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Offshore petroleum exploration acreage release process

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The government releases areas in Australian 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 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 2021 acreage release will close on 27 October 2020.

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

To ensure your nomination progresses, provide sufficient reasoning in your application. This is particularly important in frontier areas where existing infrastructure is limited.

We will also consider current government objectives to decide whether to progress the area through the acreage release process.

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 2020 acreage release. View details and feedback from stakeholders on our 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

Planning your work bid

When planning your work bid, you may want to:

International investors may need to seek approval from the Australian Treasurer. See foreign investment for mining requirements on the Foreign Investment Review Board website.

Assessing work bids

NOPTA assesses bids against:

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

Exploration permits

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

Read more

Read more about investing in offshore petroleum exploration.

Contact us

Email petroleum.exploration [at] industry.gov.au

See also 

Last updated: 27 November 2020

Content ID: 46910