Federal government releases new blocks

IN AN attempt to encourage more petroleum exploration in Australia’s vast offshore sedimentary basins, Australian Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane used the 2006 APPEA National Conference to announce the release of 36 new offshore petroleum exploration areas in Federal waters.
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“The hard work of petroleum explorers in offshore Australia is paying off,” Macfarlane said.

“New gas projects will soon supply LNG to a growing number of international customers in Asia and North America. While domestically, our gas consumption is also set to increase about 67 percent by 2020, which augurs well for local suppliers.”

Encompassing a full range of water depths from mature to remote frontier acreage, the new areas (www.industry.gov.au/petexp) announced by Macfarlane as “open for business” comprise:

  • 20 areas off Western Australia
  • Five areas off the Northern Territory
  • Five areas off Tasmania
  • Four areas off Victoria
  • Two areas off the Ashmore and Cartier Islands
  • Macfarlane expects the 150% petroleum rent tax frontier concession that the six designated frontier areas included within this year’s release to provide a real tax incentive to investigate new offshore areas.

    “The tax incentives for designated frontier areas are now bearing fruit. In the 2004 acreage release the take-up rate for designated frontier areas was 50% of the areas released,” he said.

    Bids for 22 of the new areas will close on November 9, 2006, and the remaining 14 areas will close on May 10, 2007.

    All bids will be assessed under the work program bidding system and exploration permits will be awarded for an initial term of six years.

    Given the prosperity of global oil and gas markets, coupled with a string of joint government/APPEA initiatives (including frontier concessions and the seismic data acquisition program), Macfarlane said it was hardly surprising the recent flurry of interest in Australia’s exploration acreage had led to a record number of exploration permits – more than 180 – in Federal waters.

    Currently halfway through its $A61 million special funding program, Geoscience Australia will support the release of the shallow-watered northern Arafura frontier area, with specific data gathered to improve understanding of the petroleum prospectivity.

    The remastering of Geoscience Australia’s huge geophysical data collection to high density media is now 70% complete and Macfarlane claimed requests from overseas companies queuing at the door to borrow it are double that of last year.

    “The government-industry growth strategy, which we announced in March, is a cooperative approach to creating a sustainable future for the Australian upstream petroleum industry,” he said.

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