Australia opens tender for offshore oil and gas exploration


Ichthy’s Offshore Project in the Browse Basin (file courtesy of Inpex)

Published 06/16/2021 10:52 PM by

The maritime executive

The Australian government launched the 2021 oil and gas licensing round as part of its strategies to promote offshore exploration.

The government announced that it has opened the tender for 21 exploration blocks in the Bonaparte, Browse, Carnarvon, Otway, Sorell and Gippsland Basins off Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands. The blocks cover an area of ​​around 80,000 square kilometers of new acreage, with the tendering expected to end in March 2022.

Every year, Australian authorities invite companies to apply for the opportunity to invest in the country’s oil and gas industry, which still relies on fossil fuels. “Exploration will continue to play a key role in supporting Australia’s economic growth by stimulating investment in development prospects and discovering additional supply,” said Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia.

He added that the growing area offers opportunities in established oil and gas provinces as well as in unexplored areas that are within reach of existing infrastructure. “The continuous release of areas for exploration is important to ensure a stable energy supply for the future. I would welcome and encourage the industry to bid for the cleared land, ”he noted.

Available rental space for 2021 (Australian Department of Industry)

Australia has developed into an attractive investment location for offshore exploration due to its huge seabed of more than 14.6 million square kilometers. It is one of the largest maritime jurisdictions in the world.

Many of the country’s oil and gas reserves are still largely unexplored and have the potential to absorb significant amounts of hydrocarbons. Currently, only around 20 percent of Australia’s offshore basins are covered by E&P leases.

“Annual acreage clearance is an integral part of the government’s gas-fired redevelopment plan. It is vital that Australians have access to reliable and affordable energy now and in the future, ”said Pitt.

Australia has seen a significant increase in exploration interest since Quadrant Energy, now owned by Santos Ltd, encountered oil in the Dorado field in 2018. This was Australia’s largest oil discovery since 1996.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to anchor the post-COVID-19 economic recovery in the gas industry has also given an incentive to exploration, considering Australia is determined to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

The government believes that annual land licensing will be critical to its gas-fired refurbishment plan, which has allocated $ 45 million to fund various projects. Government data shows that after a decade of decline, exploration spending rose 30 percent to $ 880 million in June 2019.

The 2021 licensing round will open after the country completed the 2020 round in June, in which a total of 15 bids for 11 blocks were received. In the round, 42 blocks were available for bidding.


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