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Offshore petroleum exploration acreage release process
The government releases areas in Australian Commonwealth waters for oil and gas exploration each year.
Subscribe to Australian Petroleum News for information on acreage bidding rounds, and for updates on offshore oil and gas matters in Australian Commonwealth waters. 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 during the consultation.
Nominate 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.
Nominations for the 2022 acreage release are now open.
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 July to March 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.
Consultation on release areas
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 Petroleum 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 2021 acreage release. View details and feedback from stakeholders on Consultation hub.
Bidding for exploration permits
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.
- Bidding for the 2021 acreage release areas is now open.
- You can subscribe to the Australian Petroleum News for updates.
Planning your work bid
When planning your work bid, you may want to:
- view all offshore petroleum titles, instruments and work program activities in the National Electronic Approvals Tracking System (NEATS)
- consider the comments provided by the public and other marine users during the consultation phase
- see bidding criteria and information about how to apply in the Offshore petroleum exploration guideline on the NOPTA website
- view Geoscience Australia’s interactive maps for the correct map sheet references and graticular blocks
- assess geological information about Australia’s offshore petroleum basins on the Geoscience Australia website
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 obtaining any relevant Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approvals.
You must submit evidence of your FIRB approval with your application to NOPTA. If your FIRB approval is pending, provide evidence of this to NOPTA with your application.NOPTA will not offer petroleum exploration permits until they receive the required FIRB approvals.
Email general enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assessing work bids
NOPTA assesses bids against:
- application criteria in the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006
- requirements of Australian Government Gazette Notice invitations to bid
- expectations in the Offshore petroleum exploration guideline
They provide advice to the Joint Authorities who make the decision on successful bids.
Successful bidders are offered an offshore petroleum exploration permit. This 6-year title can be renewed for a further two periods of 5 years.
NOPTA grants the permits on behalf of the relevant Joint Authority.
Oil and gas companies must meet a number of requirements before commencing offshore oil and gas activities.
Data and maps to support nominations and bidding
- Search seismic survey data and well data on Geoscience Australia’s petroleum data repository
- View NOPTA’s interactive map on the NEATS public portal
- View Geoscience Australia’s Acreage Release portal
- See all Australian offshore petroleum wells and seismic surveys on the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System (NOPIMS) website
- Read about Australia’s proven reserves and estimates of undiscovered resources on the Australian Energy Resource Assessment website
- See spatial context with other marine, coastal and regional geological data on Geoscience Australia’s marine and coastal interactive maps
Read more about investing in offshore petroleum exploration.
Last updated: 12 July 2021
Content ID: 46910