The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, NOPSEMA, will change the way it assesses environmental plans and a company's ability to decommission its offshore oil and gas fields.
It follows the demise of Northern Oil & Gas Australia, which went into liquidation this year, leaving an FPSO and oil field unabandoned in the Timor Sea.
After NOGA went into administration and eventually liquidation, the then federal minister for resources Matt Canavan released a statement of expectations to NOPSEMA.
He called for the regulator to take a harder approach to how it considered environmental plans and decommissioning requirements to prevent another situation similar to NOGA's liquidation and stranded assets in the future.
Shortly after Canavan's statement of expectations, NOPSEMA said it would "increase its focus" on decommissioning requirements to make sure it was doing all it could under current legislation to ensure operators were responsible in cleaning up after themselves.
Now, NOPSEMA has developed a draft policy, which could have far reaching effects on the oil and gas sector.
For a start, all new environmental plans submitted to the regulator will need to include plans for decommissioning. It will also require environmental plans up for their five-year revisions to include plans for decommissioning.
Currently under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 oil and gas operators are required to remove all equipment and property including pipelines from the seabed unless the company can prove the removal of the infrastructure will do more harm than good.
NOPSEMA will take enforcement actions including directing current and former titleholders to remove infrastructure unless an alternative arrangement is made.
The regulator will also prosecute titleholders with civil and criminal action if the policy, once approved, is not followed strictly.
Oil and gas industry stakeholders are encouraged to submit input on the draft policy.