It appears there is no zeal among cash-strapped wildcatters to take a flutter on the subsurface potential of the Canning Basin, which has commercial oil production and significant if early stage unconventional potential, and the even more remote Officer Basin, where there is almost no prior exploration.
With the oil price still emerging from one of its worst ever downturns, and difficulties forecasting where global energy markets may turn, it seems explorers aren't prepared to commit to exploration in areas where, even with success, it could be a decade or more before production could be established, even if Native Title gets cleared quickly.
The lack of interest covered a controversial permit which infringed on the edges of the Kimberley's Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek National Park, Devonian Reef Conservation Park, and Brooking Gorge Conservation Park.
L16-1 is adjacent to Buru's Paradise-Valhalla province and contains the Chestnut-1 gas shows.
That well was abandoned short of its planned total depth, although it encountered a strong gas show in the tight sandstones and siltstones of the Fairfield Group, which includes the Laurel Formation.
L16-1 was one of six petroleum leases that were opened up for tender in the Kimberley, many of which were expected to have potential for the emerging but early stage Laurel and Goldwyer shale plays.
Exploration globally has dropped quite severely over the last three years, and the recent Commonwealth offshore round saw a similarly lacklustre response.
The WA government will consider re-releasing the areas if the appetite for exploration picks up in 2018, although the areas covering Kimberley national parks will excise potentially controversial blocks.
The Australian Petroleum Producers and Exploration Association said earlier that none of its members wanted to drill within national parks anyway.
Six of the blocks released were in the Canning Basin and eight were in the Officer Basin, and they ranged in size from 1770 square kilometres to more than 8000sq.km.
L16-1 sat on the Lennard Shelf, traditionally the most explored area of the basin for Devonian reef targets, and four areas previously held by Buru Energy (L14-3, L14-4, L14-5 and L14-6) in the southern basin's Acacia province.
The former Buru areas contain the potential for Ordovician subsalt plays and there are good indications of mature source rocks in the area and is evidence for petroleum generation in the adjacent Kidson Sub-basin, but the remoteness of the area means wells are extremely costly.
Much further to the south, close to the border with South Australia is the vastly underexplored Officer Basin, which shows stratigraphic affinity to prolific petroleum producing Neoproterozoic basins in Russia and Oman.
The Officer Basin remains underexplored mainly because of its remoteness, lack of continuous outcrops, and perceptions relating to its Neoproterozoic age.
Numerous oil shows are known in the Officer Basin from mineral and stratigraphic drillholes, although there has been little on-structure drilling for petroleum targets and seismic coverage is relatively light, however the areas are covered by a uniform grid of potential field data.
Applications closed earlier this month.
The most recent Commonwealth offshore release was also a washout, with just one application.