The federal government has opened up 27 new offshore petroleum acreages across nine basins in Commonwealth waters off five states.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the 2012 acreage release included large frontier basins suited to exploration programs with numerous targets, along with smaller blocks of high prospective acreage in mature areas.
“The high level of early stakeholder participation led to multiple nominations for many of these areas, which are located in a range of water depths and vary in size and exploration history,” he said.
“The available acreage is supported by data and analysis by Geoscience Australia and all exploration and development activities will be subject to comprehensive assessment.”
The minister announced the release in Adelaide at the industry conference on Monday, saying the exploration release would help maintain energy security and economic growth in Australia’s petroleum sector.
“Today’s acreage release will allow offshore petroleum explorers to seek a larger role in an energy revolution, with a high probability of ongoing major petroleum discoveries in Australia, and more than 40 sedimentary basins yet to be fully explored.”
The acreages are in waters off Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the exploration leases impinged on several important marine areas around Australia.
“They impinge on areas proposed for sanctuaries under the marine planning processes underway,” she told reporters in Canberra.
Senator Siewert said it was appalling that the federal government had two systems – one for the granting of licences and the other for establishing marine sanctuaries – simultaneously.
“The resource boom will override sensible environmental decision making,” she said.
“It’s crazy to have these separate processes.”
The Pew Environment group said one of the areas was in the Great Australian Bight – already protected by a marine park and home to more than 29 species of whales.
“The strong currents also means that any oil spills would directly hit Kangaroo Island, as well as the Eyre and York Peninsulas,” Pew said in a statement.
A second area, off the coast of Robe, would hit the rock lobster fishing industry in the region, the group said.