EXPLORATION

Green groups call on govt to halt 2021 licensing round

Final release areas expected in June

Green groups call on govt to halt 2021 licensing round

The public comment period for the 2021 Offshore Petroleum Acreage Release closed on Monday, with groups including the Climate Council, the Wilderness Society and the progressive thinktank The Australia Institute making submissions against the release. 

The release offers around 84,000 square-kilometres of new areas for oil and gas exploration in offshore Western Australia and the Bass Strait - the offering does not guarantee that every permit will be explored. 

The Climate Council used its submission to call on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to introduce a framework to assess a prospective release area's contribution to climate change. 

"Highly emissions intensive gas fields, notable the Browse and Bonaparte Basins, should not be opened up for further acreage release," it said.  

The Council said the Department should suspend the release for 2021 and stop issuing titles for last year's release until this new framework is developed.

"It is quite simply not possible to meet the globally agreed temperature goals in the Paris Agreement - and protect Australian livelihoods and the places we cherish in the process - and open up new gas extraction." 

The Council's words were echoed by The Australia Institute's research director Rod Campbell who said it would take many years to develop the acreage and Australia's energy system would be unlikely need it.

"Put plainly, further oil and gas development is unlikely to employ many Australians, unlikely to contribute to revenue and likely to cost taxpayers money throughout the process," he said. 

However the Australian Energy Market Operator has forecast an east coast gas shortage in 2022-23 and a WA shortage in 2029. Analysts and research groups have long argued that if a shortage were to occur, a government of the day could pull the Domestic Gas Security Mechanism, that was established in 2017.

The Wilderness Society has launched a petition seeking to halt the release of new acreage which has garnered 10,500 signatures. Around 9000 have asked to personally sign on to its submission. 

"It is ludicrous that fossil fuel companies are driving what areas are released in this mindless, automated process," the campaign letter reads. 

The Wilderness Society claimed credit for driving Equinor out of its wildcat exploration campaign in the Great Australian Bight last year, however Equinor was adamant its reasons for abandoning the Stromlo-1 well development was for commercial reasons. 

The federal department notes on its website that many of Australia's sedimentary basins remain largely underexplored and have the potential to host significant hydrocarbon shows and only around 20% of Australia's offshore basins are covered by petroleum titles. 

The Department expects to announce the final areas in June.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Energy News Bulletin Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Energy News Bulletin Intelligence team.

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