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Last Updated: May 16, 2017
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Exploration
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The Australian Government’s annual Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release (acreage release) is a key part of the Australian Government's strategy to promote petroleum exploration in Australia’s offshore waters. The acreage release provides explorers with new offshore areas the government has made available for either work program or cash bidding. It enables industry to undertake longer term planning to support the ongoing investment in, and development of, Australia’s offshore petroleum exploration industry.

The acreage release is underpinned by Australia's stable economic environment and well-established, objective-based regulatory framework that seeks to balance environmental, social and economic considerations in the development of Australia’s natural resources.

All release areas have been nominated by industry, assessed and considered by governments and selected to offer the petroleum exploration industry a variety of investment opportunities. The acreage release provides the petroleum industry with access to comprehensive pre-competitive geological and geophysical datasets and ensures the provision of quality information on third party issues that may impact on successful applicants when conducting exploration work programs.

The 2017 acreage release comprises 21 areas located across eight sedimentary basins in Commonwealth waters offshore of Northern Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, 20 areas are available for work program bidding and one area for cash bidding. The areas are located in water depths of 25 to 4,200 metres and vary in size from 161 to 2,465 km² and also vary in level of existing geological knowledge. All areas are supported by pre-competitive geological and geophysical data and analysis undertaken by Geoscience Australia. Coinciding with the 2017 acreage, is the release of NOPIMS 2017 by Geoscience Australia. NOPIMS is an online data discovery and delivery system for all Australian offshore petroleum wells and seismic surveys acquired in Commonwealth waters.

Further information on the release areas and the basins of interest, is available by following the links in the menu on the left hand side.

Overview map of the 2017 release areas

Overview of 2017 Release Areas

2017 release areas and closing rounds

Round
Release areas
Closing date for bids
Cash bid prequalification
W17-6
Thursday 5 October 2017
Round One - work program
AC17-2, AC17-3, NT17-1, T17-1, T17-2, V17-1, V17-2, V17-3, W17-4, W17-5, W17-8
Thursday 19 October 2017
Cash bid auction*
W17-6
Thursday 8 February 2018
Round Two - work program
AC17-4, AC17-5, NT17-2, W17-1, W17-2, W17-3, W17-7, W17-9, W17-10
Thursday 22 March 2018

*Only prequalified applicants will be invited to submit a cash bid

2016 re-release areas and closing rounds

The following areas from round 2 of the 2016 acreage release have been re-released with bids closing on Thursday 19 Ocotber 2017.

General and Special Notices

The General and Special Notices provide comprehensive information on third party considerations including environment protection, native title rights and interests, navigation and maritime safety, fishing, defence, submarine telecommunication cables, international issues and insurance.

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September, 16 2021
The New Wave of Renewable Fuels

In 2021, the makeup of renewables has also changed drastically. Technologies such as solar and wind are no longer novel, as is the idea of blending vegetable oils into road fuels or switching to electric-based vehicles. Such ideas are now entrenched and are not considered enough to shift the world into a carbon neutral future. The new wave of renewables focus on converting by-products from other carbon-intensive industries into usable fuels. Research into such technologies has been pioneered in universities and start-ups over the past two decades, but the impetus of global climate goals is now seeing an incredible amount of money being poured into them as oil & gas giants seek to rebalance their portfolios away from pure hydrocarbons with a goal of balancing their total carbon emissions in aggregate to zero.

Traditionally, the European players have led this drive. Which is unsurprising, since the EU has been the most driven in this acceleration. But even the US giants are following suit. In the past year, Chevron has poured an incredible amount of cash and effort in pioneering renewables. Its motives might be less than altruistic, shareholders across America have been particularly vocal about driving this transformation but the net results will be positive for all.

Chevron’s recent efforts have focused on biomethane, through a partnership with global waste solutions company Brightmark. The joint venture Brightmark RNG Holdings operations focused on convert cow manure to renewable natural gas, which are then converted into fuel for long-haul trucks, the very kind that criss-cross the vast highways of the US delivering goods from coast to coast. Launched in October 2020, the joint venture was extended and expanded in August, now encompassing 38 biomethane plants in seven US states, with first production set to begin later in 2021. The targeting of livestock waste is particularly crucial: methane emissions from farms is the second-largest contributor to climate change emissions globally. The technology to capture methane from manure (as well as landfills and other waste sites) has existed for years, but has only recently been commercialised to convert methane emissions from decomposition to useful products.

