas storage activities:

Coexisting with petroleum titles

The Act 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 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.

Offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage release

The government releases offshore areas for greenhouse gas storage through the greenhouse gas storage acreage release.

Companies can nominate their areas of interest to the RCM for assessment. We consult the public before releasing offshore areas (acreage) for exploration.

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

Subscribe to Australian Petroleum News for information on acreage bidding rounds. Subscribers will also receive updates on offshore greenhouse gas matters in Australian Commonwealth waters.

Offshore greenhouse gas exploration and storage activities

Permit holders must meet exploration requirements before starting offshore greenhouse gas activities in Australian Commonwealth waters. This includes having an environment plan assessed and accepted by NOPSEMA.

You may then begin exploring in their permit area. If you find a suitable site for permanent storage, you must apply for a declaration of greenhouse gas storage formation. If you are not ready to inject greenhouse gas you can apply for a greenhouse gas holding lease.

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

Consultation

Greenhouse gas companies may consult stakeholders when preparing an environment plan, including:

  • government agencies
  • fishing, tourism and other business operators
  • community groups
  • non-government organisations (including conservation groups).

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

Decommissioning

We are enhancing the framework for decommissioning and remediating offshore infrastructure. Existing requirements apply while we are doing this work.

Find the decommissioning strategy and operational policies on NOPSEMA’s website.

Contact us

Email ghgacreage@industry.gov.au

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See also

Last updated: 12 July 2021

Content ID: 46907