This is an arena that another supermajor – BP – has also made a recent significant investment in. BP signed a 15-year agreement with CleanBay Renewables to purchase the latter’s renewable natural gas (RNG) to be mixed and sold into select US state markets. Beginning with California, which has one of the strictest fuel standards in the US and provides incentives under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to reduce carbon intensity – CleanBay’s RNG is derived not from cows, but from poultry. Chicken manure, feathers and bedding are all converted into RNG using anaerobic digesters, providing a carbon intensity that is said to be 95% less than the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of pure fossil fuels and non-conversion of poultry waste matter. BP also has an agreement with Gevo Inc in Iowa to purchase RNG produced from cow manure, also for sale in California.

But road fuels aren’t the only avenue for large-scale embracing of renewables. It could take to the air, literally. After all, the global commercial airline fleet currently stands at over 25,000 aircraft and is expected to grow to over 35,000 by 2030. All those planes will burn a lot of fuel. With the airline industry embracing the idea of AAF (or Alternative Aviation Fuels), developments into renewable jet fuels have been striking, from traditional bio-sources such as palm or soybean oil to advanced organic matter conversion from agricultural waste and manure. Chevron, again, has signed a landmark deal to advance the commercialisation. Together with Delta Airlines and Google, Chevron will be producing a batch of sustainable aviation fuel at its El Segundo refinery in California. Delta will then use the fuel, with Google providing a cloud-based framework to analyse the data. That data will then allow for a transparent analysis into carbon emissions from the use of sustainable aviation fuel, as benchmark for others to follow. The analysis should be able to confirm whether or not the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s estimates that renewable jet fuel can reduce lifecycle carbon intensity by up to 80%. And to strengthen the measure, Delta has pledged to replace 10% of its jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

In a parallel, but no less pioneering lane, France’s TotalEnergies has announced that it is developing a 100% renewable fuel for use in motorsports, using bioethanol sourced from residues produced by the French wine industry (among others) at its Feyzin refinery in Lyon. This, it believes, will reduce the racing sports’ carbon emissions by an immediate 65%. The fuel, named Excellium Racing 100, is set to debut at the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022 race.

But Chevron isn’t done yet. It is also falling back on the long-standing use of vegetable oils blended into US transport fuels by signing a wide-ranging agreement with commodity giant Bunge. Called a ‘farmer-to-fuelling station’ solution, Bunge’s soybean processing facilities in Louisiana and Illinois will be the source of meal and oil that will be converted by Chevron into diesel and jet fuel. With an investment of US$600 million, Chevron will assist Bunge in doubling the combined capacity of both plants by 2024, in line with anticipated increases in the US biofuels blending mandates.

Even ExxonMobil, one of the most reticent of the supermajors to embrace renewables wholesale, is getting in on the action. Its Imperial Oil subsidiary in Canada has announced plans to commercialise renewable diesel at a new facility near Edmonton using plant-based feedstock and hydrogen. The venture does only target the Canadian market – where political will to drive renewable adoption is far higher than in the US – but similar moves have already been adopted by other refiners for the US market, including major investments by Phillips 66 and Valero.

Ultimately, these recent moves are driven out of necessity. This is the way the industry is moving and anyone stubborn enough to ignore it will be left behind. Combined with other major investments driven by European supermajors over the past five years, this wider and wider adoption of renewable can only be better for the planet and, eventually, individual bottom lines. The renewables ball is rolling fast and is only gaining momentum.

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Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$71-73/b, WTI – US$68-70/b
  • Global crude benchmarks have stayed steady, even as OPEC+ sticks to its plans to ease supply quotas against the uncertainty of rising Covid-19 cases worldwide
  • However, the success of vaccination drives has kindled hope that the effect of lockdowns – if any – will be mild, with pockets of demand resurgence in Europe; in China, where there has been a zero-tolerance drive to stamp out Covid outbreaks, fuel consumption is strengthening again, possibly tightening fuel balances in Q4
  • Meanwhile, much of the US Gulf of Mexico crude production remains hampered by the effects of Hurricane Ida, providing a counter-balance on the supply side

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